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The top five MBA trends for 2016

Looking back at the end of this year we can identify five developments with respect to international careers and in the global Business School market and which we think are stable trends.

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Trend 1: Multilingualism gives applicants an edge

Speaking several languages can provide an edge in the ascent to the executive suite, we learnt in February. Companies prefer employees with bilingualism or multilingualism for key roles as many are constantly expanding their physical geographies and defined markets. Apart from English at least one other international language is required for promotion, particularly into international roles. In the UK nearly two-thirds of businesses want to recruit people who speak a foreign language. Many international companies give extra credit to those who can converse in multiple languages and cultural norms. Examples include BP, GE, Johnson & Johnson, and GSK. Business lobby group CBI and education company Pearson found in a survey that the preferred European languages are French (50 per cent), German (49 per cent), and Spanish (44 per cent).

Trend 2: Data analytics skills open doors

In June we reported on consulting companies like McKinsey scrambling to hire business school graduates with skills in data analytics. Technology giants like Amazon, Google and Apple are also actively seeking employees who can sort and interpret data and communicate the gathered insights quickly. According to consulting company Accenture the demand for these skilled managers will increase in coming years creating a 40 per cent gap between supply and demand for data science talent by 2018. Several business schools have therefore launched data analytics courses. Amongst them are Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and MIT’s Sloan School of Management which started programmes in March whilst Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management initiated a big data course for MBAs with Lutz Finger, LinkedIn’s analytics chief, in April. Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business was another business school to take action on the increased demand for managers who are able to interpret and work with big sets of data.

Trend 3: Employers prefer generalists

In September we featured a new study that found that employers preferred generalists over specialists. At university MBA students are often encouraged to specialise in certain topics like corporate finance, investment banking, marketing, strategy, or supply management. But the study by Jennifer Merluzzi, an assistant professor at the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University, found that the recommendations didn’t prove true in the real business world. The survey’s results surprised as against common career advice, specialisation was not what most employers looked for but rather for employees who demonstrated accomplishment across many areas. The research, which was also featured in Harvard Business Review, yielded that graduates with specialized career profiles based on experiences before, during, and after graduation were met with less appealing job prospects. They received fewer offers and less compensation, compared to students with more generalist education.

Trend 4: Admissions add video components

Also in September we reported on video components gaining in popularity in the admissions process to business school. Insead is one of the schools that added a video component to its MBA application. In the new video component at Insead applicants need to answer four questions. This is supposed to give staff a first idea of how a candidate interacts and how his or her communication skills are – in terms of presentation as well as in English language skills. And according to the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) and their 2016 MBA Applicant Survey applicants have adapted well to this new application component with nearly half of applicants (49 per cent) saying the video essay represented them “well” or “extremely well”.

Trend 5: Affordability is key

Another trend that was brought to light by the 2016 MBA Applicant Survey from AIGAC was the declining interest in two-year MBA programmes. This reflects the need of being cost-effective with 41 per cent of respondents indicating that their school choice was partly influenced by affordability.

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