World’s Best MBA Career Management Centers

by John A. Byrne on

The simplest way to judge the quality of a business school’s ability to put you into a great job is to look over the starting salaries and the percentage of a class with jobs at graduation and three months later. Those numbers are widely published by all of the best schools every year and widely examined by MBA applicants.

But what those numbers fail to tell you is how satisfied MBAs from each of those schools are with the number and quality of firms recruiting on their campuses and how they feel about the effort made by each school’s career management office. As discerning customers of the service, graduating MBAs view and judge their placement offices more completely than a starting salary or a placement stat.

Those MBA customers would consider how well prepped they were for a job search, how helpful the school was in getting them an internship, how easy it was to get on the interview schedules of the companies they most wanted to work for, how successful the office was in linking them with key alumni for job placement, and ultimately whether they landed the dream job they really wanted–rather than just a job to pay off their loans. That’s what starting salary and placement numbers can’t tell you.

JUDGING THE PERFORMANCE OF A SCHOOL’S CAREER MANAGEMENT CENTER

So the opinions of people most qualified to make them—graduating MBAs—is a far better indication of the performance of a career center than school-reported data. Several media brands that rank schools and survey graduates collect this information, but none has done this as long and as thoroughly as BusinessWeek, which has been in the MBA rankings game since 1988, much longer than any other ranking brand.

Every other year since then for the past 24 years, BusinessWeek has surveyed the graduating classes of dozens of the top business schools in the world and then handed out grades on how the career centers meet the expectations of MBAs. Schools that win an “A” grade, or in latter years an “A+,” are those that are in the top 20th percentile of all the institutions whose graduates are surveyed by BusinessWeek.

What we’ve done for this analysis is to examine the data over the entire 24-year period from the magazine’s inaugural ranking in 1988 to its latest list in 2010. All told, our findings are based on the opinions of 83,099 responding MBAs—a powerful and impressive number of satisfaction impressions. By looking at the outcome of a dozen surveys over those 24 years, we’re able to filter out odd results that can occur in a single year due to any number of factors, from low sample rates to cheerleading campaigns organized by students or their schools.

THE UNDISPUTED WINNER: NORTHWESTERN’S KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

The winners? Only one business school’s career management center has been able to land in the top 20th percentile in MBA graduate satisfaction for each of BusinessWeek’s surveys over the 24-year span: Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. This is an awesome achievement, a record of consistency that showed a career center’s staff ability to overcome economic ups and downs as well as changing student expectations.

And at Kellogg at least it’s a level of success made even more difficult because of the school’s unusually broad appeal to a large number of industries and companies. A recent strategic study by Northwestern, for example, found that most of Kellogg’s competitors get 80% of their job offers from just 18 to 20 firms, largely the McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan/Chase crowd. In contrast, at Kellogg there are some 200 companies that offer jobs to 80% of the school’s MBA students, according to Kellogg Dean Sally Blount. Cultivating relationships with that large and broad a range of corporate recruiters is difficult enough. Getting them to come to campus and actively recruit your students is another thing. And finally, assuring that your graduates believe the career center is really working hard for them over such a long period of time is a big deal.

WHARTON AND BOOTH’S CAREER CENTERS SCORE HIGHLY IN STUDY

The top schools after Kellogg? Wharton and Chicago Booth are next, having achieved a 20th percentile rate of satisfaction 10 out of 12 times. Four schools are next tied for earning A grades in seven of the 12 surveys: Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Duke University’s Fuqua School, Virginia’s Darden School, and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Harvard and Columbia Business School reached this “A” standard in half of the surveys, six of 12. Not a bad record at all, though you might have expected HBS to nail this measure. One possible reason: The expectations of its graduates are so high they are often difficult to meet or exceed.

This year, when BusinessWeek surveys MBA graduates once again for the 13th time, Kellogg will face an unusual test. For the first time in 17 years, its career management center will be run by a newcomer. Roxanne Hori, the highly successful director at Kellogg, was recently promoted to associate dean of corporate partnerships. Michael Malone, who had been at Columbia Business School as director of career education and advising, succeeded Hori in the post effective Jan. 30th. Obviously, he has very big shoes to fill.

(The full table of results are on the following page)

1 2
  • CodeX

    Hey why only US schools? And where is Yale?

  • Andrea

    did they just sum up the x’s?
    stanford has 2 in the last 10 yrs and hbs has 5. not sure whether the 90s ought to be weighted so heavily, especially since most gsbers do self-directed searches these days.

  • Robert

    Just curious, why Wharton is above Booth when it’s a tie? Is not Booth better than Wharton in the last 10 years (2000-2010)? is not Booth behind Wharton in the alphabet, or Chicago behind Penn?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Code X,

    The data speaks more clearly in U.S. terms because it’s less complete when you add the global players. I will probably do a separate list of how the international schools fare on this research. As for Yale, the School of Management made the 20th percentile only once in 24 years–in 1998. Again, this doesn’t mean that Yale hasn’t done a good job with career management. It’s just not among the very best.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Robert,

    Wharton isn’t above Chicago. They are both ranked in a tie at second place.

