Graduate Management News

April 2015

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Spice Up Your Program’s Recruitment Messaging

We’ve all seen the cooking shows that feature a restaurant challenge, and often, the winning team is determined not by taste differential, but by the manner to which they effectively conveyed their menu to the judges.


This echoes the golden rule of b-school communications for recruitment: the message has to resonate with prospective students. What makes this tricky is that you are tasked with attracting a diverse class of students, yet no single message can truly resonate with prospects from widely different demographics and backgrounds.

So, why not think about messaging like a restaurant kitchen challenge? You know that your potential clientele have different tastes and expectations, and as the head chef you need to be able to describe and dish out different flavors to appeal to different palates. With more than 400,000 candidates who have expressed a strong interest in business school, the GMASS® database is a great test kitchen for your efforts.

As a starting point, focus on candidates’ interest in a particular program type through a simple GMASS search. What do you do next? Give your recruitment messaging some extra zest by incorporating insights from our 2015 Prospective Students Survey Report that can help you differentiate your outreach in the crowded marketplace.

Here are three examples:

  1. Broaden your audience by understanding “crossover” program interest

    Although your GMASS search is generated using a prospective student’s interest in one particular program type, candidates may be open to considering other program types as well. After all, just because someone goes into your restaurant thinking they want pasta doesn’t mean they won’t order a filet if they read a mouthwatering menu description.

    New survey research sheds light on the most likely instances of candidates considering other MBA or specialized business master’s programs. Examples of potential “crossover” demand programs include:

    • Part-time MBA program - Flexible MBA - Online MBA program
    • Master of Accounting - Master of Taxation - Master of Finance

    GMASS tip:
    Keep in mind this data goes beyond what candidates tell us directly in our GMASS database, but it may allow you to cast a wider net in your GMASS sampling by including other program types and correspondingly, achieve a greater return.  

  2. Target specific candidate segments with your messaging

    What’s driving candidates’ decision making? What are their primary motivations and reservations surrounding business school? To help make our data on these topics actionable, the Prospective Students report features convenient groupings—known as personas—that encapsulate the most common opinions of prospective students by program type.

    For example, the report offers four candidate personas to represent the candidate pool for part-time MBA programs. Among three of the four personas the chief reservation of candidates is the time demands of b-school. This indicates that many of your part-time MBA candidates may need assurances that taking on a part-time program will not take away from the time they already devote to their job and the already limited time they have to do other things, like be with their family and pursue outside interests.

    What messaging strategy can you think of that leverages this information?

    • You may consider a message that includes a quote or video of a current part-time student speaking directly to the issue of time demand.
    • Depending on the details of your part-time program, you may highlight the flexible scheduling or online/hybrid format of your courses to underscore how your program understands the specific needs and limitations of its part-time students.  
    • And, ask alumni to speak specifically about dimensions of the program that were instrumental for their promotion, or next career step. 

    See the report for other specific personas by program type that cluster candidates by shared goals, needs, and priorities. Consider this actionable data the flavors you pull down from your spice rack to appeal to different prospective student segments with unique, discerning tastes. For more specific marketing ingredients also explore the interactive tool.

    GMASS tip:
    These personas are not available in GMASS (but we’re working on enhanced data architecture), however, I encourage you to craft and test messages for greatest effectiveness to determine which types of candidates are in your applicant pool. Use this segmentation approach to focus and communicate your programs’ value in ways that resonate with groups of candidates.  

  3. Explore students interested in Master of Finance programs (NEW FEATURE!)

    A brand new feature in GMASS is the ability to create a customized list of prospective students interested in Master of Finance programs.

    Globally, 22% of today’s prospects are considering the Master of Finance degree, with strong interest among candidates residing in Asia-Pacific (42%) and Europe (28%), according to the survey report.


    Although candidate groups reveal personas for prospective students interested in Master of Finance programs as seeking the degree for international career opportunities OR based on a desire to change careers and develop their technical skills, a common reservation is anxiety surrounding the economy. What creative recruitment messaging can you come up with that communicates to this segment of the prospective student pool that you understand their perspective and know their tastes?

    GMASS tip:
    Since this is a new feature, try broadening your program search using the “crossover demand” analysis I mentioned above and include Master of Accounting in your searches. In addition, use the filter for “concentration: finance” to see if that expands your candidate pool. 

Remember, the more unique and customized your message, the more you are able to differentiate the value of your program from your competitors. So be creative! Be bold! The results may surprise you. You may be a master chef and didn’t even know it!

About the Author

Paula McKayPaula McKay is the director of School Products at the Graduate Management Admission Council.