Recruiter Rankings: U.S. News vs. BW

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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.



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.”


The Wharton School

The Wharton School

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.

  • Abe Akihito

    Wake Forrest is shutting down its daytime full time two-year MBA program, seems that the low recruiter ranking above is totally justified.

  • Definitely NotAPsychometrician

    It is almost as if US News and BWeek personnel have never had a basic MBA stats class. It is abundantly clear that ranking users have not. Hence, they do not understand the absurd volatility of a ranking produced by ratings of ‘at least’ 5 recruiters per school, following a selection bias of only 16% & 18% of solicited participants responding. BusinessWeek has used a rolling average of the past 3 years to introduce artificial (false) stability to the annual numbers. On the other hand, they appear to have advanced Marketing training, because these rankings are an attention-seeking gimmick that gets the almighty ‘click’ from ill-informed graduates (and the occasional school administrator).

  • Ben Franklin

    Who’s we? If you could help me get in Round 2, drinks are on me in center city!

  • FjKEL

    rank #1 for you, Booth, or stanford polytechnic, respect and prestige are all for Harvard. Not today, some 100 years ago.

  • Whartonite

    We always winning, never getting respect!


    QS 200 will be more credible if they put yale in 20 or 30 something. Ross should be in the top 5 or 10 at most.


    recruiters know well that SOM students are inferior of those at Tuck and HBS. good for analysts positions, they know how to add, subtract, run spreadsheets..etc. but their leadership skills are none exist.

  • Mi Hwang

    I question any ranking that put’s Ross in the top 10 or above Yale and Stern.

  • John

    So Berkeley Haas is below 25? that’s suspicious

  • Norbert Weiner

    While U.S. News still underranks Yale overall, I’m elated that recruiters have and continue to realize the student potential at SOM.

  • WACS

    It is not an american thing. It is from strangers.

  • Felipe

    And what about the QS 200 business school – which is a ranking based almost solely in the recruiters? Maybe worth using it here

  • Ben Franklin

    I happen to see a pattern. To strengthen my theory, I want to draw your attention to every ranked school in the states of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, which all favored better (and some SIGNIFICANTLY better) in the BW Employer Ranking compared to the USW Recruiter Ranking. In addition to Emory and Vanderbilt (other top Southern semi-regional schools), the three states’ schools are as follows (7 for 7 = 100%):





    William & Mary

    NC State

    Wake Forrest

    The only exception is Georgetown (D.C.) at a close 29 to 24 (24 to 23 Overall) for BW & USN, respectively. Lastly, I don’t understand how Maryland finished #17 in BW Overall when it ranked 51 on its Employer Survey. Ridiculous.

  • sellout

    Has BW ‘greatly damaged’ its credibility because Fuqua doesn’t pay you as much as HBS does? You didn’t seem to have a problem with the ranking when Booth was ranked first. Is Booth really better than HBS?

  • Milo

    You’re like those people who look at rocks and see faces. Stop searching for patterns where they do not exist!

  • Ben Franklin

    Have you ever seen a school complete the trifecta as Wharton has just done? #1 (or tied in #1) in all recruiter stats like a) Starting Salary, b) Employer Ranking, and c) % of Offers 3-months after graduation?

  • JohnAByrne

    I think that’s very possible, sadly. With the response rate down and the respondents who were surveyed–largely alumni who recruit at a single school–less able to make judgments about different programs, BW has greatly damaged its credibility here. Sad. Very sad.

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  • Ben Franklin

    I find it interesting that Boston schools got slammed in BW while Duke, Darden, UNC, Emory, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee (who is that?) all saw leaps!! Was there a regional bias that was unintentionally created with BW’s new methodology? One can only speculate due to the lack of transparency. I’ve averaged the USN and BW Recruiter Ranks below:

    Top-15 Recruiter/Employer MBA Ranking:

    1. Wharton (1.0 avg)
    2. Stanford (2.5)
    T-3. HBS / Booth (4.0)
    5. Kellogg (5.0)
    6. Duke (6.0)
    7. Columbia (6.5)
    8. Yale (7.5)
    9. MIT (8.0)
    10. Ross (11.0)
    11. Darden (11.5)
    12. Tuck (13.0)
    13. NYU (13.5)
    14. Tepper (14.5)
    15. U.Texas (15.0)