  • jay

    The issue with student based surveys is that students have no point of comparison. Their opinion is valid but not always accurate/objective. As you point out in the article, it can be strongly affected by their own unrealistic expectations. The result is that Kellogg students are most satisfied with their school career center despite Kellogg placing 9th in the “best b-schools for a getting a job” ranking, with a lower employment rate and average salary than many other top schools. Conversely, HBS and Tuck are 8th and 10th in this ranking despite having two of the highest employment rates and average starting salaries. IMO, student surveys alone aren’t enough to crown the “best” career center.

  • http://www.mbamakeover.com Scott Arrieta

    @ jay – what other criteria would you add?

    Personally, I think that it’s somewhat fitting that student expectations play a part in determining the overall career center ranking. If the students aren’t perceiving the value for whatever reason, changes of some kind need to be made.

  • Daniel

    If Wharton isn’t above Booth, why is it listed above Booth? It’s not alphabetically before Booth (regardless of how you write the names of the schools). Furthermore, Booth has a better recent history (slipping in ’00 and ’96 vs. ’10 and ’02 for Wharton).

    Why not switch the order and make it alphabetical?

  • ASDF

    @Daniel and @Robert: do you guys genuinely not understand the concept of a tie??

  • jay

    @Scott – I would add hard employment statistics (% employed at graduation, % employed 3 months after, average starting salary, % who found position through on campus recruiting, etc). As I said, I agree that student opinions need to be a component of the ranking, but they should not be the sole criteria in my opinion.

  • Kidno

    @Jay – yeah we should ask BusinessWeek about it, right? you prolly go to HBS and can’t digest this survey result.

  • jay

    @Kidno Your post is very insightful and thought-provoking. Thank you.

  • Maria

    Hey John,
    Thanks for publishing this, it’s great. Can we have a link to the actual Bweek study? Thank you.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Maria,

    There is no complete BusinessWeek study. Here is the last time–2010–BW published its ranking and survey results: http://www.businessweek.com/interactive_reports/bs_2010_US_FTMBA_TAB_1111.html?chan=bschools_special+report+–+best+b-schools+2010_special+report+–+best+b-schools+2010. Otherwise, you have to go back to each of the 12 years and assemble this from scratch like I did. The early years were not published online. I have that data in print form.

  • Will

    @Jay – I have to disagree that students’ expectations and opinions shouldn’t be the sole critieria for ranking career management centers. First and foremost regarding your comment: ” is strongly affected by their own unrealistic expectations”, why would you assume that students from say HBS have higher expectations than Kellogg/Wharton/Chicago? Sure enough, Harvard has established itself and many people acknowledges it as the top B-school in the US and probably the world but their grads still belong in the same candidate pool as their peers at Kellogg/Wharton/Chicago/Stanford when it comes to recruiting. Grads from the Top 10 B-schools mostly vie for the same recruiting pie. I honestly doubt grads from Stanford/Kellogg/Wharton expect any lesser when it comes to recruiting than Harvard grads from their career management centers or from themselves for that matter.

    Second, your suggestion about adding starting salaries etc as additional criteria for assessing the career management centers is flawed as starting salaries are not solely based on efforts of the career management centers if at all, but rather based on the corporate world’s perception of the quality of graduates they are recruiting ie. the perceived quality and reputation of the school (potential success) and that of its alumni (proven success). In short, I beleive career management centers do not have the ability (even if so, it will be limited) to set the boundaries for their grad salaries. They can market their grads and school in every way possible but they can’t coerce recruiters to pay their grads more than what they perceived they are worth. Would you, IN GENERAL (i emphasize this), as a recruiter, pay more for recruiting a Darden grad versus say a Harvard or Stanford grad for the same role in an organization in a field that say, all 3 schools are known for? The answer for most is NO. why? Is it because the career management centers are Harvard or Stanford spend way more effort and are exceptionally better than their peers at Darden? Probably not. It’s simply a Harvard degree (due to its more established reputation, standing and recognition) commands a higher starting salary than would a Darden one (in general).

  • Homeless MBA

    Where is N.C.State’s Poole College of Management on this list? I heard they bring prestigious employer’s such as Wake County Public Schools and offer interview slots for admin. assistant jobs.

  • George

    As the scope of this analysis didn’t go any further than US border lines, the title should have been the USA’s Best MBA CMCs. I find this rather parochial, and unfortunately it re-enforces the stereotype that america doesn’t believe that anything significant happens or exists outside of itself. A little more balance would be helpful.

  • qa72746

    The 2nd page with tables never appears on tablets/ipads for any of the articles.

Partner Sites: C-Change Media | Poets & Quants for Execs | Tipping the Scales