Corporate Recruiting: Do You Need an MBA?

This week marks my 1-year anniversary (and 50th blog post) at OpenView Venture Partners. I took a few minutes to look back at everyone I successfully recruited. Part of this reminiscing involved looking back at previous job descriptions that I worked off. I realized that just about every single position I recruited for at the manager level (and above) strongly preferred candidates with an MBA. Keep in mind, these were sales and marketing positions. Obviously once you step into Director and VP territory, this degree becomes more and more coveted.

An MBA is definitely not required. Here’s why:

First of all, experience will always trump a degree. If anyone’s going to understand that, it’s someone who works tirelessly at an expansion stage startup. If you have an MBA but suck at your function, forget about it. However, there is a certain level of business acumen required (to support your functional expertise) of all leaders and executives. That’s why it’s often recommended to wait and work a little bit before signing up for B-School (average MBA student age is 27).

Secondly, if you already studied business in college, there isn’t as much impetus to get an MBA. You already have the foundation and theory for business administration. What’s the sense in doing double the work? If you look at our very talented management team here at OpenView, those who have MBAs majored in non-business studies at the undergraduate level, and those who studied business in college didn’t feel the need to get an MBA.

Of course sometimes there are silly circumstances that compel you to go for an MBA immediately after turning the tassel. Aspiring CPAs need additional credits outside what a typical undergraduate degree offers, so often times they immediately pursue an MBA to expedite their professional certification. But that is a very specific circumstance.

I guess my point is this: you do need a certain level of formal business education if you’re looking to pursue a leadership role in your organization. If your trade is in engineering and you plan on moving up the ladder, absolutely go for that MBA. If you majored in finance and are crushing it at your company, take a step back and decide if it’s worth the draining costs and time associated with supplementing what should already be a robust business foundation.

However, if you do choose to get an MBA right after earning your business degree in college, just do me this small favor: Don’t come to me looking for a job, feeling super entitled and telling me what “average MBA graduates” are earning according to this or that report. You have zero experience and are an entry-level worker in my eyes and will be paid an entry-level salary.

Sound fair? Happy hunting!

Victor Mahillon
Victor Mahillon
Director of Recruiting

Victor Mahillon is the Director of Recruiting at Kamcord. Previously he was a Talent manager at OpenView.
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