Graduate Management News

May 2015

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Inside the Global Hiring Market: Five Questions for Claudio Fernandez-Araoz


Graduate Management News caught up with Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, 2015 GMAC Annual Conference keynote speaker, to get his take on the challenges facing graduate management programs as they strive to keep pace with the competitive global employment landscape and the needs of recruiters.

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz is a senior adviser at Egon Zehnder and was a member of its global executive committee for more than ten years. He is a top global expert on talent and leadership and has been repeatedly ranked by BusinessWeek as one of the most influential executive search consultants in the world.

  1. How are changes in the global graduate management education market affecting hiring? Are recruiters looking beyond the traditional two-year full-time MBA toward other degree options?

    Fernandez-Araoz: The traditional two-year full-time MBA continues to be an invaluable asset for recruiters. That is the case for us at Egon Zehnder. With 69 offices in 41 countries, every year we hire thousands of senior executives for clients and assess close to 100,000 professionals.

    Even more important, MBAs from the best global schools continue to be, by far, the largest population we hire for ourselves as consultants. If we, with a unique perspective on hiring the best talent, go for MBAs for ourselves, that tells you a lot about the value of such a degree.

    Having said that, I believe that online MBAs will continue to improve and increase their share of graduate degrees, but fundamentally as an addition to the traditional full-time MBA.

  2. What skills are emerging as important to global recruiters?

    Fernandez-Araoz: Of course it is a well-known fact that soft skills are key for success in most professional, managerial, and leadership jobs. While IQ will get you hired, Emotional Intelligence (EI) will get you promoted, and the lack of EI will get you fired. More specifically, there are six frequent EI-related competencies necessary for leadership success, based on my three decades of experience evaluating executives and monitoring their performance. They are: results orientation, customer impact, collaboration and influencing, developing organizational capability, team leadership, and change leadership.

    However, as I argue in my latest book, It's Not the How or the What but the Who, in addition to looking for the right competency fit, we need to place much more focus on the candidate’s potential, so as to gauge how far and how fast they will be able to develop. This has become crucial in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, where even if a candidate today has the right competency fit, his or her performance won’t last for too long if they’re not able to continue learning and growing, since the job itself will rapidly change and demand a different competency mix.

  3. Are you seeing anything to suggest that candidates are looking for something different in the job market, from a job seeker perspective?

    Fernandez-Araoz: Definitely! My research has shown that, due to a series of unprecedented factors, which I label “The Other GDP” (not for gross domestic product, but the combination of globalization, demographics, and pipelines), the right talent in the right places in the right age bracket is becoming much more scarce, and we will see in the coming years the tougher battle ever in the war for talent.

    This gives the best candidates plenty of options, and they look for the three most important motivators for knowledge workers indicated by Dan Pink in last year’s event: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

    In my view, out of these three factors creating a culture of purpose will become one of the most powerful sources of competitive advantage for recruiting companies in the global market for talent.

  4. What can admissions professionals learn from corporate recruiters to help drive their success?

    Fernandez-Araoz: Quite frankly, I believe that it should be the other way around: Corporations should learn from admission professionals! I have huge, huge respect for MBA admissions professionals, in terms of their committed research and extraordinarily objective, independent, and disciplined global admission processes. Just compare the amazing job they have done, for example, in terms of promoting gender, race, and national diversity in their admissions, to the terrible job most corporations are still doing when selecting their leaders, particularly at the top. So I’m a huge fan of admissions professionals.

    However, I believe that business schools should aim much higher in terms of purpose, specifically by developing the next generation of great global leaders, not just in business but in society. If you buy this, then you need to make sure to align your admissions to that objective.

    For that to happen, in addition to the already known factors of screening for IQ and EI, two critical filters should be given much more consideration in the admissions process: First, properly assessing potential, since you want to prepare your future leaders for jobs and roles about which we have no clue today, other than that they will be different and more complex.

    Second, business schools should make sure to admit a larger proportion of individuals with the right values. Applicants come in with their values pretty fixed. You can’t hope to change people’s values too much by the time they reach graduate school, even if you can inspire them to reach for excellence. Admissions professionals should therefore also check to see whether applicants have in the past demonstrated altruistic values in practice – on the job, in their personal activities, in contributions to valuable social causes, and in community service.

  5. Can you give us a sneak peek at what attendees will hear from you at the GMAC Annual Conference?

    Fernandez-Araoz: First, we should of course have fun, so they’ll hear many great jokes, along the lines of my discussion of the importance of soft skills last time I spoke to the wonderful GMAC Leadership Conference audience by referring to the “Marshmallow Test”.

    While I still plan to speak with several key constituents of GMAC to better tailor my keynote speech, my plan is to share with the participants how surrounding ourselves with the best and helping them thrive is the key for our individual and organizational success, and the implications this should have for their own success, as well as for that of the graduates they will be admitting. I’ll of course discuss some key implications both for admissions processes as well as for the MBA curricula.