Boston Consulting Group CEO: Our Clients Want More Than Just MBAs Now

BCG CEO Rich Lesser

Management consulting is one of the most consistent and dependable employers for MBAs, the industry looks for people who can combine analysis with presentation skills and management insight. 

But graduating Harvard Business School doesn’t give you the ability to immediately understand unfamiliar industries.  

According to Boston Consulting Group CEO Rich Lesser, clients want more than just MBAs these days. If they’re going to get advice on major initiatives in their company, it had better come from somebody with deep industry expertise. 

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he explained how his recruiting’s changed:

What has changed is the kind of teams our clients expect. They want a depth of expertise in particular industry sectors or functions, so the breadth of talent that we draw on is broader. We still hire—in the U.S., in particular—large numbers from business schools, but we also hire people with different post-graduate degrees: doctors, Ph.D.s, lawyers. And we hire more people from industries, at all levels, who can bring insight and expertise.

He does add the caveat that the company still hires lots of MBAs in the United States.

But earlier in the interview, he says that the biggest problem companies ask his company to help them figure out how to deal with the massive growth in emerging markets. Lesser himself expects to spend 6 to 7 weeks out of each year in China. 

Preparing students to run or advise international businesses isn’t a strength of many MBA programs, it can be something of a weakness, according to IESE Business School professor Pankaj Ghemawat.

That’s because the way many address globalization is a short trips abroad, which might actually be counterproductive. 

“I just worry that a week in an emerging market might almost be worse than doing nothing because it leaves people with a false sense of knowledge,” Ghemawat told the Wall Street Journal. 

Because we aren’t as globalized as we think we are, he argues there’s a real need for better teaching about global business and more experience for MBA students and early career graduates.

The combination of greater international focus, and on greater area and industry expertise could be bad news for business school graduates. 

Top tier consulting firms are one of the prime destinations for MBAs, and its not just because it’s a great way to build experience and make connections. Top consulting firms are among the few that can pay the huge salaries graduates of top schools demand, because many are deep in debt. 

If the consulting industries demand for MBAs starts to decrease, business schools will have to start changing by reducing tuition or offering more industry specific classes, or its graduates will have to start looking elsewhere for jobs. 

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