Soft Skills at Work

Oct 17, 2013
Tags: Admissions, Official GMAT

When you think of all the skills that students develop in business school, would you guess that interpersonal skills are among the most improved? Students from the class of 2013 found that to be true.[1]

Surprising? Maybe not.

Graduate management programs will teach you indispensable technical skills, but those skills alone do not necessarily make an ideal leader, manager, or team player. Graduates who succeeded in landing a job offer before graduation attributed their job search success to the mix of soft skills, integrated reasoning skills, and business knowledge they developed during their programs. The mix created better hires.

Describing the business school experience, one student said, “The curriculum is created to equip students not only with the technical skills to receive internships/job offers, but also the soft skills which make good managers. The experiential opportunities are vast which enables students to experiment with different methodologies and techniques under supervision which allows for professional growth.”

Active listening, the ability to be persuasive, negotiation skills, and even your social perceptiveness—these and other behavioral competencies form the “interpersonal skills” that show how adept you are at communicating with others and building relationships.

From across GMAC research, we’ve got evidence that shows these “soft” interpersonal skills are key to what employers seek and critical for networking that can ensure your career success.

Interpersonal Skills: The # 1 Attribute of New MBA Hires[2]

As the chart below illustrates, interpersonal skills top the list of abilities, skills, and knowledge employers desire most when interviewing MBA candidates for hire (8.6 on a scale from 0 to 10, as shown).

One employer described their talent search as seeking individuals with “balanced skill sets (analytical and writing), well rounded personalities, and good interpersonal skills.

Having grace in personal interactions can help you create a positive working environment, and, as an employee, may help you frame your role in the workplace. One employer noted: “More than the skills, it’s about inculcating in them the right attitude and realistic expectations.”

Soft Skills at Work

Networking Builds Relationships That Lead to Jobs

Employers also are likely to build off personal connections from existing staff when seeking new hires. In fact, a majority of employers find new talent from employee referrals (66%) and networking events (53%). Employers emphasized the importance of engaging networks to the student preparing for his or her own job search, saying, “[the] best way is for a student to initiate the relationship by networking into a job and building the relationship from within,“ and, “network with alumni already at the company.”

Half (50%) of the business school graduating class of 2013 reported they engaged a network of classmates and alumni when searching for their job—adhering to the advice from employers. Two students further expressed their experience on networking, saying:

  • I’ve learned networking and teamwork are very important. The two years spent in the program really helped me find a job that I truly love. “
  • The program provides much more that its cost, in terms of learning, network, and experience. A real MBA transformation.”

What’s most important is knowing your personal and professional strengths and the areas that you can develop during and after your graduate management program. Learn more about yourself today to better prepare for tomorrow. Check out the online interactive tools that can help guide your professional development and enhance the skills that admissions directors and employers want most.

Then practice and take advantage of the networking opportunities that arise while in school.


[1] GMAC (2013) Global Management Education Graduate Survey.

[2] GMAC (2013) Corporate Recruiters Survey.

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