Yesterday BusinessWeek ran an article about corporate recruiters using business school students’ GMAT scores as a way to select candidates for job interviews. While this is nothing new, the article included some interesting quotes from business school career office administrators who have advised some students to retake the GMAT to improve their chances of landing job interviews with top-tier consulting firms and investment banks.
In this tough job climate, especially, no MBA student wants to give recruiters any reason to drop his resume into the discard pile. While they may have ignored the advice to retake the GMAT a few years ago, now they’re much more willing to listen when someone suggests they should retake the GMAT, particularly when it comes from the career services office. And some schools, particularly those that may struggle to keep top-tier firms coming back to campus in this economy, have even offered their students school-run GMAT courses to help their students boost their scores.
Balancing out the seemingly increased importance of the GMAT in the hiring process, the article quotes a director of recruiting at Bain & Co. (a company for which Veritas Prep runs corporate GMAT courses), who explains that most candidates that the company would consider tend to have high GMAT scores, anyway, so the test itself doesn’t end up being a big differentiating factor in the hiring process. He even went on to say that Bain’s own research shows that there’s virtually no correlation between a new hire’s GMAT score and that person’s success on the job at Bain.
Interestingly, schools’ own pass-fail systems and grade non-disclosure policies may contribute to companies’ tendency to rely more on the GMAT. These policies are in place to discourage cut-throat competition and to encourage students to focus on learning, but they also take away what is an important hiring criterion for some companies. As a result, these companies grab for the next best data they can find, which are a student’s GMAT score and undergraduate GPA. In this way, schools have shifted some of the competitiveness from the classroom to things that students must do before they even set foot in a classroom.
What does this mean for you? Honestly, if you’re going to a top-ten business school, hiring companies are more likely to assume you “have what it takes,” and will rely less on your GMAT score (although they will still ask for it) in deciding whether or not to interview you. If you’re at a lower-ranked school where top-tier firms only hire a handful of students each year, you’re more likely to need every advantage you can get to stand out vs. your peers. In this case, if your score isn’t high enough, you may want to consider retaking the GMAT. (How high is high enough? There’s no hard cutoff, although ideally you will have scored in at least the 80th percentile on both the quant and verbal sections.)