The career market for online MBA graduates has improved. However, the market itself is still weak, leaving many online MBA graduates stuck in the thick of job searching. Additionally, while many employers are placing more stock in online degrees, some may not be as receptive to hiring someone with an online degree as others. It is therefore vital for graduates to learn how to present their online degrees as indicators of strongly developed skills — both on paper and during interviews.
Most universities that offer online MBA programs also offer concurrent traditional MBA programs, and therefore award diplomas that do not specify the medium used by the graduate to access coursework. Colorado State University is one such school. “At Colorado State University, the diploma for both an online and an on-campus MBA reads ‘Colorado State University Master of Business Administration.’ There is no difference because the degree is identical,” said Jennifer Vancil, a graduate career advisor at CSU.
Even though a graduate’s diploma may not contain the word “online,” it is still possible that employers may question how he or she received the degree, especially if the employers see that the graduate worked in one city while pursuing a degree in another. If that happens, graduates “can explain that they participated by streaming video, but the method of delivery is secondary to the content they learned,” Vancil said.
Graduates can also use their cover letters and resumes to mention the accreditation of their schools. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is internationally recognized as an accrediting institution that holds schools to strict standards and seeks to promote the improvement of business education. There are many AACSB accredited online programs, including CSU. Most employers will recognize that AACSB accreditation ensures a quality education, which makes stating the accreditation within a cover letter or on a resume useful.
There are other ways for online MBA graduates to spruce up their resumes. One tip: Avoiding overused vocabulary and jargon like “team player” and “problem-solver.” Instead, graduates should focus on the details of their experiences and education. The Wall Street Journal has other suggestions as well, including tweaking the appearance of the resume.
More than the other details included on a resume, experience is what truly defines a candidate’s abilities. If candidates can show that they can translate their education into real-life situations, they will be successful. “At the end of the day, it’s about who can apply their degree and what they know to real life effectively,” said Wanda Ascherl, Director of Citywide Beacon Community Center Programs for New York City’s Department of Community and Youth Development.
During a job interview, it is important to remain honest, even if it seems as though an employer may not be fond of online education. According to The Wall Street Journal, honesty is still the best policy, both when it comes to writing resumes and interviews. A candidate who is caught in a lie will appear as more of a liability than a strong potential employee. If an employer asks about your online education, be truthful. “Doing the degree online means that a student can juggle competing priorities from work, family, and school — that’s a great thing to talk about in an interview,” Vancil said.
Because employers seek individuals with soft skills— like getting along with coworkers — it is important for graduates from online MBA programs to show that despite the fact that they received their education over the internet, they still have strong communication and interpersonal skills. Ascherl shared her plans to hold group interviews to see how individuals work on a team. “It’s really important for employees to engage their coworkers effectively and learn how to work with a group,” Ascherl said. “I think this will be a good way to see who has those skills and to get a sense of how candidates interact with each other.”
Not all employers will set up such a scenario. It is therefore up to the candidate to convey these skills during the interview and to make it clear that their school provided the necessary ground work for fostering leadership and communication skills.
“At CSU, all of our students — online and on-campus — have high interaction with teams and instructors and so get the benefit of learning from their classmates no matter where they are studying,” Vancil said.
There are other tips for surviving interviews as well. The Wall Street Journal provides advice for acing tricky questions that are designed to measure a candidate’s creative thinking and problem solving skills. Candidates are also encouraged to avoid making common mistakes, such as acting arrogantly or entitled during interviews.
“All MBA graduates should be strategic in their career planning in order to leverage their career opportunities,” Vancil said. “They should work with the career professionals at their institution to learn how to leverage the network of alumni they are now part of, to learn how to be involved in their communities in a valuable way so that they connect with opportunities that suit them, and to develop the job-search strategies that help them to best market themselves.”
In the end, it’s not how you obtained your degree; it’s how you use what you’ve learned. With a little work, an online MBA can be presented not as just another degree, but one that speaks to a candidate’s independence, commitment, and leadership skills.