Ask HR: Why Hire MBAs?

Why do companies value MBAs? It is a valid question that many MBA candidates are curious about, and rightfully so. The job market is strong: Nine out of every 10 employers surveyed by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the administrator of the GMAT, say they expect to maintain or increase the number of job openings for business school graduates in 2015. A majority of these employers also plan to increase starting annual base salaries for new hires this year. The demand for MBAs is clearly there, but what is it that makes MBA graduates so employable? 

To get to the heart of it, MBA@UNC asked 24 HR executives from a variety of industries one simple question: “Why does an MBA give candidates an advantage?” Their answers included traits like well-roundedness and a sense of global responsibility, but there were also a few surprises. More often than not we received responses the length of essays detailing how proactive and effective professionals who have earned an MBA are. Read on to find out more about why companies hire MBAs.    

  1. Erin Anderson, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, 2U
  2. Katie Burke, Director of Talent and Culture, HubSpot
  3. Pat Callans, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Risk Management, Costco Wholesale
  4. Tracy Coté, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Genesys
  5. Michelle Denman, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, AppSense
  6. Darlene Elder, Chief Human Resource Bear, Build-A-Bear Workshop
  7. Michael Geary, Corporate Vice President of Human Resources, Kiewit Corporation
  8. Ashley Gordon, Director of Recruitment, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
  9. Tisa Head, Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Navy Federal
  10. Frank Hockmuller, Human Resources Consultant, Roche Diagnostics
  11. Julie Hodges, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion, Disney Parks & Resorts
  12. Sandy Hynes, Senior Vice President of People, Opower
  13. Travis Kessel, Senior Vice President of Recruitment, Edelman
  14. Anita Lim, Human Resources Lead, Instart Logic
  15. Amy McKee, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, Autodesk
  16. Patrick Newton, Partner, KPMG
  17. Gerry Pierce, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Wegmans
  18. Mark Reid, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, USAA
  19. Cindy Scharringhausen, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Camden
  20. Ellyn Shook, Chief Human Resources Officer, Accenture
  21. Jen Slaski, Director of Marketing Communications, Spiceworks
  22. Shereen Solaiman, Vice President of Human Resources, OhioHealth
  23. Pat Wadors, Senior Vice President of Global Talent Organization, LinkedIn
  24. Adrienne Webster, Vice President of Human Resources, CARFAX

 

Erin Anderson

Senior Vice President of Human Resources, 2U


 

Candidates with MBAs tend to have a broader set of skills that enable them to address business needs with a more comprehensive understanding of how their actions will impact the organization.


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Katie Burke

Director of Talent and Culture, HubSpot


 

At HubSpot we give employees significant autonomy to create solutions for our customers and our company. MBAs are incredibly valuable to our team because they drive data-driven decisions to impact change and lead cross-functional projects all while thinking like founders, and that's a hybrid skill set we need in spades as we grow and scale globally.


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Pat Callans

Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Risk Management, Costco Wholesale


 

We recognize the value of education and we believe that the attributes that make one able to complete an undergraduate or graduate program are some of the same attributes that make for a great employee. We have a great many employees who begin their Costco careers while they are attending school.


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Tracy Coté

Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Genesys


 

When employers see a candidate with an MBA, they assume that person has been trained to think critically about business in a financial context, as well as having been trained to solve business problems, and in business, that’s an advantage!


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Michelle Denman

Senior Vice President of Human Resources, AppSense


 

An MBA will certainly provide a new hire with an understanding of business fundamentals such as some basic financial acumen, marketing principles, and a general understanding of how business works. It can also give them a certain amount of credibility.


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Darlene Elder

Chief Human Resource Bear, Build-A-Bear Workshop 


 

Through their education, MBAs gain a holistic business perspective that causes them to think strategically and globally in the business world.


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Michael Geary

Corporate Vice President of Human Resources, Kiewit Corporation


 

An MBA shows the commitment that candidates make in their personal development and education. Specifically, it should propel their critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities, and help them build a sophisticated network of relationships that can assist them forever.


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Ashley Gordon

Director of Recruitment, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta


 

The job market is competitive and an MBA can provide you with a much-needed advantage. Earning your MBA can assist you in obtaining specific training and expertise, gaining an understanding of evolving business trends and increasing your exposure to the global marketplace.


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Tisa Head

Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Navy Federal


 

MBA candidates have experienced rigorous academic programs, project work in a team environment, internships with industry leaders, and, in many cases, international business experiences. All of these experiences, in and out of the classroom, develop critical thinking, problem solving and team-oriented skills that enhance their overall business acumen and provide advantages in a very competitive job market.


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Frank Hockmuller

Human Resources Consultant, Roche Diagnostics


 

First and foremost, great leaders ... lead themselves. An MBA, master’s or Ph.D. is a testament to an individual’s dedication toward excellence. From a hiring perspective, it is also an indicator of what an individual may be capable of achieving. Secondly, an MBA, master’s or Ph.D. will open doors of opportunity that simply wouldn't be there without them.


