Wednesday, February 16, 2005

More MBA comments

Following on to my post a few weeks ago regarding MBAs, I found a lot of interesting information on this post at Heather's Marketing at Microsoft Blog.  Heather being a recruiter for Microsoft, I was very interested to read the following:

When I think of the value of the MBA to a potential job seeker, I think of 2 things:

1) the skills you learn in the program that may prepare you for the type of work you would like to do

2) the fact that the MBA (especially from a really solid programs) differentiates you from the masses of other folks that could be applying for the job

That's interesting.  In my previous post, I had figured that a MBA did the following for me:

  • It gets the 3 letters on my resume that may be the difference between my resume going in a trash can or getting into the second round.
  • If I go to a local university, it gets me more contacts than I have now.
  • If I try to get into a top ten, it gives me the ability to apply to jobs that require a top ten degree and gets me a significantly more diverse group of contacts.

Then I received a comment asking whether or not I actually expected to learn anything, which was a great question and feeds into Heather's explanation of #1 above:

With #1, I definitely feel that there are opportunities for people to gain the same skills outside of an MBA program, through equivalent work experience. Typically, the latter is less theoretical, more practical (and of course, MBAs go on to jobs where they use their educations in practice as well). So for positions that require these specific skills, hiring managers should be willing to hire folks with or without an MBA; really focusing on the skills themselves, regardless of where they came from.

I would tend to agree with what Heather says about #1; the problem that I have is that so many jobs require a MBA in the "requirements" section.  With so many companies using automated resume readers and knocking out candidates because they don't have those magic 3 letters, it's hard to get in front of someone to show that you are qualified (more qualified?) because of experience.  If there are automated resume scanners that have some sort of fuzzy logic to calculate the worth of experience vs. the 3 letters, I've never heard of them.

For point #2 above, Heather says:

. . . there's a prestige factor associated with some schools and with the fact that you were disciplined enough to get through the program. I totally get that. And we absolutely value MBAs, just not to the exclusion of valuable work experience.

We all value brand names and MBA schools are no exception; this feeds directly into my third bullet above.

Encouragingly, Heather says this about Microsoft:

. . . I rarely think of a good recruiter searching on a specific skill-set and ruling out people who have it just because they don't have MBAs (because of the equivalent work experience thing). Many MBAs do end up with backgrounds that we typically recruit so the MBA alumni associations are a good channel for us...but the MBA itself is rarely an absolute requirement. We really look at the work experience first.

Heather suggests that when evaluating different programs, you take the Tom Peters method of valuating the "wow" impact on your resume  -- good advice.

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