Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Underselling MBAs


About a month ago, I received a copy of the booklet containing resumes of graduating Master's of Business Administration (MBA) students of the 11th batch from the Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM). Such resumes are usually the first point of contact between job seekers and job providers, with the seekers usually presenting themselves in the strongest possible light to make enough of a good impression to secure an interview or two. Anyway, I flipped through the booklet, and saw that a part of the introduction said, "[w]e believe that our students will do well as managers for companies like yours which value professionalism in management."

But after poring over the contents of 26 resumes on offer, I, as a prospective employer, started to wonder whether anyone would seriously want to hire these MBAs on the basis of how they came across in the booklet. The resumes were, to put it charitably, awfully long on irrelevant details and inexplicably short on information that those making the hiring decisions really want to know. If this is how these guys sell their own skills to the job market, you ask yourself how good can they really be when it comes to selling goods and services to customers?

Irrelevantly highlighted info: More than half the information on all the resumes is about where the MBAs live, when they were born, contact addresses and other such dross. Yes, these are necessary, but could easily have been tucked into a small section. The inordinate amount of space given to it signals that perhaps the students do not have skills to offer, which, as KUSOM knows, is far from true. Besides, hardly any employer makes hiring decisions based on where people live and what their phone numbers are.

Vague information: One student's typical summer project was "Loyalty Programmes at Hyatt Regency". As an employer, you want to know whether the student helped raise the number of loyal customers at Hyatt, and if so, by how many. Vague information takes the shine off most resumes. You want to know whether he used new ways to attract business, and get other such quantitative and qualitative measures to help you to gauge the kind of skills the student possesses. Alas! The student, like all his classmates, merely put the title of his summer job and other such project works, thereby underselling his hard-earned business skills. Why would anyone invest time and money to earn an MBA program only to end up doing a shoddy job at marketing himself?

Advice: In the West, business schools have woken up to the fact that the most valuable skill they can impart to their freshly-minted MBAs is a skill to find jobs throughout their lives. An MBA in and of itself is not a guarantee for lifetime employment. The nature of the job market is changing rapidly everywhere, and with that, frequent job-hopping has become a common practice, even among Kathmandu's upwardly mobile professionals. That is why, regardless of how job markets change in Nepal, the only thing that's going to be constant is how strongly and clearly one can present himself to the changing situation to find new and better jobs.

In this context, KUSOM might as well admit that 30 or 40 years down the road, the most important skill its graduates will have will not be related to the principles of marketing, finance or human resource management (all of which will change with the times), but how quickly and readily they can adapt to the changing times. When and if KUSOM takes such a long view, it should start offering intensive "resume workshops" to its students so that they can better sell their skills to the market throughout their lives and not just for their first post-graduation job.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)