I don’t hire people with MBAs: life beyond qualifications

Isla de Colón, Panama

On the 27th of October last year, an article in the most read newspaper in Spain, El Pais,  was published entitled “Who hires MBAs? And talked specifically about major companies who sought out profiles for future top management posts.

MBAs 1

This encouraged me to leave a few comments and I was reminded of an anecdote from my professional forays. At the beginning of the nineties, I was working as the Head of the Transport Department (the term “mobility” had yet to be coined), in the company GHESA in Seville, at the time part of the Gibbs and Hill group. My boss at the Madrid Headquarters sent me a CV for me to ponder over hiring someone new. I scanned the text thoroughly as we were taking on lots of people at the time. The subject was a male, thirty years old, more or less the same age as me at the time, and held two prestigious master’s degrees from renowned English speaking Universities, the ones that do not come cheap. No matter how hard I looked, I could not find a single mention of him having worked a single day in the three decades he had been on the planet. I said to my boss, if you want, we will take him on, but also said that he seemed a person who would have problems integrating into the workplace, at least in the field of consultancy where you have to put your nose to the grindstone from day one. We did not hire him.

When hiring some, I always value a person who has not had it easy, who has fought their battles, being a Jack of alltradesand doing what they can to scrape by

I run a micro-SME and have very different operational criteria than big companies looking for candidates with MBAs. A MBA in many cases will think they are prepared for an executive post, in a micro-SME you have to get your hands dirty doing everything, and start from the bottom rung of the ladder (even if this is very high up technically as you work directly with the owner and manager, as there is nobody else). Furthermore, although ongoing professional training is as key for me as the people who work with me, a micro-SME cannot afford the luxury of such large-scale investments in the long, and even the medium, term. For this reason, when I am going to hire someone, I look at their professional training and qualifications (of course, I am keen on engineers and double qualifications including business studies, law or others), though I also value many other aspects:

  • Minimum, a decent level of English (genuinely good) and better still if they have a third language.
  • Someone has not had a cushy life, who has fought their battles, being a Jack of alltradesand doing what they can to scrape by.
  • Someone who has taken part in a work-experience programme in a company, even if this has been without remuneration, they will have gained experience from the very outset.
  • Their activities in associations whether these be sports, academic, international etc. This shows an inquisitive nature which interests me.

Well, to sum up, some final messages:

  • Those of you who do not have MBAs, do not lose hope. Although in Spain we suffer from an over-bearing need to be over-qualified, there are still people who value other experiences..
  • If you have one, do not hide the fact that you have to learn to walk before you can run. If you have any work experience, do not be afraid to mention it.

So now over to you: Do you hold an MBA? Has it been useful to find another job or get a promotion? And for the our executive and managerial readers, I would ask you “what do you look for when you hire a person?”

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