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 “underperformers.” 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 business schools in 2014.  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:

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.