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Demand for MBAs by Region

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More and more companies are global in their operations without ties to any one region, according to the QS TopMBA.com Recruiter Survey 2007. In total, 58 of the 489 recruiters responding to our survey had global responsibility for MBA hiring from top business schools. These global recruiters include strategy consulting firms, investment banks, and pharmaceutical companies, supplemented by a small number of companies in most other sectors.

North America

In the USA, the largest MBA employment market, recruitment is booming again. Demand is growing both amongst mainstream, high volume recruiters and companies seeking a more select entry pool. Maryana Ayerbe of Merrill Lynch USA says, “We are increasing our hiring from MBA programs because MBAs bring in the new talent and energy that the business needs to grow.”

Debbie Sehulster of Ingersoll Rand USA says, “We have been able to improve our leadership strength over the years by bringing on a handful of MBAs each year. We have a rigorous hiring process and have been successful in recruiting and retaining high calibre talent that in the long term becomes high performing and high potential leaders in our organization. MBAs bring us greater business acumen than undergraduate students.”

Many industrial companies are having to look outside the top tier schools in order to find the MBAs that match their skill requirements at a competitive salary. Mesha Mott of Mead Westvaco USA observes, “Depending upon the universities and the skill sets required, salary requirements may be misaligned with what the candidates actually bring to the table. This usually is a function of both school/reputation of program and skill set of hires.”

For many candidates, entry to a top-tier US business school channels them into a banking or consulting career post-MBA in order to pay back the fees, as well as follow the natural peer-pressure to get the ‘best job’. A growing number of candidates are actively looking for specialist smaller schools that can better match their career aspirations. This requires a more thorough self-assessment prior to the program, a thorough school search and a reduced reliance on overall MBA rankings.

It is still a challenge for foreign students to obtain H1 visas to stay and work in the US, though recent evidence confirms that as the labour market tightens, recruiters are finding ways to hire the people they really want. The Director of the Career Service at Wharton comments, "Over 60% of Wharton's international students accepted full-time positions in the US last year." At UC Irvine, Tom Koziki reports that 90% of their international students obtained work permits to work in Southern California, but a handful were unable to stay beyond their F1 visa, which guarantees a year of work experience in the USA after an MBA program.

Europe, Middle East & Africa

MBA recruitment is very much on the agenda of European-based companies seeking to be internationally competitive. Lucy Tarrant of Barclays Bank says, “To become a truly global bank, we need internationally-minded future leaders.” Usha Kakaria-Cayaux of Nike Netherlands says, “We look for MBAs for their learning agility, international experience, a conscious decision to evolve, interest in continual learning and broad management exposure.”

Several Western European countries are becoming hot spots for MBA recruiting. The UK is at full employment, particularly due to the implementation of the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, the visa regime that is favourable to MBAs of almost any nationality. Spain and Italy have growing numbers of financial and technology companies regularly recruiting MBAs, as well as a growing consulting industry. The German economy is also on the move. France remains sluggish, though a new right wing government seems set on revitalising the industrial sector and major companies are active. Dominique D’Arcy of Manchester Business School says, “Increasingly the MBA is becoming the mainstream qualification for recruiters in many Western European countries, as has been the case in the USA for many years.”

In Central Europe, the MBA is less prominent. Good Czech or Hungarian candidates are highly sought after, but mainly outside their home country. Russia is the on ly Eastern European market with a large and growing domestic demand for MBAs. Graham Hastie of London Business School observes: "The MBA job market in Europe is at record levels and I can’t see any clouds on the horizon. We expect most students to have several offers at graduation. At the current sterling/dollar exchange rate, the UK is now paying the highest salaries for MBAs worldwide.”

Dominique D’Arcy of Manchester Business School says, "the I-banks and strategy consultants are recruiting actively, but they have been joined by commercial banks and the professional service companies like KPMG, E&Y and Deloitte, all of whom are targeting MBA recruiting this year. And many industrial companies have been enticed into the MBA market in the last three years and accordingly have enlarged the total pool of MBA employers compared to the pre-dotcom era. We are also seeing renewed activity amongst technology and telecoms companies."

