Are Soft Skills Teachable?

Survey responses from alumni show soft skill development is a key learning outcome of a graduate management education.

Jul 7, 2016

B-School Outcomes

Female business school students engaged in coversation Business school corporate recruiters consistently say that when it comes to hiring newly minted business school graduates, they are looking for candidates with soft skills—interpersonal abilities that enable harmonious and effective working interactions. In our 2016 Corporate Recruiters Survey, corporate recruiters in 6 of 8 industries ranked the “ability to work in and build strong teams” in the top 3 of 12 total performance traits they seek in hiring business school talent. 

The question is: Are soft skills developed at business school, or do students come to the classroom with these skills already? Our 2016 Alumni Perspectives Survey shows that more than 3 in 4 alumni agree that their graduate management education advanced their soft skills. This may be due to the business school curriculum itself, which encourages students to put soft skills to the test. From team-based assignments to case study discussions, there are many opportunities to listen to classmates, reflect on one’s own experiences, and engage in conversations about diverse perspectives.

Soft skill development

Alumni from full-time MBA and executive MBA programs were most likely to agree that their business school experience helped develop their soft skills. Online MBA program graduates, perhaps not surprisingly given the method of course delivery, were least likely to strongly agree (18%). Alumni from pre-experience master’s programs, which typically have less group work and more specialized content, perceived slightly less soft skill development when compared with their older MBA peers.

For more on the learning and career outcomes of graduate business school alumni, read the 2016 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report. For more on employer demand for business school graduates, read the 2016 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report