MBA hiring: Back with a vengeance

While U.S. unemployment remains stubbornly close to 10%, job prospects for this year's class of MBAs are looking considerably brighter.

While U.S. unemployment remains stubbornly close to 10%, job prospects for MBAs in the class of 2011 are looking considerably brighter. At Stanford Graduate School of Business, job postings are up 85% year over year.

Boston Consulting Group, one of the largest employers of MBA graduates, plans to up its hiring by 18% this year. And a new survey of MBA employers shows that 64% plan to hire MBAs from the class of 2011, up four percentage points from a year earlier.

"We are seeing an extremely sharp uptick from virtually every sector that recruits our MBAs," says Pulin Sanghvi, director of Stanford's career management center. "Most employers are coming back with sharply higher hiring numbers. There are parts of the economy right now that are really booming, particularly in tech, and that boom is creating even more jobs from the ecosystems around these companies."

On some level, the strong recovery in the MBA market is a reflection of pent-up demand for managerial talent.

"People were being very conservative about staffing during the recession," says Sanghvi. "Many are now finding that they are understaffed for what they are trying to accomplish, particularly for managerial talent. So that trend is very promising for MBA students across the country."

Less than three years ago, there was widespread worry and even despair as the economic meltdown took hold. Julie Morton, associate dean of career services for Chicago's Booth School of Business, recalls receiving a text message from an MBA graduate working at Lehman Brothers just before the investment bank filed for bankruptcy in September of 2008. It read: "Lots of stuff is going down here. We're going to need your help. Just watch the news."

She and members of her staff rushed to New York the following week to help alums who quickly became victims of the collapse. Back at school, major MBA employers in the financial sector all but disappeared. Most of the other non-financial companies severely cut back their interview schedules and offers. Surprisingly large percentages of the class of 2009 remained unemployed even three months after graduation.

With economic recovery beginning last year and showing greater strength now, the mood on business school campuses has turned upbeat and even confident.

"Students feel supported and confident, but not cocky, that things are going to work out for them," says Morton, who reports that on-campus interview slots this past fall were up 22% and job postings for MBAs and alums have risen nearly 30%...

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