How Recruiters Rank MBA Programs

ranking“You just need to get your foot in the door.” That’s what the experts say. And you took that advice to heart when you applied to business school. You poured your soul into your essays. You celebrated those sacrifices and risks that helped you maximize your talents. And you faced those missed opportunities, blunders, and gaps that haunted you. Back then, the admissions people were the detached judges of your fate.

Once you arrive on campus, a funny thing happens. Your focus shifts from impressing the adcoms to a new target: Recruiters. Students enroll in business schools for many reasons, but landing that dream job tops the list–and recruiters guard that door. The process will start with casual coffees that’ll be the toughest interviews of your life. Recruiters have seen and heard it all. In minutes, they’ll size you up, chipping away at your rehearsed narrative and polished persona.

In many ways, business school is a two-year job interview, where recruiters can observe which candidates will ultimately become the best fits. In short, recruiters are the true consumers of business schools. And that’s why outlets such U.S. News and World Report and Bloomberg BusinessWeek factor recruiter evaluations into their business school rankings.

For its annual ranking of business schools, U.S. News factors in a “recruiter assessment score,” where “corporate recruiters and company contacts from MBA programs previously ranked by U.S. News” rate schools using a five-point scale, with one being “marginal” and five being “outstanding.” According to U.S. News, 16% of those surveyed responded, with those recruiter assessments accounting for 15% of each school’s weighted ranking.

Why Recruiters Matter

Recently, Poets&Quants investigated how U.S. News’ overall rankings deviated from peer assessment scores. In doing so, we learned that some schools’ peer scores lagged behind their higher overall rankings (which are grounded in quantitative data like GMAT scores, average starting salaries, and job placement). Conversely, some deans and MBA directors polled by U.S. News ranked schools higher than their underlying quality measures warranted. This raised a question: Does a school’s reputation match its production?

Recruiter scoring is an important category to help answer this question. For many, U.S. News’ recruiter assessments are a more reliable measure of a school’s value. Unlike academics, who are removed from the daily operations and students of rival campuses, recruiters know their schools intimately. Recruiters also hear back from their superiors on which hires are doing big things. So they know which schools produce the best hires. And such feedback informs where they devote their time and resources.

Which Schools Outperform Their Rankings?

Like our peer assessment rankings, we’re breaking out schools into two categories: “Overperformers” and “under performers.” Using a methodology created by U.S. News, an overperforming school has a higher overall ranking than its recruiter ranking would indicate. Conversely, an underperforming school has a higher recruiter ranking than an overall ranking.

Keep in mind, the terms “overperformer” and “underperformer” may be misnomers here. If you place heavy value in recruiters’ evaluations, you might perceive a school with a high overall ranking and a low recruiter score to be an “underperformer.”

So what are the differences between the overall rankings and the recruiter rankings? Let’s start with U.S. News’ Top 20 schools.  Do Stanford and Harvard rank #1 with recruiters as they do overall? How do rising powers like Haas and Fuqua fare? And which top schools are more attractive to recruiters than their overall rankings would indicate? Check out our results for the answer:

  • Andrew N

    Hopefully the people reading this article are smart enough to realize what P&Q meant, especially since they defined it in the article. If not, you probably don’t want them going to your school 🙂

  • Andrew N

    You may have missed the part about the list being sorted in order of the US News ranking. The recruiter ranking, which this article is about along with it’s disparity with the USN ranking, has Stanford and Wharton tied, while Harvard is a tenth of a point behind. Mind you, I’m not making any claims of my own as to which is superior. I’m just pointing out Wharton’s actual recruiter ranking that they’re talking about.

  • FutureMBA?

    I am currently
    interested in pursuing my MBA. My question is why is there so much emphasis on
    a lot of data like GMAT scores? I understand that a higher GMAT score probably
    equates to a high caliber of student entering the program, but isn’t the
    “purpose” of a program to teach a student? Ranking based off an average GMAT
    score means that students with a higher standardized test score(input) are
    automatically going to be the best educated(outcome) regardless of the actual
    education they receive throughout the program. To sum it up in a crude equation
    Input(GMAT Score) * Constant(MBA Education)= Output: Because of the constant,
    the higher GMAT school will always be the best.
    Isn’t it possible that Input(GMAT Score) * Variable(MBA Education
    differs by school)= Output: because the quality of the material being taught,
    it is possible that a school with a lower GMAT average could be better at its
    purpose. (I do realize that this is only a facet of the ranking system, just a
    little criticism to highlight my point below).

    Basically my point in regards to the article, it seems
    like an MBA program should be ranked on fulfilling its purpose: Educating an
    individual, securing employment and/or increasing your salary(or salary

  • MBAseemsexpensivebutokletsdoit

    Think what As is trying to say is that living in New York for two years might be a more attractive pick for some people than living in Philly. For example, I applied to Columbia (and got in), but didn’t apply to Wharton. Wharton definitely has the edge on name, but there may be good candidates who don’t want to go that route. Obviously, I have no idea if Wharton would have accepted me, so we’re dealing with an incomplete picture.

  • Arathorn

    Columbia is a fantastic school, let me get this straight. But the interesting thing with this choice based on location is that you thought it’d be easier to meet with Manhattan-based firms, correct? Wouldn’t you think that network strength is a better indicator of access? Anyway, let’s look at the convenience factor you seem to have chosen: the Acela takes 1h07mn from Philly (or 1h24mn on Amtrak) to get the 34th and 7th (time that one can use comfortably seated in the train to do some work or prepare for the interview), then it’s a walk or short cab ride to many midtown firms. How long does it take you to get to them from the Columbia campus during rush hour in a bumpy cab ride or sweaty subway trip? Perhaps, 30-50mn less? Good, you saved yourself a little less than hour. Also, let’s look at another convenience factor: standard of living — for the price of a shoebox in Hell’s kitchen with roommates, Wharton students live in large lofts near Rittenhouse Square. Does it sound that the hit you took in ranking, reputation, network, access, and affordability is worth it? … certainly, “to each of his own”. Best of luck.