How Recruiters Rank MBA Programs

by Jeff Schmitt on

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:

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  • Whartonite

    Haters gonna hate, but we’re still the best. Take that Chicago Booth, hurts don’t it!

  • Albert

    Stanford is my dream school but seems that it’s just getting harder and harder to get in every year!

  • realitycheck

    well…technically…..according to this Stanford is the best…..

  • Guestmba

    John, any way to see how all the schools in the study performed? There are some schools not mentioned that I’d be interested in seeing the results.

  • Norbert Weiner

    Yale’s MBA program is so underrated. I’m glad to see recruiters recognize the value of it’s integrated curriculum, though.

  • FocusedMBA

    So would it be accurate to view schools like Yale and Cornell as “value” plays since their rankings lag beyond their respective recruiter rankings. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, should we really care about the ranking at all – I mean truthfully I really do not care what US NEWs ranks Yale or Cornell at – I care what the recruiters think about it. Isn’t that the true measure of ranking? NYU has better GMATs than Cornell and Duke for example which pushes up their ranking – but if recruiters think Duke is better and that Cornell is tied with NYU than should I really care about the US News ranking? Thx

  • Paul

    I think it’s reasonable to assume that recruiters rank schools based on the quality of students. While it’s perhaps the most important indicator of how good a MBA program, it’s not the only factor. Wharton produces brilliant business minds no doubt, but how many would choose to live in Philadelphia rather than Boston, NYC or Chicago?

  • Just Sayin’

    I think it would be interesting to see how common recruiters across these schools rate graduates. UCLA Anderson and UT-Dallas have the same recruiter score and rank, but I would think the caliber of companies recruiting at each of these schools is very different.

  • Renault

    To live in Philadelphia during business school? Many do. It’s not like Wharton has trouble placing graduates in Boston or New York (if one were deadset on Chicago, however, I’d probably recommend the two good midwestern schools).

    Wharton/Philadelphia wins the cross-admit battle when pitted against both Chicago (Booth and Kellogg) and New York (Columbia and NYU).

  • PA Pabst

    You misred, Wharton shares the #1 spot with Stanford.
    Frankly (and I am not a Whartonite) this is certainly the most reasonable ranking I have seen so far.

  • Aziz

    Poet’s and Quants bias against Wharton has been well recognized in the past by posters. Wharton shows up as higher than Harvard for recruiters, for P&Q its the biggest “surprise”. Why such a surprise? Wharton is pretty much well recognized as top 3 school in US and depending on the year top 1 in the world by Financial Times. P&Q said the same thing when Wharton was rated equal in prestige to Harvard and Stanford by USN, what a “surprise”. P&Q all about marketing new stories, pushing that stupid story that Booth gaining on Wharton (that guy John had a post saying he didn’t think Booth any lower than Wharton in prestige now because of a Journal article, yeah no bias John)! Things seldom change, HSW going to remain as far as the eye can see.

  • Orange1

    Splitting hairs my friend. Is a 4.0 vs. 3.9 the difference between the gold and bronze medalist in the 100 meter dash? Is Yale a 4.05 pushed up to a 4.1? GMAT score variations? a 720 vs. a 715 or whatever is someone answering a couple of more questions correctly, not some major statement. The usuals in 10-17 are a very tight group – go where you are most comfortable and don’t sweat this.

  • FocusedMBA

    Agreed! Thx

  • avivalasvegas

    Wharton is ranked #3. Plain n simple folks. It’ll never be a H/S because it never has been and things aren’t looking too rosy for the future either.

  • GoForIt

    I agree fully. Cornell and Yale both, as you mentioned as examples, are perceived far better in the eyes of who matters most: Recruiters – than the USN Ranking system and many readers on this site. Their global reputations serve them well…

  • Paul

    Don’t get me wrong, Wharton is great! I was not referring to any specific stats such as cross admit or employment. I was simply stating how peoples’ preference (at least in the US) in cities such as Boston/NYC/Silicon might have something to do with the discrepancies between magazine ranks and recruiters rank.

    Also, Wharton/Phil does not win the cross-admit battle against Harvard/Boston or Stanford/Silicon Valley/Cal despite being number 1 in recruiters ranking and it’s starting to be debatable with Booth/Chicago, Haas, CBS…etc

  • As

    I was admitted to both Wharton and Columbia and I chose Columbia because of the location factor (I worked in Philly) and my career goal. So to each of his own.

  • Paul

    exactly my point! thank you!

  • Whartonastick

    With that attitude, not for long.

  • Renault

    Okay, but you’re an outlier.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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
    potential).

  • 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.

  • 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 :)

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