But the real news in 2007 is Dubai. D’Arcy comments, “companies in Dubai are booming and they are seeking MBAs in large numbers, in particular, Indian MBAs who have some links with the region. For example, OC&C has acquired Middle East Strategy Associates and is hiring actively from MBS.” Graham Hastie confirms that Dubai (and the Middle East in general) is a hot spot - “a bit like the Wild West – some banks expect to double in size every six months and are recruiting accordingly.”

By contrast, MBA demand in Africa is subdued. LBS has turned away employers from Kenya and Nigeria because they do not have the right profile of candidates. Meryll Folb of Standard Bank of South Africa observes “salary is a big barrier for African employers.”


In Asia, the MBA is becoming more en vogue. Asian candidates report amongst the highest GMAT scores in the world and are focused on developing excellent technical skills, often at the expense of integrating fully into the social aspects of the MBA. However Asian recruiters are looking for well-rounded MBAs. Philip Cho of Lehman Brothers Singapore says, “We tend to focus less on academic or technical skills, and place emphasis more on communication, interpersonal skills and leadership traits.”

T. Takenouchi of Copernicus Associates in Japan agrees: “We favour the many MBA holders who have strong interpersonal skills, as well as a good understanding of Marketing, Finance, or Strategic Planning.”

Sei-Woong Yoon, an MBA alumnus from IMD and CEO of Overture Korea, says, "A top MBA is a gateway to an international career for a young Asian. Before I took my MBA, I worked in advertising in Korea and had a totally domestic focus. Since my MBA, I worked with Saatchi & Saatchi in London, became a COO of Yahoo in Asia and now run Overture. My whole international managerial perspective was shaped by my MBA. Today I think such a global perspective is even more important." He observes the increasing importance of the MBA amongst Asian companies: "In Korea, our largest companies, like Samsung and LG, have well established MBA recruitment programs. Now we are seeing many more companies seeking experienced MBA managers. I think this trend will continue."

China is the hottest market. "More and more MBAs are joining Chinese companies from international MBA programs and Asian MBA programs," says Michael Yang, General Marketing Manager, Motorola (China). "I think the attraction for these MBAs is not the starting salary, but the growing opportunity. For example, the average MBA salary growth rate is higher than 15% per year here in China."

Yue Zhang is an Oxford MBA who works for QS TopMBA Careers in China. He reports that "(they) are generating over 100 MBA jobs per month for QS TopMBA Careers and this is only likely to increase further. We may even see a shortage of MBAs in China in the near futu re." In fact, a recent McKinsey Report by Diana Farrell – “China’s looming talent shortage” – reports that only 10% of Chinese graduates are capable of working for international companies operating in China, due to inadequacies in the Chinese University system and poor language skills – placing a renewed onus on Chinese students to study overseas at undergraduate and graduate levels.

Australian employers are somewhat more sanguine about MBA hiring. Mitch O’Brien, of Emissary Pharmaceuticals in Australia comments that “MBAs are not the be-all and end-all, however they represent an interesting pool of potential future leaders with broad business skills. MBAs often come with an arrogance that jobs will fall in their lap and false expectations as to career paths ahead. I would like to see more emotional intelligence taught and realistic career counselling provided.”

Latin America

Latin America has also been a relatively inactive region for MBA recruitment, with most choosing to study and work in Europe or North America. Salary also remains a big issue. Yogesh Chavda of Procter & Gamble Venezuela sees MBA recruiting as “an opportunity to gain people with the right level of maturity”, but is often thwarted because “expectations are too high.”

Nevertheless, Latin American companies are now reaching out to US, Spanish and other European schools to pick up the talented nationals choosing to study overseas, because of the need for internationally-minded leaders. Alejandra Herrera of Asturer, Mexico looks for MBAs who “have great potential to grow into leaders within the organization.”

"There is definite movement in the market," confirms the Director at Instituto de Empresa's career management centre. Many European banks now own the major Latin American Banks and they actively recruit MBAs, as do consultancies and major industrial companies. The biggest such recruiters are BBVA and Banco Santander, which have emerged as regional banking leaders in Latin America, though HSBC is not far behind.

Source: QS TopMBA.com

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