MBA Graduates Face Sobering Job Market

MBA Graduates Face Sobering Job Market

PRINCETON, N.J.

The market for recent MBA graduates is as cold as the weather here, and students can only hope for a spring thaw of last minute recruiting, according to the Web site CollegeJournal.com, the Wall Street Journal’s site for career-minded college students.

In addition, most school officials and recruiters don’t expect demand for MBA graduates to rebound before summer or fall — if then, reports columnist Ron Alsop.

The vast majority of business schools are reporting fewer recruiters than last year, with some experiencing a 50 percent drop in the number of companies on campus. The weak economy, depressed stock market and threat of war are making companies — even those that are thriving — wary of hiring expensive MBA talent until it is absolutely necessary.

Students at prestigious schools are faring best. Harvard Business School, the University of Chicago, Columbia and other top schools report that recruiting activity is about level with last year. In fact, they are attracting companies that used to visit second- and third-tier schools but now are making what some recruiters call a “flight to quality.”

“Companies wisely are capitalizing on the fact that they can now compete for top talent because investment banks and consulting firms are hiring far fewer students from such schools as Wharton and Harvard,” Alsop says. “It’s the less elite schools that are being left high and dry.”

How much money should MBA graduates expect this year if they get lucky? Signing bonuses will definitely be punier and in shorter supply; year-end bonuses and stock options will be even scarcer. As for base pay, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a nonprofit organization based in Bethlehem, Pa., surveyed companies and found that nearly half plan to keep MBA salaries flat. Among those boosting their offers this year, the average increase will be a mere 3.9 percent.

“Most surprising was the survey’s findings that 54 percent of recruiters say students still are trying to negotiate better salaries and that nearly 30 percent find that students’ sense of entitlement has not diminished during the economic downturn,” Alsop says.



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