U.S. News’ MBA Rankings: The Schools Corporate Recruiters Prefer

Cross Country

U.S. News’ MBA rankings are a peculiar fusion of inputs and outputs. In some ways, it is a political compromise with goodies for just about every constituency of business education. Admissions can flaunt their stats with a 25% weight given to test scores, undergraduate GPAs, and acceptance rates. Career services can point to starting salaries and placement rates, which account for 35% of a rank. The deans and MBA directors have they say through a peer assessment survey, good for another 25%.

There is one bloc that operates outside the business school. While their opinions comprise only 15% of U.S. News’ ranking, they wield heavy influence on what matters most to students: Who gets hired where. Indeed, recruiters act as gatekeepers, advisors, matchmakers, and project managers. And their views on schools don’t always align with academic orthodoxies.

Take MIT Sloan, where the major recruiters of the past three classes are McKinsey, Bain, Amazon, and Boston Consulting Group. On a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding), Sloan earned a 4.6 score from recruiters in the 2016 U.S. News’ survey-–equal to Stanford and Harvard (and higher than Wharton and Booth). If you’re to believe the U.S. News poll of recruiters, MIT’s esteem among MBA employers has grown. In the 2008 rankings, it averaged a 4.2 score. Since then, it has climbed .4 of a point, the highest increase among Top 25 schools during that period.


Bidding farewell to a grueling winter at Tuck

Bidding farewell to a grueling winter at Tuck

At the opposite end, you’ll find Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, inconveniently tucked in Hanover, N.H., not an easy place for some mainstream MBA hirers to visit. Among recruiters, it averaged a 4.3 score in 2010, before sliding to 4.0 for the past five consecutive years. Like Sloan, Tuck is a consulting mecca, with 35% of its 2014 graduates entering the field. Although Tuck is ranked equally with Texas McCombs in recruiter surveys, Tuck graduates aren’t suffering for it by any means. Their first year compensation averages over $155,000, below only Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley Haas.

What’s more, Tuck grads land higher starting packages than the MBAs at Northwestern Kellogg ($17,000 difference), Chicago Booth ($10,000), and Wharton ($5,000). Despite scoring 0.6 of a point below MIT Sloan, their graduates earn $7,500 more to start. And they maintain a 93.8% placement rate within three months of graduation, ranking just below Wharton, Chicago Booth, and Emory Goizueta among top 25 schools. In other words, when it comes to the measure that matters most – money – employers score Tuck far higher than their recruiter survey averages would initially indicate.

Those are just a few of the conclusions from an in-depth analysis of U.S. News’ annual surveys to corporate recruiters. The magazine is vague when it comes to details on its sample of MBA employers. This year, U.S. News did not disclose how many companies it surveyed or how many responded–a red flag, for sure. A year earlier, U.S. News revealed 18% of the recruiters surveyed responded. U.S. News said it averaged the recruiter scores over the past three years for this ranking.

No matter what flaws are hidden in the numbers, the scores remain an independent, third-party measure of how schools are trending among employers. First, recruiters have their feet in both the academic and professional worlds. By visiting campus, they get a first-hand look at the quality of students who enroll – and how these students develop over their two years. At the same time, they huddle with their internal constituencies to learn which graduates ultimately pan out. Bottom line: Recruiters are almost always going to value results over reputation.


Unlike academics in the peer assessment rankings, recruiters take the pulse of their programs year-after-year. They recognize the differences, however nuanced, in each school’s curriculum, culture, and support system. That’s one reason why recruiter scores may exhibit greater fluctuations in both the near- and long-term. Michigan Ross is a perfect example. From 2006-2010, Ross averaged a 4.4 score from academics before slipping to 4.3 from 2011-2014. Ross has since rebounded back to a 4.4 for the past two years. Compare that to recruiter rankings, where the school has earned 4.4, 4.2, 4.1, 4.0 and 3.9 marks during this same 11-year span. In other words, recruiter scoring is more fluid, an input that gives schools a greater chance to move up (or down) in the rankings.

