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GMAT: The MBA Job Seeker's Best Friend

Posted: Oct 15, 2012

GMAT is primarily designed for business school applicants, however, this most difficult of analytical and reasoning tests is actually a surprising door opener for many high level job applicants.

In the competitive employment market when more qualified candidates are applying for fewer top positions, MBA graduates‘ GMAT scores are routinely used as a measurement of academic prowess.

It sometimes occurs that a professional achieves the GMAT score required to get into a top MBA school, only to find that when applying for that dream job, their GMAT score is not sufficient, and they are advised to take it again.

Also, students who have a solid application and are well „positoned“, but who have a weak GMAT score, will be advised to retake the GMAT. This trend has been highlighted in recent years due to the massively competitive recruitment climate.

Many business schools are now emphasising these points to prospective students. For example, the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business (Mendoza Full-Time MBA Profile) sent a letter to its 2011 class informing it of the test's importance in prestigious firms' recruiting processes. "We see a large number of companies looking at both GMAT and undergrad and MBA GPAs." says Patrick Perrella, Mendoza's director of MBA career development. "These companies are looking for a sustained record of academic excellence."

Also, a person's quantitative GMAT score does seem to be linked to salary, while verbal GMAT scores appear to be linked to managerial status, says Andrew Hussey, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Memphis. This is true, he says, regardless of what school, if any, a student attends. Additionally, there's a wealth of information released by the Graduate Management Admission Council showing that scores have a high correlation with success in an MBA program, which in turn can be a determining factor of success in the job search. And there's a strong, if unsurprising, parallel between schools where graduates earn the highest starting pay and schools where students have the highest GMAT scores.

Students' average GMAT score is a primary factor in deciding where companies choose to recruit, says Kip Harrell, president of the MBA Career Services Council and associate vice-president of career and professional development at Thunderbird School of Global Management (Thunderbird Full-Time MBA Profile).

Larizadeh, a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford Full-Time MBA Profile), explained that while the GMAT is typically not the most important factor for recruiters, it can be very influential when they're determining who should and shouldn't be interviewed. "The GMAT isn't going to get you in," he says. "But it's something that can prevent you from getting in the door."

Since more students with good work experience and strong leadership skills are fighting for the same positions, what GMAT score is high enough is hard to say, explains Jack Oakes, director of career services at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business (Darden Full-Time MBA Profile)... sometimes scores in the mid-600s—very good by most standards—are not good enough if the student is hoping to land top-shelf consulting or banking positions. And with the average GMAT at top schools on the rise, even "slightly below 700 might not be a help," Oakes says. (A score that tops 700 is the 90th percentile.)

At Emory University's Goizueta Business School (Goizueta Full-Time MBA Profile), Wendy Tsung, executive director of MBA career services, says she recognizes the GMAT is a standard way for corporate recruiters to sort through applications. "Because the economy is so bad, and there's so many people applying for positions, companies are looking for different ways to reduce the number of résumés that they go through," Tsung says. Of the reasons to throw out an application—GPA, undergraduate institution, years of work experience—the GMAT is an "easy one," she says.

Anne VanderMey is a B-schools writer at BusinessWeek.

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