When people consult business school rankings, they’re often looking for something specific. For some, rankings are reputational capital, an index for gauging a degree’s prestige or a peer’s credibility. For others, rankings can reinforce or reshape their impression of programs – and spur them to make decisions. For most, rankings are simply a starting point, an amalgamation of weighted data points that can help potential applicants narrow their choices for a deeper dive.
A rank is just a number, critics say. And there is truth to that. In the end, the variables measured – GMAT scores, acceptance rates, placement percentages, starting salaries, and survey results – provide another answer to the question dogging professionals: “Is enrolling in a full-time MBA program really worth it?”
By that, they really mean: “Will I make the connections and gain the skills to land the high-paying job that I want?” To do that, they need to know what employers really think of a school. And those opinions aren’t always aligned with a school’s rank.
Make no mistake: Employers target specific schools for a reason. Sure, some program graduates maintain a track record of success at specific firms. More than that, these graduates often embody the mindsets – whether it’s purpose-driven, risk-taking, or globally-focused – that align with a firm’s own culture.
METHODOLOGIES FOR MEASURING RECRUITER ATTITUDES
And that makes recruiter surveys from U.S. News and World Report and Bloomberg Businessweek so fascinating. They show how end users (companies) truly view their suppliers (business schools). While neither outlet shares recruiter-specific data, their collective results reflect whether employers truly buy into a particular school’s rank.
Ironically, the survey methodologies applied by U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek have grown increasingly similar. Let’s start with U.S. News, whose recruiter surveys are weighed at 15 percent of a school’s total ranking. Using a five point scale, with 1 being “marginal” and 5 being “outstanding,” corporate recruiters assess program quality, with each school’s scores averaged. For example, Wharton’s 4.6 average ranked #1, while Tuck’s 4.0 average was good for #12.
At Bloomberg Businessweek, the employer survey accounts for 45% of a school’s score – three times higher than U.S. News. In 2014, this survey reached 1320 recruiters for a 15.8% response rate (Compared to U.S. News’ 18%). To complete this survey, respondents rated 10 schools (maximum) from which they heavily recruited heavily over the past five years. For schools to qualify, Bloomberg Businessweek required five recruiter scores, which were based on “specific qualities important to [recruiters]” and “how effective [graduates] were once they were hired.”
WHARTON TOPS RECRUITER WISH LISTS – ON BOTH RANKINGS
And that brings up a question: Are recruiter opinions consistent across both surveys? The answer: That depends on the school. But one school that both surveys agree on is the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which ranked #1 in both U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek. For Wharton – whose top employers for the Class 2014 were McKinsey, BCG, and Deloitte – the U.S. News No. 1 ranking is shared with Harvard & Stanford. The Philadelphia-based school also ranked #1 overall by U.S. News (and #2 behind Fuqua by Bloomberg Businessweek). Long known as a finance school, Wharton was rocked in 2013 by admissions turmoil, leaving critics to wonder if Wharton still ranked up with Harvard and Stanford. This year’s U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek rankings dispelled any doubts, with recruiter opinions falling in line with the metrics. With Wharton developing top flight programs in healthcare and entrepreneurship – to complement its dominance in accounting and finance, marketing, operations, management, and international business – you can expect recruiters to continue flocking to Wharton for years to come.
Below Wharton, you’ll find differences between the recruiter rankings. For example, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business ranked #2 among Bloomberg Businessweek recruiters, largely the reason why Fuqua vaulted to the top of their rankings. At U.S. News, Fuqua ranked 10th among recruiters…in both 2014 and 2015. Businessweek’s recruiters also ranked Booth higher (#3 vs. #5) and Stanford lower (#4 vs. #1) than U.S. News. Strangely, Businessweek’s recruiter sample placed Harvard at #7 (vs. Harvard’s three-way tie for first in U.S. News). With their recruiter survey relying on subjective data from a limited sample and dictating nearly half of a school’s rankings, it’s no surprise that Harvard fell to #8 in Businessweek’s overall ranking. That said, both recruiter rankings scored Kellogg as the #5 full-time MBA program.