Recruiters also tend to score programs lower than academics. Stanford, which consistently earns 4.8 scores from academics, ping-pongs between 4.5 and 4.6 among recruiters (with a 4.4 score mixed in for good measure). For the most part, you’ll find that trend across all tiers, whether you look at top schools such as Wharton (4.7 academic vs. 4.5 recruiter) or Northwestern Kellogg (4.6 vs. 4.4), or MBA programs at UCLA Anderson (4.1 vs. 3.8) or Washington Olin (3.7 vs. 3.3), and second-tier programs like Michigan State Broad (3.5 vs. 3.1) or Tulane Freeman (3.0 vs. 2.7).

The new home of Yale University's School of Management: Evans Hall. Photo by Chris Choi

The new home of Yale University’s School of Management: Evans Hall. Photo by Chris Choi

However, there are exceptions. One of them is the Yale School of Management, known for aggressively upgrading facilities and talent in recent years. It averaged a 4.3 score from recruiters and a slightly lower 4.1 score from academics. Obviously, Yale’s increasingly global atmosphere is attractive to recruiters and so are the school’s quality inputs, such as its 719 average GMAT (sixth-best in the U.S.) and enviable undergraduate GPA (3.53).

However, academic opinion can be a notorious lagging indicator, more a function of existing reputation than change and progress. Yale’s better positioning along with its increasing investment in faculty and facilities under Dean Edward ‘Ted’ Snyder – the turnaround artist behind Chicago Booth’s rise into U.S. News’ top five business schools – is likely to show even more progress in years ahead. Along with Yale, the University of Texas-Dallas Jindal (2.9 vs. 4.2), Brigham Young Marriott (3.1 vs. 3.3), and SMU Cox (3.0 vs. 3.1) are other schools that recruiters score higher than academics.

  • Random

    Random observation, but that’s not the University of Buffalo, that’s the European Parliament building in Brussels.

  • fidel305

    bias and over representation of the finance industry in BW

  • Ping

    Can you write an article on the recent restructuring at Google, its new leadership, and what that could mean for the future MBA placement at Google? Thanks!

  • BWeek v USN

    What would explain the variance between USN and BW?
    BWeek: W>B>S>K>H>M

  • Dem1

    people have been saying what you just said, verbatim, for at least 15 years

    let’s see if yale can become an undisputed top 10 first

    that would be a real accomplishment. but i really can’t imagine it unseating one of the M7 + Tuck, which means #9 is the best it can realistically become.

  • Bastion

    The thing Yale has going for its MBA program is that it’s part of Yale University, so that means they have a A LOT of money to invest in recruiting the best talent, not to mention the pedigree, reputation, etc that comes with the Yale brand

    Depending on how serious they are, they can climb all the way up to the top five in the coming years.

  • JohnAByrne

    The M7 designation is pretty arbitrary. Tuck is as good if not better than several of the so-called M7 schools when it comes to the quality of the MBA experience, the quality of the teaching faculty and the students, the value of the alumni network–which is second to no one–and the job and career outcomes of its graduates.

  • JohnGalt

    Tuck is great school and still closer to the M7 than it is to darden/yale/michigan schools however from my experience, Tuck student/alum quality (as defined by prestige experience and my subjective measure of talent – particularly for those of traditional backgrounds – MC/IB/Corp Strat/PE) is not even comparable with H/S, significantly behind wharton, still behind Kellogg/Columbia/Sloan, on par with booth.

    Having said that, if you are looking for MBB/Bulge IB, Tuck is great school. H/S folks (traditional backgrounds) typically are a little more advanced in their business experience to really be highly interested in these opportunities (Unless they love the service industry and are gunning to be rainmakers some day)

  • 2cents

    I feel like I’ve seen people do these arbitrary X>Y rankings before… not sure when, but seems like its been around and normally obnoxious for the last decade

  • Esuric

    For whom do rankings not matter? They certainly matter for the schools and for candidates.

