In the face of economic recession and job uncertainty, MBA degrees have retained their value. Nine out of 10 employers still plan to hire business school graduates in 2021, a strong commitment to the premium placed on top degrees.
But what is it exactly that employers are looking for in your MBA resume? Every year, the Corporate Recruiters Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) surveys nearly 1000 recruiters for the most coveted skills in MBA hires.
Among other factors, the survey asks employers which skills they are most confident in with business schools graduates. As the pandemic demands a new approach to business, this year’s survey also measures how these skills may have changed in importance.
So if you’re trying to guarantee job security in a post-COVID world, here are five skills you can look to strengthen on an MBA.
1. Strategic thinking
Any executive will tell you that change is a necessary part of business. In order to survive and prosper, businesses have to adapt and transform to face different challenges. Strategy is a key component of this, identifying how the different aspects of a business lineup when decisions are made.
Post-COVID, businesses stand in a state of flux, and strategy could prove crucial. If you’re planning the transition and takeover of a business, or even weathering the storm at your own startup, strategy should be at the forefront of your mind.
Recruiters continue to see this as the number one skill on an MBA resume, with 69% of employers believing that strategy is one of the key learnings delivered to students by business schools.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, strategy has increased in importance. 50% of employers said they felt it was more important in the face of a changing business environment after COVID-19.
2. Communication skills
Businesses value leaders who are able to communicate effectively. This encompasses several different things.
Honesty is important, with companies valuing leaders who are truthful about the decisions that are being made. Marriott International employees praised CEO Arne Sorenson, who was bitingly honest about the 75% revenue hit to the hotel chain as a result of lockdown.
Tone and empathy are also highly valued, with an increasing appreciation for emotional intelligence, or ‘EQ’.
61% of recruiters believe communication has become even more valuable as a result of COVID-19. It’s good for MBAs then that 69% of recruiters also believe business schools train graduates well in communication skills, a number which has remained consistent both before and after the pandemic.
3. A versatile skill set
Some candidates go to business schools looking to strengthen their understanding of hard subjects like finance, accounting, and marketing, while others will go with an ambition to hone leadership skills like listening, communication, and teamwork.
In reality, a combination of hard and soft skills is high in demand. Employers don’t want to be walking you through the business basics when you first come on board, while they also recognize that leadership skills have an enduring value which will remain reliable during any shifts in the business environment.
54% of employers believe that a versatile skill set is now more important than it was pre-COVID. 66% have faith in business schools to hone a versatile skill set, just down from over 70% before the pandemic.
4. Ability to navigate technological disruption
In a matter of weeks, offices emptied and entire companies moved online. These changes are unlikely to reverse quickly. Many companies have announced intentions to retain remote working for at least the rest of 2020, while it’s likely that flexible working will become the new standard for working.
Technology, which plays an increasingly large role in our everyday lives, has the power to suddenly and rapidly change the way we conduct business. This has occurred across a variety of sectors, from the role of fintech in the financial industry, to a growing reliance of data analytics in a number of roles.
Business schools are playing a big part in helping future business leaders approach technological disruption with a positive mindset. Analytics is now a big part of MBA curricula, while new technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain are the bread and butter of any tech-minded graduate.
Post-COVID, the ability to navigate technological disruption is now one of the most important skills for business school recruiters. 68% of employers now believe it to be more important when they are looking for MBA hires.
5. Innovative thinking
Thinking outside the box, creative problem solving: call it what you want, being innovative is an incredibly important skill for business leaders.
When companies face challenges, they want people who will be able to offer alternative solutions which others may not have tried. Business school presents candidates with many opportunities to apply innovative, lateral thinking to certain challenging scenarios. 42% of recruiters trust business schools to prepare graduates to be innovative.
It’s a skill that should rank highly on any MBA resume, as 55% of employers believe being innovative is now more important since the pandemic.
As MBA graduates prepare to go into a fast-changing, uniquely challenging post-COVID business environment, being able to be innovative will be an important skill to have.
READ MORE: MBA Hiring Set To Rebound After COVID-19 Dip