2018 Candidate Preference Report

As the new year begins, the team at Relish wanted to take a look back at 2017 to see what we learned about our users and the careers they seek. To that end, we’ve taken a deep statistical dive into our candidate profile database, and the outcome is the candidate preference report you’ll find below. We produced a similar report in the summer of 2016, which you can find here. Because our user base has grown substantially since that report was compiled and now includes graduate engineers in addition to graduate business candidates, this report will be more focused: the data we compiled is from current graduate business students (Classes of 2018 and 2019) at the top 50 graduate business schools in the United States. (RelishCareers has been growing quickly with international programs, and in the coming months we’ll be reporting on more of our international candidate data).

You’ll find much more info about the pool of candidates in the report below, but first a note on how we gathered the data used for this report RelishCareers users create a custom profile when they sign up for a free account, and that profile asks a number of questions around experiences, preferences, and other identifying information. Candidates select multiple options from a predetermined list, which are driven by employer role classifications. These profile fields are used by employers to identify individual candidates that are a good fit for their open internships and full-time positions, but in aggregate they can also provide a useful overview of trends in candidate opinions. This report will focus preferences expressed by candidates for industry, functional roles, locations, and more, and the data that was used for this analysis comprises over 200,000 individual candidate selections from over 5,000 candidate profiles. In the lists below, each selection is ranked by the total number of times candidates selected it, with the percentage of candidates who selected each option in parentheses.

Industry Preference: Tech Still Tops the List
In our 2016 candidate preference report, one of the biggest insights was the competition between consulting and technology as the top target industry for MBAs. In that report, consulting just edged out technology; in the year and a half since, it seems that tech has officially overtaken consulting as business school’s most attractive destination. Here are the top 10 industry preferences expressed by current MBA students on the RelishCareers platform:

1. Technology (60.4% of candidates selected this option)
2. Consulting (57.5%)
3. Consumer Products (40.9%)
4. Financial Services (37.8%)
5. Private Equity/Venture Capital (31.6%)
6. Media/Entertainment (26.1%)
7. Retail (24.9%)
8. Healthcare (24.9%)
9. Energy (23.1%)
10. Manufacturing (20.5%)

And while technology overtook consulting for the top spot in this candidate pool, consumer products likewise overtook financial services for the third spot. Each of these changes reflect large-scale and ongoing changes in the way that graduate business students view the industries in question, and it will be interesting to see how these changes slow or accelerate over the coming years. In the meantime, though, these students continue to demonstrate a wide variety of interests, and to provide a valuable and relevant recruiting pool for just about every industry imaginable. Every industry, that is, except perhaps the military, which had the distinction of being dead last in our industry rankings, pulling in just 3.2% of respondents.

Functional Roles: Strategic Ambitions
Consulting makes another strong showing in the Function Preference selections by our candidates; it’s second only to strategy in our analysis this year. Management, which was the most popular selection in the 2016 report by some distance, comes in third, falling from 86% of respondents to 56%. Here’s the rest of the top 10:

1. Strategy (67.6%)
2. Consulting (56.5%)
3. Management (55.8%)
4. Leadership Development Program (52.4%)
5. Business Development (44.3%)
6. Product Management (43.9%)
7. Project Management (36.6%)
8. Marketing (34.5%)
9. Finance (33.0%)
10. Operations (30.5%)

Despite the 30% drop in candidates selecting a preference management, it’s clear from the list above that a desire for leadership roles is still one of the strongest driving forces for candidates in the business school recruiting world. The popularity of leadership development programs, a field that was added to our list since the 2016 report, reflects this ambition from graduate business students. These programs, which are generally 1-5 year rotational programs geared towards new hires with master’s degrees and are offered by perhaps a few dozen prominent employers out of a hiring pool of thousands of firms, are among the most popular selections despite being in relatively short supply in a limited number of industries. This sort of insight points to opportunities in both designing and marketing roles for these students: provide a clear and tangible path to leadership opportunities, and graduate business students will come running.

Et Cetera: Employer Size, Type, and Location
RelishCareers profiles incorporate numerous other data points to help employers determine candidates that are the best fit for their firm, and in order to round out the picture of candidate preferences for the classes of 2018 and 2019 we want to highlight some of the most prominent of those remaining fields. The first of these is employer size, divided into four broad categories determined by number of employees:

1. Mid-Size Business (500 to 10,000 employees) – 88.7%
2. Large Business (more than 10,000 employees) – 87.7%
3. Small Business (less than 500 employees) – 68.3%
4. Start-up (less than 100 employees) – 54.3%

While preferences are almost directly proportional to company size in these results, more than half of the candidate pool is open to work at firms of any size, including start-ups. And while start-ups are clearly not a fit for every MBA, they remain a viable destination for a broad swathe of the graduate business candidate pool.

The second data point we want to highlight is employer type, which results you can find below:

1. Privately Owned (91.7%)
2. Publicly Traded (90.7%)
3. Non-Profit (27.6%)
4. Government (25.7%)

Roughly one in four candidates in our pool are interested in careers outside of traditional for-profit business, and almost one in ten graduate business students are exclusively interested in non-profit or government roles.

The last parameter want to examine in this report is location: where do graduate business candidates want to live? This question is of particular interest to corporate recruiters, who seek candidates with an active interest in the locations for which they recruit. To assist in this assessment, we ask a number of questions around both geographic experience and preference, and we want to highlight city preferences first:

1. San Francisco Bay Area (68.9%)
2. New York City (68.7%)
3. Boston (58.8%)
4. Chicago (58.0%)
5. Seattle (57.6%)
6. Los Angeles (57.5%)
7. Washington, DC (56.6%)
8. San Diego (53.4%)
9. Austin (48.5%)
10. Philadelphia (46.4%)

And the top ten state preferences from our candidate pool:

1. California (72.0%)
2. New York (61.1%)
3. Washington (58.5%)
4. Massachusetts (55.6%)
5. Oregon (53.6%)
6. Texas (53.6%)
7. Illinois (52.6%)
8. Connecticut (50.5%)
9. Florida (50.0%)
10. Maryland (49.5%)

Clearly graduate business students are attracted to California generally and the Bay Area specifically – and along with the technology industry preference above, it’s obvious that Silicon Valley’s pull is perhaps the strongest force in graduate business school recruiting in 2018.

The priorities and preferences of graduate business school students are changing – more want to work in tech than consulting or finance – while also staying largely unchanged – big jobs at big companies in big cities. The statistics provided above are useful for understanding the graduate business campus recruiting market generally, but the power of the RelishCareers platform lies in the ability for candidates to express the unique mix of traits that set them apart from the rest of the candidate pool. The real upshot of our deep statistical dive into this candidate pool was this: the graduate business hiring market is large and diverse enough that it’s possible for just about any employer in any industry or location to find a top-tier candidate.