How Recruiters Rank MBA Programs

Some Drawbacks Of Recruiter Rankings

Sure, recruiters may be able to better discern the quality of students – and the employees they ultimately turn out to be. But recruiters – and the methodology used by U.S. News to gauge their opinions – are not without critics.

Let’s start by comparing the methodologies used by U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek in constructing their rankings. Bloomberg Businessweek performs heavy due diligence to ensure the rating is completed by the person who’s responsible for MBA recruiting in an organization. As a result, you generally get one rating per company in their rankings.  Conversely, U.S. News expends less effort in identifying one recruiter per company. With recruiters often shipping alumni off to campus to woo MBAs, U.S. News could potentially factor multiple ratings per company into a school’s score. This, in turn, could artificially raise and diminish a median score, while making it vulnerable to annual swings.

On the plus side, U.S. News gives each response equal weight. In Bloomberg Businessweek’s methodology, recruiters who hire more MBAs receive greater weight. As a result, their recruiter rankings are skewed towards the tastes of larger firms like McKinsey, Deloitte, and Amazon.

Similarly, the nature of surveying recruiters can be problematic. Never mind that only 16 percent of the recruiter pool responded to U.S. News’ evaluation request. The survey simply asks for a score between 1 and 5. It doesn’t specify exactly what U.S. News wants measured. Accordingly, one recruiter could emphasize work performance of alumni, while another could factor in the quality of facilities. Second, recruiters only meet with a sliver of the student body, often within defined specialties. Thus, the recruiter ranking may not evaluate a business program as a whole. Finally, the best schools attract the best students. Many of these students would thrive regardless of which schools they attend. And that begs a question: Will schools that enroll less accomplished students – but do a superb job at teaching – always fall short of schools with the brand and network to attract the best-and-brightest?

Bottom Line

Yes, the recruiter rankings can be subjective and inconsistent (in theory, at least). Business schools may be around to serve students. To rank high, they must also fulfill the needs of the marketplace. And that’s what recruiters represent. They hold the keys to those doors that students want to enter. And to stay successful, school must cater to – and anticipate their needs.

A Quick Note

The U.S. News top 20 business schools in 2014 methodology has a minor flaw. Although we subtracted the overall rank from recruiter assessment rank, the 15 percent weight of the recruiter assessment is still embedded in the overall rank. In other words, the recruiter assessment still acts as a drag (or a boost) on the overall ranking. As a result, some schools could theoretically be ranked slightly higher (or lower) if recruiter assessment was removed entirely.


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