Five Questions…with GMAC Researcher Rebecca Estrada

While the newest hiring report for 2012 seems like a straightforward reflection of economic conditions, it also offers a “behind-the-scenes” view into employer perspectives and recruiting behaviors that impact job opportunities for recent management graduates worldwide. MBA students and Career Services professionals can expect employers to look not just for work experience but also specific leadership and managerial skills in the coming year, says Rebecca Estrada, GMAC researcher and survey manager for the 2012 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey. Estrada will be presenting key findings on hiring trends and recruiter feedback for business schools in a panel at the MBA CSC U.S. Annual Conference on June 21 in Seattle. Co-speakers on the panel include Jim Dixey, Director of Graduate Business Career Services at Texas A&M University, and Kanya Pannell, University Relations Manager at Johnson & Johnson. We caught up with her for this brief conversation.

Q1. Can you share some of the more notable highlights from the 2012 hiring trends results in the Corporate Recruiters Survey?

A: The job market for this year’s graduates is markedly improved from 2011 as more employers expect to hire MBAs and other business master’s students. Proof of this is seen in the 79% of Corporate Recruiters Survey respondents who plan to hire new MBAs, up from 72% who hired MBAs in 2011. And companies worldwide hiring MBAs expect to hire 17 of them on average, up from 13 in 2011. We also see that the outlook varies by world region:  A greater percentage of firms in the Asia-Pacific region plan to hire MBAs—as well as Master in Management and Master of Accounting graduates—compared with firms in the U.S. and Europe. By sector, increased demand for MBA new hires is expected in the Health care, Finance and Accounting, and Technology sectors. Smaller companies with fewer than 1,000 employees reported greater demand as well. Because the Corporate Recruiters Survey encompasses many different types of schools and employers, it gives a feel for what’s really happening in the market in terms of salary, hiring, and on-campus recruitment. It also includes companies that hire MBAs, even though they may not recruit on campus. Other employer surveys tend to focus on the high-profile companies and schools, which can create unrealistic expectations.

Q2. Are there any messages that Career Services professionals may want to communicate to students for the job search based on the employer survey responses?

A: I think it’s important to communicate to this year’s class as well as the upcoming grads that while the job search experience for the Class of 2012 appears to be easier than it was for last year’s graduates, the hunt may be getting more complex. Career Services professionals can prepare students with the expectation that they’ll need to enhance their job search process beyond campus. While 65% of companies worldwide reported conducting on-campus recruiting activities, this is down from 68% in 2011. We’re also seeing companies exhibit a desire for more work experience from graduate business new hires. The student’s work history, internships, and ability to demonstrate the traits or skills they offer to help companies meet the goals set for 2012 will be critical. I recommend referring to the survey report for more details into what companies are aiming for and the key targets for the coming year by industry and region. These are the sorts of industry data points students can refer to as they prime themselves for understanding different sectors in their search for employment. Our research agenda at GMAC is to provide a comprehensive view of the management education landscape so that students and schools can best prepare. To that end, we studied nearly 5,000 graduating students worldwide in an exit survey during the same timeframe as the Corporate Recruiters Survey. Our graduate survey offers student views of their job search success and insight into career expectations that is a powerful flipside commentary about the match between student and employers perspectives. (Note: The summary report for the Global Management Education Graduate Survey with class of 2012 data can be downloaded at www.gmac.com/globalgrads.)

Q3. Part of the survey collects feedback from hiring managers about what they feel schools can do to improve the recruiting process. What were some of the more notable suggestions from companies this year?

A: Companies are asked to tell us what they feel schools could do to improve the recruitment experience. Themes in this year’s responses indicated a desire for a seamless “one-stop-shop” department for information and recruiting needs. Suggestions like extending invitations to give companies greater interaction with students on campus or virtually, and having a recruitment calendar were made. In addition, they asked that students come to interviews prepared with background information about the company as well as an understanding of realistic salary levels and positions. One way employers hoped Career Services professionals and faculty might help is to assist in identifying  candidates to be interviewed that would best match the needs of their company, since these school professionals are more familiar with the skills, interests, and strengths of the individuals they interact with in class and on campus.

Q4. How much has changed in this year’s Corporate Recruiters Survey findings from previous years?

A: We asked a few questions this year that we’ve never asked in the previous 11 years of conducting the study. Three of my personal favorites include asking what factors a recruiter considers when selecting whom to interview from a large pool of applicants, a view of workforce mobility in terms of the locations where companies expect to place grads on the job, and even more depth into the skills employers are looking for in candidates, particularly for managerial versus leadership roles on the job. Of course, there are core questions that remain in the study across years that offer a valuable perspective for Career Services professionals on the hiring landscape – such as trends in social media, reasons for hiring (and not hiring) business graduates, and hiring and salary projections. Keeping the study fresh, so to speak, helps us increase our understanding of the whole market, including trends that may be cyclical to the economy, as well as the emerging trends for non-MBA master’s-level business degree-holders.

Q5. How can schools new to the research study get involved?

A: I’d be delighted to chat with schools during the Seattle MBACSC conference about any of these trends and details for how to get involved in the research we conduct at no charge to schools or employers. School participants gain advance copies of the results, in addition to the opportunity to see their employers’ plans and compare feedback against the results of peer schools. This customized interactive benchmark report is a powerful tool for career services professionals to manage student expectations and communicate with the dean about how their school calibrates with other schools. Plus, it’s a great addition to the suite of research surveys schools can participate in to monitor trends in feedback from graduating students (and alumni) as well as trends in applications for the incoming classes. Registration is already open to take part in 2013 research. 

Rebecca Estrada is an analyst and Survey Research Manager at The Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®). GMAC is the owner and administrator of the GMAT® exam and offers global research and services to schools. With more than 14 years of experience in the research industry, Ms. Estrada manages two of the council’s annual studies –the Corporate Recruiters Survey and the Application Trends Survey focused on monitoring and analyzing shifts in graduate management education markets worldwide. Last year, these studies collectively engaged approximately 650 admissions professionals and 900 companies in 50 countries.

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