5 Soft Skills Employers Seek in MBA Graduates

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek survey identified the top skills recruiters seek from MBA grads. Survey respondents rated these five qualities as most important: problem-solving skills, followed by communication skills, collaborative teamwork, leadership skills and entrepreneurial mindset — all soft skills. Compare that to traditionally sought-after qualities like quantitative skills (#6), industry-related work experience (#9) and in-depth knowledge of the field (#10), and you can see a trend emerging. Soft skill development is a priority now, both for MBA programs and students.

Soft skill training is interwoven throughout the curriculum in the University of Northern Colorado online MBA program, with special emphasis placed on development of problem-solving, communication, collaboration and leadership skills. Graduates of our programs leave with confidence that they are ready to provide the following five soft skills that employers demand:

  1. Problem-Solving

Research shows that this skill does not come naturally for most people. The process of solving problems is complex and involves overcoming cognitive biases and integrating diverse areas of knowledge. Some of it is innate and some of it must be nurtured.

Traditionally, MBA programs taught business disciplines with a silo approach that was not conducive to developing this skill. Now, top programs like the UNC online MBA have case studies and other lessons organized around complex challenges, similar to those that graduates might face in the real world.

The practice in developing this skill in the incubator of an MBA program, with experienced faculty to guide the process, ultimately proves invaluable to all students, even those who consider problem-solving an innate strength.

  1. Communication

Communication skills are valuable for rising from specialist positions to mid-level management positions, but imperative to making the next move up to executive leadership. Top MBA programs focus on developing the specific communication skills employers require: oral communication, listening skills, written communication and presentation skills.

Oral communication involves preparing thoughts before speaking, conveying ideas with clarity, and commanding attention when presenting. Strong oral communicators are able to identify how to engage audiences and elicit the intended responses and reactions.

Listening skills, an often underestimated component of effective communication, involve extracting, processing and retaining details from presentations and conversations. Skillful listening is essential in problem-solving. It enables managers and executives to arrive at more effective solutions.

Finally, effective written communicators understand the nuances of a variety of channels, from face-to-face and email to printed media. They know how to communicate in compelling and effective ways through each channel, to any audience.

  1. Collaborative Teamwork

This skill is about coordinating work between people to align them toward common objectives. It is about participating in these settings, as well as facilitating collaborative efforts. Both participation and leadership in team settings require the abilities to build and maintain working relationships, draw consensus, enable discussions and mediate disagreements. Diplomacy is an essential component of teamwork skills, especially when challenges arise.

  1. Leadership

Leadership consists of integrity, drive and the ability to inspire others. Leaders with integrity  have strong character that is evident well before they assume positions of authority. A hallmark of this skill is that people feel confident relying on the leader to be fair, honest and accountable.

Leaders do not simply enable others; they also continuously further their own professional development, work toward goals and strive to overcome challenges. For these reasons, they are seen as role models. Their ability to inspire others arises in part from empathy. One must first understand the qualities that make others want to perform their best, including gratitude and genuine passion.

  1. Entrepreneurial Mindset

Entrepreneurs face the daunting challenge of launching a business from scratch, finding investment capital, sustaining it through unpredictable economic swings, developing business relationships and succeeding even when the vast majority of new startups fail.

To stick it out requires not only knowledge, confidence and experience in a variety of business disciplines, but also resilience, creative thinking and calculated risk-taking. In addition, the entrepreneurial mindset encompasses the four prior soft skills.

When you decide which MBA program to pursue, consider the opportunities you will have to cultivate these core soft skills. Doing so will enable you to experience the growing confidence that results from demonstrating your development to faculty and peers.

Learn more about UNC’s online MBA program.


Bloomberg Businessweek: MBA Recruiters Rank Candidates’ ESG Experience Dead Last

BusinessBecause: 5 Things an MBA Will Teach You About Entrepreneurship

GettingSmart: Business Schools and the Problem-Solving Skills Gap

Poets & Quants: What MBA Recruiters Want Most (and Least) in MBAs

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