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  • Devils0508

    They aren’t “making assumptions”…you realize there are unemployment reports you can look at, right?

  • bearback

    can’t wait to start at Tuck in a few weeks!

  • Yale Fan

    So, do Yale MBA students get into MBB, Investment Banking, or PE jobs at all? I often hear people slamming Yale MBA for the inability to place their students into top organizations; however, I don’t think it’s true at all. If Yale is able to place their bachelors degree students into lucrative jobs, why do people make an assumption that the business school can’t place their MBAs too?

  • talent_management

    no major mba recruiter would look at Yale the same way of M7 schools. Yale is on the track to be a good school but it is still not a core school for the main recruiting themes suc as consulting, leadership programs, or banking..

  • JZ

    I think there are two reasons: (1) Yale SOM graduates have lower starting salaries due to a higher percentage of the class working in non-profit, and (2) peer-assessments lag behind results and are slow to chance.

    I think these shouldn’t be much of a concern for someone apply to SOM. SOM graduates in consulting or finance make as much as graduates from any top 10 program in those respective fields. Unfortunately, the rankings do NOT take that into account. And the peer-assessments will catch up slowly but surely.

    The difference between SOM and CBS should come down to fit more so than a few spots on the Us News ranking!

  • hope

    because recruiters rank Yale NOT yale MBA.

  • Orange 1

    If Yale is ranked so well by recruiters, why is it considered in a lower tier than Columbia?

  • Consider the $$$

    No disagreements with Corbett.

    I’m highly suspicious of Duke having that #2 spot in BW Recruiter ranking. If we go by compensation packages Duke at 2 is more congruent. If that is the case though, Michigan is undervalued.

    Programs with Average Compensation Above 150k

    Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Tuck [Above 155k]
    Duke, Michigan, and Wharton [Above 150k]

    Within that list the programs tier at Tuck. All of these programs are given lots of love except for Duke and Michigan. Duke has been able to use the latest BW ranking to dust itself off but Michigan is left alone. What gives?

  • CorbettJetLag

    Tuck is undervalued by the USnews ranking. Frankly, rankings don’t really matter, but if you compare on strength of admissions/class-profile, strength of placement/total-compensation, and strength of program (e.g. how much the students like the program and/or the quality of alumni giving – which is probably the best proxy for quality of program) — I would venture to say that Tuck is at least a top 5 school.

    For strength of admissions/class-profile – only Stanford and Harvard are demonstrably better, with Wharton slightly ahead of Tuck as well. That said, its pretty much a tie between Tuck and the other M7 schools+Haas.

    For strength of placement/total compensation — again, only Stanford and Harvard are demonstrably better, and not by much. I’d rank Tuck tied for three with the other M7+Haas schools.

    For strength of program – there is no doubt Tuck is the best, and its not really that close. This is Tuck’s biggest differentiatior… it does the MBA better than just about any program, though I would say Harvard and Stanford are pretty good as well, and maybe Yale too.

    All that put together and I would argue that beyond Harvard and Stanford, and the legacy/brand that Wharton has – Tuck is probably the next best business school. But it will depend on your circumstances and preferences, as the difference between Tuck and Wharton is pretty small in terms of “ranking” if you use my methodology, and similarly there is almost no difference between Tuck and the other M7+Haas business schools — it really depends on what you want.

    All that said, I look at the top schools in 4 categories (which I would believe most others do as well):
    1. Stanford and Harvard
    2. Wharton
    3. Tuck, Kellogg, Chicago, MIT, Columbia, Haas
    4. Yale, NYU, Virginia, Michigan, Duke, Cornell

    These are your tier 1 schools, although the first 9 are the clear top, with Harvard and Stanford a half step ahead of the rest. The weird thing is, though, that a lot of this is a self-fulfilling cycle. If people believe Harvard is the best business school than its stats will follow, which is what makes rankings so subjective… most of the time people’s perceptions of quality are what drive the rankings.