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ASK THE CAPITALIST: Are HR Pros with MBAs Special Anymore?

Kris- 

Would love to know your opinion on a trend I am seeing as I'm screening HR Director candidates... DOCTOR IS IN 

I used to encourage HR undergrads to pursue their MBA instead of a Masters in HR. I felt it held more value for businesses and was a tough program that would advance them in ways a specialized degree couldn't. 

I am shocked at the number of candidates I am seeing with an MBA and MA in HR. 

The result for me is I am losing respect for the MBA! I mean, if sooo many people can get one, is it really a tough program? Does it really demonstrate anything special anymore? 

What do you think? Am I way off track with my line of thinking? 

-AW

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AW - 

I obviously have to lead with a Groucho Marx quote here - "I'd never belong to any club that would have me as a member".

Your advice is still relevant, and if it's any consolation, lots of young HR pros took your advice, right?  Now they're pissed off that people like you won't get out of the way fast enough, and in a cocktail of following AW's advice and having time on their hands - they've got more degrees than they've had jobs.  I say this as someone with 3 degrees, including a MBA.  But I'm Gen X - now a veteran of all this we call HR.

You're obviously seeing the explosion related to accessibility and availability of the MBA.  Distance learning and lots of options has made the MBA tag a bit easy to gather, which I think means you've got to evaluate what the candidates are actually presenting in a couple of different ways:

1. Where did they pick up the MBA and did they actually have to work hard to achieve it? Traditional programs where you have to spend time in class still rule in my eyes - that commitment, along with the interaction that occurs when you have to work in groups with other humans is still the most important thing.  That being said, there's a lot of online MBA programs that work the hell out of people, with University of Phoenix coming to mind.  Of course, there are a lot of diploma mills as well, which is why you feel the way you do.  

Good rule of thumb - any school with a directional name without reference to a state or city is a problem.  Southeast Missouri?  Says legit to me.  Southeastern University?  Wait, Southeastern where?  Oh, university... <shudder>

2. The most important thing related to the MBA is what they learned and how it's changed them.  With that in mind, some of your interview process has to go after what they learned from the MBA program and how they applied it.  Additionally, how has it changed them?  If someone really took the MBA and ran with it, when you ask them for a portfolio of their work at their job, you'd like to think they could provide that to you.

No portfolio means they checked off a box.  Existence of a portfolio means it changed their worldview a bit and now are looking to create work product that helps them in the future.

I still like the MBA.  I just think you'll have to do a little work to figure out what Steve Martin learned in The Jerk - what's S*** and what's Shinola.  

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