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How companies recruit – what MBAs need to know

We invited the Cambridge MBA Careers team to talk to us about current trends in MBA recruitment right now.

Large group of unrecognizable business people waiting for a job interview.
Ania Kowalska-Kubs.
Ania Kowalska-Kubs,, Cambridge MBA Employer Relations Lead

When considering an MBA in your future plan, the re-entry into employment afterwards will be a priority consideration. Ania Kowalska-Kubs, Employer Relations Lead for the Cambridge MBA, is responsible for building close relationships with the corporate partners of CJBS, in order to understand their hiring requirements and support our students’ post-MBA employment outcomes.

We ask Ania about some current trends she’s seeing, and what MBAs can do to keep up and optimise their results:

How do you work with employers to understand their recruitment needs?

Timing is key – we work closely with our corporate partners to understand each other’s cycles and match their recruitment needs to our one-year format.

We build relationships with individuals at companies and host a full programme of recruiter events and networking sessions, but we also run the annual Cambridge Employers’ Seminar to which we invite our corporate partners to spend a day with us in Cambridge. This event gives us a great opportunity to hear from employers about their recruitment challenges and what keeps them awake at night.

Are recruitment methods changing?

The power of networking cannot be underestimated. It is no longer only about applying for roles on the company websites. It is about growing your network, knowing how to navigate it and asking the right questions. Given the quick pace of growth in many industries, sometimes jobs are created at short notice and need to be developed quickly. Therefore, it is important to be connected and constantly speaking to people in your target sectors and companies.

Some say that AI is being used more and more in recruitment, particularly in larger companies. Have you experienced this?

AI is being used by some companies to screen CVs to try to manage application numbers and remove bias from the recruitment process. Also, in some companies, the selection process has been totally digitalised. One large multinational we work with has completely removed the human element from the applicant/interviewee journey, from start to finish.

Time will tell how successful the digital selection process has been compared to more traditional methods – but MBA students should expect to see this approach more often.

What do employers look for from MBA graduates?

The companies I work with tell me increasingly that soft skills are the most important for a successful employee to make an impact in their organisation. They are looking for maturity, interpersonal skills, a learning mindset, and entrepreneurial spirit, for example. As the average Cambridge MBA has six year’s work experience, this is something they can demonstrate with the work experience they have already had. Plus, we focus heavily on these capabilities throughout the MBA, with our Management Praxis course, covering two terms, our team projects, and extra-curricular opportunities integrated into the experience.

Are MBAs career goals changing?

We are seeing some definite changes in terms of target roles and sectors – fintech and big data have definitely become a big theme. Whilst the strong desire to go into consulting continues, we are seeing increased interest in industry roles, in particular, in disruptive technologies. Our recent Cambridge MBA Employment report shows that over half of the class secured roles in industry, with 75 per cent of those going into technology/internet/ecommerce.

We have responded to this need in our teaching to include new courses such as Digital Business, Managing Big Data Analysis, Disruptive Technology & Innovation, and Fintech Strategies.

Although tech giants like Google, Facebook or Microsoft are still popular targets, more and more Cambridge MBAs are targeting roles in growing start-ups or are looking to start their own company. Cambridge MBA attracts candidates with entrepreneurial ambitions because of our unique place at the heart of Silicon Fen and Cambridge University, with its spin-out activity and investment opportunities – an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ is an attribute we are increasingly seeing on recruiter wish lists!

Based on the current trends, what can MBAs do to prepare themselves for the recruitment process?

Being a one-year programme, we ask the students to begin preparations a few months before the start of their MBA. We engage with them individually before they begin, help them understand their skills early, and how to build stories around them. We also help guide their research to support their career choices, encouraging them to take a pro-active approach.

We introduce our students early to the concept of informational interviews – a way of using networking opportunities to learn about a potential role or company while at the same time showing yourself in the best light. You should be doing this before you even start your MBA.

How should MBAs approach their career planning and job search?

The team here at Cambridge Judge Business School will work closely with you to help you recognise your career aspirations and provide tools and resources to get ready for interviews.

We help you identify skills gaps and articulate your strengths. We offer interview practice and we heavily encourage peer-to-peer practice, be it for a case or competency interview. Short notice interviewing is becoming a norm, so it’s vital that you start preparing early and be ready to go with a few days to spare.

Applying academic learning into real life projects is also a big step in getting our students prepared. This is one of many reasons why the Cambridge Venture Project (CVP) and Global Consulting Project (GCP) have been the highlights of the Cambridge MBA for many.