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Five Questions for Rachel Edgington, founder of GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey

In late 2001, as the world was coming out of a recession, GMAC's Rachel Edgington launched the Corporate Recruiters Survey to gauge the job market for MBA graduates. Now a mainstay of GMAC's suite of annual surveys, the Corporate Recruiters Survey has added a valuable perspective on the hiring landscape through the Great Recession. As GMAC prepares to launch the 10th annual survey, Edgington, now GMAC's director of market research, shares its history and evolution with Graduate Management News.
Q: Why did GMAC start the Corporate Recruiters Survey?

A: Our research agenda was to provide a comprehensive view of the management education landscape. By this time, we’d already established the student survey and the alumni survey. We were getting really good insights into what MBA graduates were learning, how they were conducting their job search, what industries they were going into, what they were looking for in their employers. What we didn't know was if there was a match between student job expectations and employers' potential to hire and whether what students were learning were the skills employers were seeking. It was really a need to get a comprehensive picture of the industry.

Q: What are some of the more notable things the survey has found in the past nine years?

A: We've been able to track and report hiring trends in a way that schools and students can prepare for fluctuations in the job market—rather than be reactive, they can be proactive.  In the last recession in 2002, the bottom dropped out for employers really quickly, and they had to rescind job offers. By 2003, hiring was at an all-time low. We tracked this against the current situation and were able to make very accurate projections as to when hiring would be at its lowest and when it would start to improve.

We also identified the reasons non-US students had a hard time finding jobs in the US—with a large domestic pool of candidates, employers didn't need to do the extra work required to hire non-US citizens. Finally, it is clear from employers that they value their MBA hires, regardless of criticism seen in the media.

Q: How does the Corporate Recruiters Survey differ from other employer surveys being done?

A: GMAC's goal is to understand the entire landscape and provide a holistic view, so students and schools can be prepared. Other employer surveys tend to focus on the high-profile companies and schools, which creates unrealistic expectations. Because our survey encompasses many different types of schools and employers, it gives a much better feel for what's really happening in the market in terms of salary, hiring, and on-campus recruitment. We also include companies that hire MBAs, even though they may not recruit on-campus.

A student might feel their career services office is not getting enough employers recruiting on campus. But only three-quarters of employers who hire MBAs recruit on-campus, at an average of eight schools. Employers have budget constraints and  may not consider a school until they've reached top ranking. That's really useful information to manage student expectations and for schools to develop strategies to attract employers in other ways.

Q: How has the survey evolved?

A: There are still core questions that we always rotate through the years. It’s become much more broad, in the sense that we’re also asking about hiring for graduates of masters-level degrees, masters in business, for instance. That, again, increases our understanding of the whole market. We also go in more depth in terms of the skills employers are looking for in candidates.

Additionally, we administer the survey in multiple languages based on demand. Our schools teach in English, so we know our students can read and understand in English, but employers may or may not. Our goal is to understand the entire market, and not just segments. If we’re excluding employers because of a language barrier, then we’re not doing our job.

Q: Why is the Corporate Recruiters Survey so important for schools?

A: Because it gives a comprehensive look at the market as a whole, it's really the most useful tool in managing student expectations and your dean’s expectations. It's not just the free custom benchmark reports for participants but also the general survey report. Say that you are considering a new master's in healthcare administration or healthcare management. This survey would be a natural source for you to understand what your potential market share could be.

Registration is open now for schools to take part in the 2011 Corporate Recruiters Survey as well as the Global Management Education Graduate Survey.

To participate in the Corporate Recruiters Survey, career services professionals at schools can either provide contact information for the employers they work with or email them a survey invitation on behalf of GMAC. In return, they receive a wealth of detailed information on hiring projections at a wide spectrum of companies as well as free custom benchmark reports with aggregate feedback from their employers to compare with the overall industry trends.

School participation in the Global Management Education Graduate Survey works much the same way. Program directors can either provide contact information for their graduating students or email them a survey invitation on behalf of GMAC. In return, schools receive free custom benchmark reports letting them know how their programs compare with participating peer schools.

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