Relish Candidate Preference Report 2016

2016 has been a big year for the Relish Careers network. After launching in summer 2015 as the career exploration resource of choice for top-tier national and international MBA students and alumni, we’ve expanded to other graduate business degrees like Accounting, Finance, and Business Analytics; we’ve updated our interface and functionality to ensure our software remains the most user-friendly in the business; and we’ve seen our user base more than triple in size.

This user base of high quality graduate business school job candidates is our most valuable asset. But who are they? And what sort of careers are they looking for? We took a deep dive into our user profile data to find out, and you can find some of the key findings and insights below. These results are drawn from roughly 6,000 candidate profiles created on RelishMBA.com over the last 18 months. Before diving into some of the career preferences data, here are some notes on the demographics of the user base:

  • Three-quarters (74%) of Relish users are current graduate business school students (Class of 2017 or later); another 23% are recent graduates (Class of 2015 or 2016); and the remaining 3% of users are alumni whose graduation years range as far back as 1980.
  • Just over half of users (51%) have between 3 and 5 years of work experience; another 45% have more than five years of work experience.
  • Just over two-thirds (67%) of users hail from the top 25 graduate business schools in the United States (as ranked by US News & World Report).
  • Roughly one-third (32%) of Relish users are female.

In short, the Relish user base is a large, representative sample of the current MBA hiring market, particularly with regards to the on-campus arena. The results presented here can serve as a snapshot of the MBA candidate pool overall at the end of 2016.

Where They Want To Work
Relish asks users to choose from a list of states and major cities where they’d like to live, but asks first about their geographic flexibility. 71% of respondents indicated flexibility about their eventual work location, and only 23% of respondents listed three or fewer cities among their desired locations. On the other hand, 37% of users indicated 10 or more cities where they would like to live.

The top ten preferred cities are:

  1. New York City (74% of users)
  2.  San Francisco Bay Area (72%)
  3.  Washington, DC (64%)
  4.  Boston (62%)
  5.  Chicago (62%)
  6.  Seattle (59%)
  7.  Los Angeles (58%)
  8.  San Diego (54%)
  9.  Philadelphia (49%)
  10.  Dallas (49%)

The top ten preferred states are:

  1. California (11% of total responses vs. 2% average)
  2. New York (8%)
  3. Texas (7%)
  4. Washington (7%)
  5. North Carolina (6%)
  6. Massachusetts (5%)
  7. Virginia (5%)
  8. Illinois (4%)
  9. Oregon (4%)
  10. Colorado (4%)

While the multitudes of employers in these cities and states will have no problem finding interested candidates on Relish, it’s also important to keep in mind that every city and state (and continent) listed on our geographic preferences received specific candidate interest. And the predominance of candidates with geographic flexibility indicates a candidate pool that is interested in hearing about a range of options, even if some of them might be unorthodox.

What They Want To Do
Relish allows users to choose from a list of common MBA functional roles in order to indicate their interest in specific types of job functions. Without further ado, here are the top 10 responses for the Function Preference field:

  1. Management (86% of all respondents)
  2. Strategy (70%)
  3. Consulting (57%)
  4. Business Development (46%)
  5. Finance (35%)
  6. Marketing (34%)
  7. Operations (29%)
  8. Technology (27%)
  9. Entrepreneurship (26%)
  10. Data Analysis (25%)

There are a couple of notable winners that speak volumes about the type of career trajectories that MBAs seek out: Management was included by nearly 9 in 10 respondents, and Strategy was included by 70% of respondents. To be sure, these are broad – and broadly appealing – terms to describe a specific job function, but this sort of info can prove critical in constructing an employer brand aimed at MBAs. Leverage this awareness of MBA preferences by emphasizing management aspects of specific roles, describing a clear path to senior leadership positions, and by employing MBA alumni in leadership roles to provide testimonials and other texture to your digital and traditional content.

Aside from these two most popular responses, the rest of the Function Preference list above indicates that there is still plenty of interest in standard MBA roles like Consulting, Finance, and Marketing. This, along with the volume of users who selected multiple functions, should indicate both the challenge and the opportunity presented by the MBA hiring market: candidates are interested in and qualified for a wide variety of roles, but this diversity of interest also means that competition is fiercer for the top talent.

Who They Want To Work For
For this section, we’ll be taking a closer look at two Relish profile fields: Industry Preference and Company Size Preference. For the last several years, the narrative about MBA students has been a shift away from traditional large corporate destinations and more interest in tech companies and startups. And while our data show a healthy percentage of students interested in those opportunities, the focus remains on those traditional recruiting targets: bigger businesses in well-established industries.

Highlights from the company size preference results:

  • Roughly half of respondents included all available options for company size
  • Mid-Size Business (500 to 10,000 employees) was the most popular response, chosen by 90% of respondents; Large Business (more than 10,000 employees) was 2nd most popular, with 84%;  Small Business (less than 500 employees) was added by 71% of respondents; and Start-up (less than 100 employees) was chosen by 59% of respondents.

And the top ten responses for industry preference:

  1. Consulting (59%)
  2. Technology (56%)
  3. Financial Services (38%)
  4. Consumer Products (35%)
  5. Private Equity/Venture Capital (32%)
  6. Media/Entertainment (23%)
  7. Energy (23%)
  8. Retail (22%)
  9. Manufacturing (19%)
  10. Biotech (15%)

These results, like all of those presented in this report, indicate a candidate pool that is inclined towards traditional career targets, but is also interested in a large and diverse range of options. Employers in nearly any industry recruiting for nearly any position should be able to find qualified recruiting leads in the MBA candidate hiring market. The team at Relish is excited to help facilitate employer connections for our current user base, and to do more to streamline the hiring process in 2017.


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