The GMAT is one of the key elements in business school application. Once applicants gain admission to their target programs, they may think the GMAT is history, although the score is valid for five years – way beyond the duration of an MBA or Master’s program. The general perception is that it has served its purpose and what remains are memories of the strenuous preparation, the nervousness on test day, and the subsequent anxious wait for the admissions’ decision. The GMAT is a thing of the past, right?
Well, not exactly. For some, the GMAT score remains key testimony to their skills even after graduation because employers, especially in certain industries, are increasingly looking into GMAT scores as part of their hiring decisions.
It has long been known that employers view the GMAT as a reliable gauge of their aptitude. Anne VanderMey wrote in an article for Bloomberg about 10 years ago:
For a select group of companies, mostly top consulting, finance, and banking firms, employers routinely look to MBA graduates' GMAT scores as a reliable standard measurement of academic prowess—a fact that may be well-known to MBA students in the thick of the job search, but is relatively unknown among applicants when they're taking the test. Particularly when jobs are tight, and every element of each résumé takes on added weight, test scores can be the difference between an interview and the dustbin.
One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to GMAC scores in hiring decisions is what constitutes a good score for a recruiter. Dozie Azotam, a Veritas Prep Consultant, says that companies that put an emphasis on the GMAT are looking for you to break a threshold.
The standard tends to be at the 700 mark – if your score is below this threshold, your chances of securing an interview or an offer at these firms may be a bit more difficult.
However, he points out that every firm has different requirements towards the GMAT and you will often never truly know how much of a factor your scores play within the recruiting process.
The hard data
The practice of taking GMAT scores into consideration is not a secret. There are countless questions on online message boards from people who want to know if their GMAT scores matter in their job search and what type of companies look at test scores. There are also accounts of people who claim they have secured job interviews partially or mainly thanks to their GMAT scores and even of recruiters who admit that GMAT scores are viewed closely.
Prompted by persistent questions from applicants about the significance of GMAT score beyond business school admission, GMAC, the organization that owns the exam, has decided to do some research. It found that almost a third of employers use the GMAT in their hiring decisions. Unsurprisingly, the exam is especially popular among recruiters in the finance sector, with almost 40% of those polled admitting that exam scores are considered in their hiring decisions. GMAT scores also play a significant role in hiring at companies in consulting, manufacturing, energy and utilities, products and services, and technology. The survey also found that GMAT use in hiring is consistently high across geographies and company profiles. This means that no matter if you are looking for a job in Asia, the US, or Europe, or at a publicly traded company, a startup, and even at a family-run firm, you are very likely to have your GMAT score checked out by recruiters.
For Vineet Chhabra, who leads the global team that oversees the planning and delivery of the GMAT, the use of scores in hiring decisions makes sense.
The GMAT is designed for business school. Its metrics are designed to help predict first-year business school performance, but there is a larger theme as to the skills you develop while preparing for the GMAT.
Mind the Integrated Reasoning section
Mr. Chhabra says skills such as problem solving and integrated reasoning are in high demand in the real business world. During the 2019 GMAC Test Prep Summit, a great deal of attention was paid to the Integrated Reasoning section in the context of its importance for employers and its ability to measure skills highly valued by them. Mr. Chhabra says:
Especially in consulting, financial services, and technology, where you need a multidimensional perspective on problem-solving, employers are looking at Integrated Reasoning in a fairly significant way as part of their GMAT evaluation in hiring decisions.
The IR section, introduced in 2012, measures test takers’ ability to analyze data and evaluate information presented in multiple formats and from multiple sources. The section was created at the request of business schools, who wanted a section that tests applicants’ ability to make sound decisions after analyzing data in the form of words, charts, graphs and tables.
It turns out these types of skills are not easy to find. According to the 2018 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey, data analysis and interpretation as well as problem solving are the skills most difficult to recruit by employers. Its findings corroborate the 2018 Financial Times MBA Skills Gap survey, which also pinpointed problem solving and big data analysis among the skills most difficult to find.
The GMAT is a challenge, but also an opportunity to show both business schools and employers that you have what it takes to succeed. Prepare for the exam as best as you can, knowing that your score will have a considerable bearing on your future.