RelishCareers 2020 Candidate Survey Report

Each year, we survey our candidate user base to learn more about their recruiting experiences and share some of the insights we’ve learned with our audience here. The 2019-2020 recruiting season was one of the most unusual in our survey’s history, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing massive disruption of normal recruiting processes and creating an uncertain situation for candidates, employers, and schools. Below you’ll find a summary of our findings from this survey, with special attention paid to the impacts of coronavirus.

Coronavirus and the Job Market

This year, the key concern that worries so many job candidates is the question of how the novel coronavirus is impacting their prospects. Offers extended to class of 2021 have been hit hardest by the virus, due to the fact that internships are less essential in an emergency. Overall, among those who received offers, at least 36% of candidates have seen offers changed or rescinded.

In comparing the outcomes of domestic and international students, we can see clearly the disproportionate impact on students hailing from overseas, whose offers were affected at a much higher rate than their domestic counterparts.

These trends were also reflected in candidate perceptions of COVID-19 impacts, where nearly 50% of international students said that that they “strongly agree” that the pandemic affected their ability to get an offer.

Overall, our research indicates dramatic impacts on hiring outcomes during the 2019-2020 recruiting season as a result of the global pandemic, as one would expect from such sudden and severe restrictions on in-person gatherings, travel, and more. These impacts are particularly acute for first year MBAs and international students.

The Job Market By Industry

Not all industries, even for generalist MBAs, offer equivalent chances of landing an offer. Lacking similar questions from previous years, it is difficult know for sure if the pandemic is the reason why industries differ this year, but there is reason to suspect that is the case. Private equity and venture capital, risky propositions in normal times, seem to be at a standstill, with less than 30% of candidates in those sectors having offers. (Sen. Elizabeth Warren even called for banning PE transactions for the duration of the pandemic.) Surprisingly or not, less trendy sectors like manufacturing and retail offer safe havens, and this may be because they are essential even during a pandemic.


Even setting aside PE/VC, popular fields like consulting and technology have greater numbers of candidates without offers. Those two fields were each the industries of >25% of respondents, so perhaps sheer numbers led to greater competition.

Some fields are attractive, but may have high barriers to entry. This is certainly true of investment banking, where candidates with experience tend to have offers in the sector, but others may have a harder time breaking in. Only 50% of aspiring I-Bankers are currently in their preferred industry. Technology, on the other hand, may be easier to break into (70% preferring tech are in tech), despite the shortage of offers seen above.

Healthcare is a field unto itself. It is no secret that being a doctor is one of the world’s most remunerative jobs, but it turns out that even for MBAs, healthcare is one of the most generous with regards to job offers and is not as difficult as most fields to break into.

Correlating Job Offers With Candidate Background

As a new avenue of analysis, we also decided to look at which candidate background or profile attributes are positively associated with job offers: do certain candidate profiles produce more or less job offers from employers? The survey data included both a question for job offer status (coded candidates with offers as “1”) and a question on the number of offers received by each candidate, ranging from “None” to “5+”. For the sake of completeness, we looked at both of these questions as outcome variables, preparing the data and applying a range of independent variables to both correlations and regressions.

The independent variables potentially affecting offer status / number of offers were considered as follows: graduation year, age, full-time MBA (or not), male/female, international/domestic, and range of preferred industry binary variables (technology or not, health care or not, and more).

The figure below gives a taste of what profile fields correlated with a greater number of offers.

Some high-level takeaways from this analysis:

  • Being in a full-time MBA program is still highly correlated with number of offers and offer / no offer status. In the regressions, this correlation is the most statistically significant of the predictors. So, for those seeking an MBA-level job, part-time programs or MS degrees may not be a substitute for being in a full-time MBA program.
  • Manufacturing preference is well correlated with having job offer(s), and this association is statistically significant. As noted above, this may be related to the economy during the Covid-19.
  • Being a male candidate, an international student, and/or PE candidate is negatively correlated with job market success. These phenomena are likely a result of market dynamics: male candidates are over-represented in the graduate business school candidate pool (making up roughly 2/3 of the population at most programs); if we assume the demand for male candidates more closely reflects the even distribution of male and female candidates in the general population, the issue for male candidates is one of over-supply. For international students and those who prefer private equity, the issue is less about over-supply than about limited demand: there are very few PE firms actively recruiting in any given year, and the proportion of employers offering visa sponsorship does not match the proportion of international students enrolling in school each year.


This report is intended to offer only a brief snapshot of some of the more novel or relevant trends in the graduate business school recruiting world. The recruiting market has undergone steady changes over the past several years – see our 2019 Candidate Survey Report for insights from last year – most of which have continued through the 2019-2020 recruiting season. However, the unprecedented changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have also upended many of the typical recruiting behaviors and processes that employers and candidates had come to depend upon in recent years. There is still need for further research into how these changes will affect the upcoming recruiting season, and which of these temporary changes will have long-term (or even permanent) impacts on the way that graduate business students find and engage with internships and job opportunities.

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