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Julie Hodges

Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion, Disney Parks & Resorts


 

We find that MBA graduates joining Disney possess a passion for our company, brand and unique experiences, and they offer a wide range of business knowledge and intense enthusiasm for what is possible. Their ability to handle complex business situations and capacity to adapt and be nimble in a rapidly changing global environment has been an asset for us.


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Sandy Hynes

Senior Vice President of People, Opower


 

Having an MBA is so much more than a few additional years of education. Candidates with MBAs stand out because they are able to take theoretical knowledge and apply it to real business situations, enabling them to get up to speed and deliver results more rapidly, which is what top companies need to compete globally.


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Travis Kessel

Senior Vice President of Recruitment, Edelman


 

Candidates with MBAs often have the best understanding of the business behind the business. That behind-the-curtain perspective makes them more effective consultants for our clients as well as uniquely useful internally as our organization evolves. As the needs of our clients diversify, a holistic perspective on not only how to best amplify their work, but how to approach the work itself, is becoming more and more valuable.


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Anita Lim

Human Resources Lead, Instart Logic


 

In order to be able to scale a company in innovative ways, one has to fundamentally understand the nature of an organization and be able to tie in all the components of a dynamic environment. An MBA will give a candidate a holistic overview of the business world and put them in a position where they can be a valuable asset to the company.


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Amy McKee

Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, Autodesk


 

MBAs typically have five to eight years of work experience prior to graduation, which is valuable. Many MBAs change the direction of their careers from finance to marketing or engineering to product management — which makes them well-rounded candidates. Additionally, their exposure to global perspective is key, whether they moved internationally to do their MBA, [took] classes that focus on international business or participated in global projects.


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Patrick Newton

Partner, KPMG


 

Through studying for an MBA you become part of a great network of professionals and you constantly challenge yourself with the newest methods of problem solving. These things together give you a great overview of the business world and a certain receptiveness to changes in the business environment.


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Gerry Pierce

Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Wegmans


 

Our primary focus for leadership development is to leverage a leader's ability to think critically, creatively problem solve and maximize two-way communication. The MBA degree enhances one's ability to do so.


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Mark Reid

Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, USAA


 

MBA graduates possess a unique advantage in that not only are they fluent in the language of business, they have networked with and had exposure to real business situations and challenges. This combined with the opportunities to work with fellow students from across industries, experienced faculty and established business leaders creates a very attractive candidate.


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Cindy Scharringhausen

Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Camden


 

One of the key advantages for candidates with an MBA is their diverse business knowledge gained from studying the impact of actual business decisions on real organizations. In addition to theoretical knowledge, understanding how real organizations successfully overcome challenges helps these candidates think strategically and find innovative solutions.


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Ellyn Shook

Chief Human Resources Officer, Accenture


 

An MBA from a top business school provides leadership development opportunities and hones quantitative capabilities and critical thinking. It also gives you access to a valuable alumni network. An MBA may also be a more direct path to working in a specific company or industry as noted in a recent New York Times article referencing employer preferences.


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Jen Slaski

Director of Marketing Communications, Spiceworks


 

What can give MBAs a 'leg up' is the analytical lens they've honed in business school. Specifically they ask important 'look before you leap' big picture context questions to really understand a situation or opportunity before jumping to an assumption, answer or plan of action. Inspiration, gut instinct and risk definitely always need to be alive and well for innovation to happen, but the way a typical MBA mind instinctively informs decisions with data can help ensure businesses are taking 'smart risks' that are directionally sound.


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Shereen Solaiman

Vice President of Human Resources, OhioHealth 


 

An MBA definitely gives a candidate an advantage because it adds a sense of business and financial credibility to a person’s resume. Specifically, it gives an employer confidence that the candidate has the education to support effective decision-making in business situations.


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Pat Wadors

Senior Vice President of Global Talent Organization, LinkedIn


 

A few things that might be benefits of obtaining an MBA from an employer standpoint are:

  1. Ensuring you attend the right school or program that is relevant to your industry or skill set. This improves the probability of getting sourced.
  2. Increasing your acumen in a growing area or skills shortage area.
  3. Exposing you to new and emerging global industries and markets. This broadens your thinking.

If obtaining an MBA can help you increase your skills in areas in high demand or expose you to thought leadership in areas employers value, and you select the right program to aid in these efforts, then it might very well be worth the investment.


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Adrienne Webster

Vice President of Human Resources, CARFAX 


 

The culture at CARFAX is very entrepreneurial and we expect every member of the team to wear a CARFAX hat when making business decisions. Sometimes this can mean putting individual and team goals aside for the greater good of the business and our customers. We find that candidates with MBAs tend to bring a 'big picture' perspective to our innovative culture where everyone has a voice and is challenged to use it.


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