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Should You Recruit MBAs?

A new report says recruiting by start-ups is up at business schools, but not everyone thinks biz school grads are a great match for young companies.
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Conventional wisdom can swing wildly. One year coffee and butter are terrible for you and the next it seems like they’re perfectly fine, for example. Is something similar going on with MBAs?

The last couple of years business school grads have been warned away from startups (or, vice versa, those interested in doing a start-up warned off business school) by some pretty big names in business. Stanford biz school professor and author Bob Sutton publically fretted that MBA programs extinguish their students’ creativity and passion, while Vivek Wadhwa (MBA, Stern School of Business) mused in the WSJ that there is  "a growing mismatch between the skills that business schools teach and what fast-paced startups require." These aren’t the only skeptics.

But whatever the experts say, start-ups themselves are apparently unconvinced and hiring MBAs seems to be coming into fashion. A new report from the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance’s finds that recruiting of MBAs by companies less than a year old is way up with 57 percent of business schools reporting that more start-ups are looking to hire their grads.

The driving force behind this surge in start-up recruiting seems to be increased interest in working for a start-up among MBAs.

"A growing number of MBA students are focusing on entrepreneurship," Jack Oakes, assistant dean for career development at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, said in a statement, adding that "reports from large and small MBA programs confirm the increased student interest in a range of entrepreneurial endeavors."

"Schools have responded to the shift by strengthening ties with alumni and responding to requests for individual student candidates," the WSJ reports.

All of which suggests that business school grads are just another category of people to catch start-up fever, which seems to have reached epidemic proportions among the young. Curalate founder Apu Gupta (MBA, Wharton) has called this a "herd mentality" among MBA students who, he says, are "just sort of blowing in the wind."

But however well considered MBAs’ interest in start-up careers, at least some young businesses are taking the bait and trying to score some talent on business school campuses. Should yours?

While business schools are clearly trying to move with the times and incorporate more creativity and entrepreneurship into their offerings, skepticism persists about whether these are skills that can truly be taught -- especially in the straightlaced, traditionally regimented and backward-looking framework of an MBA program. The fit between grad and start-up, of course, depends on the individual qualities of both -- a young company could be looking for "adult supervision" to standardize and streamline a chaotic but promising business, for example, and many a promising startup has been founded by an MBA grad. But the question remains: if someone is truly entrepreneurial, then wouldn’t she have started something for herself rather than flow along pre-cut career channels such as attending business school?

What’s your take -- do you think startups are wise or misguided to snap up newly minted MBAs?

IMAGE: Adrian Fine/Flickr
Last updated: Jul 25, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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