They came through the glass doors in droves. Julia McDonald laid down her glass of water, picked up a prospectus and trained her eyes on the well-dressed graduate. Behind the polite smile, the Infosys recruiter was assessing his mettle and scanning his credentials.
Outside, it was like any Thursday evening in Central London. Workers loosened ties on Theobalds Roads' bars, black cabs searched for punters on the pavement. Inside Hult House, a namesake campus of the leading business school, dozens of MBAs had shown up for a careers event.
As Julia reeled off Infosys’s impressive recruiting numbers, her peers had queues of students lining up. Logos from IBM, Gartner, Bloomberg and Calvin Klein set the scene. A couple of recruiters looked flustered.
Julia, from the leading consulting, technology, engineering and outsourcing services brand, finished her drink and picked up where she had left off. “We’re focused on MBA students and we’re changing a bit how we traditionally go to market,” she says. “We’re really opening it up now.”
Five years ago, a technical background would have been essential, not desirable. Back then, Europe was in the depths of recession; traditional jobs dried up and MBAs looked to other industries. Tech companies have since been picking up the slack.
Christelle Cuenin, assistant director of the Career Development Centre at INSEAD, says that the tech sector has been attracting a lot of their candidates. At HEC Paris, a leading French business school, Amazon is likely to be the top recruiter for their 2014 graduating class. At Oxford Saïd, the company is already the top recruiter.
And at London Business School, Amazon snapped up more students than any of the big banks last year.
Technology companies are now casting their nets far and wide. This has much to do with their industry dominance. As tech firms continue to grow, hiring continues to gather steam. It is unclear how long they can keep the fire burning, but the boom shows no sign of abating this year.
Several years in HR have not dampened Julia’s enthusiasm. “We’ve developed part of this MBA program to support growth throughout our talent pipeline,” she says. “We can give you the right skills and training. We want people who are passionate.”
Julia, who is Infosys’s head of talent acquisition, EMEA, is standing in a swirl of MBA candidates. A couple of feet away, KPMG are drawing much interest. On the ground floor, Gartner have a queue stretching across the hall.
Infosys’s army of about 160,000 employees is seemingly too small a number. The company plans to hire 40 to 60 MBAs in EMEA and about 200 outside of those regions this year. The business works in 30 countries from more than 160 offices in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pac. MBAs will get the opportunity to work in several destinations.
Tech experience now has less importance in tech companies. The changing face of Infosys’s hiring stream means a background in virtually any industry will cut the mustard with recruiters.
“I don’t think you need to [have a tech background] to be successful. We believe we can train people,” says Julia, as students hang onto her every word.
“Traditionally, we may have focused on a background in tech, but we’re really opening it up now; we’re saying you don’t have to.” But you do need to have a passion for the field. “Otherwise there’s no point in working for a company like Infosys,” she laughs.
It is a sentiment echoed by Gartner, Inc. – the leading information technology research and advisory firm. Marie Sullivan, a Gartner Talent Sourcer, rebuffs the suggestion that a tech background is essential.
Candidates brandish CVs on the plush sofas behind her. “In the sales arena, we don’t need any kind of [tech] experience or background. It would be great if they did, but it’s the interest and the passion [that we look for],” says Marie.
But for some consultancy roles, they will still prefer a technical background, she says. “But there are managers that don’t necessarily want that. They want someone who has a great service mentality, and someone who has a great passion for it.”
MBA employment remains impressively high. About 85 per cent of Hult International Business Schools' MBAs found employment within three months of graduating. A stone’s throw away, in the City of London, Cass Business School MBAs are enjoying similarly high stats. At LBS, 95 per cent of their MBAs are in employment within three months of leaving campus.
The influx of tech MBA jobs will keep the light shining brightly. It will also ease fears that financial services firms are hiring in fewer numbers in Europe. At Hult’s career event, about 80 of their students had interviews scheduled with recruiters. Across all the school’s global campuses, there were over 500. Thirty of those interviews were with Bloomberg.
So tech companies are pulling in significant resources to find new hires. Infosys has invested a lot in an on-campus presence this year, says Julia. Yet other companies with fewer coffers find it less cost-effective.
Although they might not need to set foot inside schools. MBAs have an increased interest in the tech sector. But smaller firms, lacking significant resources and looking for a specific skillset, are also pursuing the best graduates in a creative way.
Steven Upstone, the CEO and founder of Loop Me, the social mobile advertiser, says: “In mobile, it’s very simple. The growth that will be witnessed over the next couple of years will probably eclipse anything that we’ve ever seen before.”
He continues: “Mobile is really going to revolutionize a lot of industries, so I think it’s a very interesting place to get involved.” Loop Me has hired three graduates from Hult. Steven plans to take on ten more new hires over the next four months.
TNS UK, part of the leading market research group, plans to hire 30 new graduates this year. The firm is about to make a big push into digital, suggests Christine Neocleous, a company Resourcing Advisor. “There is a lot more interest in digital. It’s a lot more of a focus for us as well as a company,” she says.
“It’s where the industry is going, so we want to grow and develop and become experts. Everything is digital.”
The big guns would all agree. Recruiting MBAs has proved an easy nut to crack. QS, the business school research company, reports that tech is the most popular industry for MBA consultants. They surveyed 70,000 applicants.
What’s more, similar research confirms the technology hiring boom. MBA jobs in tech and telecoms have seen a 30 per cent increase in some Asian regions through 2012-2013, according to QS. The U.S and Canada saw a similar 21 per cent increase in demand.
Gartner welcomes the influx. “In I.T, there’s no stopping; there’s a fast pace, fast progression, the companies are growing at a huge rate and the service providers are growing at a huge rate,” says Marie.
“It is always changing, there’s always a new service or product – something that will be more innovative. And the people that get it right will be successful and have a job for years.”
Infosys’s Julia smiles before delivering a similar verdict. “It’s always changing,” she says of the tech sector. “So if you’re interested in change, if you are forward thinking, if you are innovative and creative, then it gives you opportunity to grow.
“And in large organizations, there’s always opportunity.”