How Employers Perceive Online MBAs
There are three types of recruiters:
1. Campus recruiters:
These recruiters focus on a long-term, relationship-based talent sourcing strategy. They see MBA candidates as potential future leadership hires, customers, business influencers, and strategic partners.
MBA hiring from campuses is an expensive business. It’s fast, and it’s competitive because the pool of talent is small. To qualify for most jobs and leadership development programs, candidates MUST be MBA students or recent alums, preferably with three to six years of experience.
B-schools are the primary source of talent for campus recruiters, who must work hard at creating a super campus brand and engaging with students at on-campus presentations, networking events, and clubs and by offering internships and projects. These recruiters prioritize hiring talent early and fast to avoid losing them to the competition. They also focus on programmatic hiring, which involves a polished drill sequence of touch points: present, network, interview, offer, hire within a small window of time. (Invariably, September through December is peak hiring season at most global B-schools).
To be visible to campus employers, an MBA candidate must
– Be on-campus for hiring events and be ready with a pitch
– Be in the resume book
– Be a member of student clubs
– Be available for summer internship or projects
Bottom line: If it’s the same admissions process at a target school, the same curriculum, the same faculty, the same resources – campus recruiters wouldn’t discriminate between an online or a classroom MBA. We care about access to a critical mass of high caliber MBA talent who start and finish their MBA around the same time. That way, we can offer a structured and consistent hiring process and meet our hiring demands for the year.
Right now, there isn’t a critical mass of job-seeking MBAs in online programs at elite B-schools who have the profile that campus recruiters want. So until there is, structured MBA hiring programs with big employers will continue to revolve around classroom MBAs.
Things will change when elite global B-schools offer online MBA programs and encourage their corporate partners to have a mix of on-campus and virtual hiring campaigns. B-schools will certainly need to package and promote online MBA classes in the same way to recruiters. We’re a long way off from that, but I know a lot of employers would welcome lower resource costs and a less intense on-campus hiring process. The virtual campus is not a bad thing.
2. Experienced Hire and 3. Executive Search/Headhunters:
Do they care that you’re pursuing an online MBA?
The typical profile of most online MBA candidates today would be attractive to experienced-hire recruiters (who prefer 7+ years of experience) and executive-search consultants or headhunters (who look for C-suite level talent).
Online MBA students typically have more years of work experience compared with their on-campus MBA peers; they’re working and performing well, hence they may have the support and/or sponsorship from their company to undertake an online MBA. They’re “passive” candidates, not actively looking, but open to new opportunities because they take ownership of their professional growth and development.
Note, these recruiters are not targeting you for your online MBA. No, they’ll want you because you’re forward thinking, you have a global mindset, you possess passion and aptitude for strategic impacts, you can sell, you can build strategic partnerships, you can manage senior stakeholders, and you can build effective teams and lead them. In a nutshell, you have a super track record of creating and delivering business results. The MBA would be considered a bonus but not essential. It wouldn’t be the key reason for a recruiter to approach you.
That said, when you’re interviewing, you can use your online MBA experience to impress and sparkle.
If you read my last article, you know it’s no secret that recruiters and hiring managers like stories. As an online MBA candidate, you can build a convincing library of stories on how you’ve applied (or are applying) the learning from your online MBA to your company (e.g. pitching new ideas, experimenting, influencing, impacting, reviewing, or refining…you get the idea).
Experienced hire and executive/headhunter recruiters do not source exclusively from target schools, unlike campus recruiters. The B-school rankings do not carry a lot of significance, so it really doesn’t matter where you undertake/undertook your online MBA.
HOW TO SELL YOUR ONLINE MBA
To impress recruiters and hiring managers, online MBA students and alums can “show” that they can add business value by participating in activities such as themed discussions online (e.g. business trends/issues) or reverse mentoring (e.g. hiring managers can ask questions about business challenges that keep them awake at night and students can offer advice and fresh thinking).
Many forward-thinking employers are all about relationship-based recruiting versus transactional. They’re interested in getting to know candidates, often via social media platforms, BEFORE bringing them into their hiring process. You know recruiters all source from a global database…it’s called LinkedIn! Build a solid online profile.
Online degrees still haven’t replaced the on-campus recruiting experience, but they’re gaining ground. For experienced and executive job candidates, online education can be a solid bet for career advancement without quitting your job or breaking the bank.
Sandy Khan is a world-class, London-based MBA talent acquisition consultant and founder of mba arena. Sandy works with international employers and business schools bringing innovation to global MBA hiring through storytelling and human-voice hiring.