Do you have the skills MBA Employers find most important?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 1am

Employers are constantly asked what are the most important skills they look for in MBA hires, and whether their current recruits were delivering to expected standards. Understandably, employers expect a great deal of competency from business school students and while in many of the ‘hard skills’ areas candidates are delivering consistency, the same can’t always be said of ‘soft skills’.

Soft skills are, in many ways, more difficult to 'learn' than the more tangible skills. It’s far easier to teach someone how to use Excel or the basics of computer programming than how to be an effective communicator, how to listen to others and how to work as part of a team. Being able to master the art of communication takes a lot more self-reflection and willingness to adjust aspects of your own personality - something not all candidates are willing to do. Furthermore, many graduates who are successful people in their own right and often have a great deal of work experience already, may not want to admit that they need to work on something as basic as communicating effectively with colleagues. It’s this resistance perhaps, along with a lack of resources which leaves employers underwhelmed with many new hires.

Our report shows that employer satisfaction in both interpersonal and leadership skills is significantly lacking when compared to the importance placed upon them. A report by PayScale and Future Workplace found that while 87% of graduates felt ready for work, only 50% of hiring managers felt this confidence was reflected. They found that skills including leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and attention to detail were among the major ones lacking in new hires. Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace, said, “Graduates need strong communication and problem-solving skills if they want to interview well and succeed in the workplace, because effective writing, speaking, and critical thinking enables you to accomplish business goals and get ahead.”

The Hay Group found that while 93% of employers stated that soft skills were vital to commercial success, only 51% of graduates felt the same way - instead feeling that they were a barrier. They suggest that this is because academic environments focus on completion of work as the predominant goal - communication and working as part of a team isn’t easily quantifiable and therefore not earmarked as an important skill to develop in the workplace.

Not unlike our report, the PayScale report found that graduates demonstrated adequate knowledge of hard skills such as coding and SEO, where more tangible skills such as academic achievement, international awareness, computer skills, and language ability were satisfactory according to employers.

To succeed in the workplace then, graduates need to spend more time focusing on developing skills that are a premium with searching employers. You have many opportunities to improve these skills - work experience in the form of internships,  participating in extracurricular activities which focuses on communication and teamwork, and analyzing areas in which your proficiency may be lacking.

Written by Amelia Hopkins

Amelia Hopkins is a writer for QS TopMBA, covering the latest news in business and business
education. A graduate of the University of Leeds and Yorkshire native, she enjoys reading,
travelling and talking incessantly about the countryside.

Originally posted on


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