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Online MBAs ‘Viewed Poorly’ By Tech Employers, Says Former Microsoft Recruiter

Ex-Microsoft recruiter says a lack of networking and no internship makes online MBA students less likely to land jobs in tech

Fri Jun 29 2018

Online MBA degrees are “viewed poorly” by the world’s top tech companies—that’s according to a former Microsoft recruiter, speaking anonymously to BusinessBecause.

Getting a job is not the be-all and end-all of an online MBA—many students studying online are just looking to excel in their current roles or acquire new knowledge—but for those seeking roles with the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, a campus-based degree may be the better option.

All the major tech companies have a list of schools from which they prefer to hire, the recruiter said. “Microsoft a few years ago had about 100 positions in the US to fill, so they have to prioritize which schools they want to focus on.”

Rank, geography, local connections, and alumni base, all tie into the decision-making process. By looking at rankings from Bloomberg Businessweek, US News & World Report, and the Financial Times, the top tech companies gauge the best places to start with their MBA recruiting process.

“As an MBA recruiter, I would have concerns around the quality of online MBA programs,” the former recruiter told BusinessBecause. “Even if the online MBA is offered by a top school, the assumption is that the ranking of that school is based on the daytime or full-time program, and not the online program, which may have different professors, different curriculum, and a different student body.”

The recruiter admitted that smaller, regional tech companies may have a penchant to pull from online MBA programs, but hiring from regional schools or through alumni connections is the method that prevails.

MBA Hiring At Microsoft

The recruitment process at Microsoft is less intense than consulting or banking, the recruiter told BusinessBecause. It consists of a company presentation, after which potential candidates network with alumni to learn more about the company and roles on offer. Then, after applying, successful candidates will usually go through four-to-six interviews before receiving a concrete offer.

The networking and interaction with companies on campus is a must, the recruiter said, adding that when recruiting, they often relied on feedback from the alumni on who stood out at the networking events as key candidates.

Because of the nature of online MBA programs, students are at a disadvantage for a number of reasons. “Online MBAs will not have the ability to network with the companies that come on campus and will not have any benefit of an internship,” the recruiter said.

“I would pick a student who interned at Amazon, Facebook, [or] Apple over someone who did an internship with a smaller company, or an unknown company—that internship gave them prior experience, signalled prior interest, and it showed that they were talented enough that another tech company hired them.”

Full-Time Vs Part-Time

The former Microsoft recruiter revealed that the hurdle extends to executive and part-time MBA programs. The recruiter told a story of a guy who called him after graduating from an Executive MBA program: “He had a very successful career prior to his MBA, but wanted to do something more so he got his Executive MBA.

“Thus far, he’s basically taken two steps backwards, and has been unemployed for a good amount of time […] My reaction was that he was relying too much on his MBA opening doors for him, as if it was some magical piece of paper—I think a lot of people feel the same way about an MBA.”

The former recruiter has doubts over the value of the MBA degree. “The education is good, but unlike going to law school or medical school, you don’t leave the program with a certified ability to practice law, or medicine.

“In my opinion, the only value of an MBA is the career search. For a brief moment in time, every company in almost every industry will be open to talking with you, something that is virtually impossible otherwise—that door shuts tight the second you graduate.”

For the recruiter, studying an MBA degree comes with a major caveat—if you don’t maximize every networking opportunity and proactively seek out internships and work placements in the sectors you wish to launch a post-MBA career, you can wash your tuition fee down the drain.

Although online MBAs are more flexible, and often cheaper than their on-campus counterparts, the networking power that comes with studying at a brick-and-mortar business school is unrivalled in the world of big tech.