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How Recruiters Rank Business Schools By Industry & Skill Set

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Every recruiter carries a mental list of their favorite schools. They won’t admit to that, of course. But they know which schools share their values, screen out miscast candidates, and nurture the right attitudes and aptitudes for their company culture. Sure, every program develops standouts – but few can consistently produce the best and brightest without fail.

RECRUITER SCORES DON’T ALWAYS CORRELATE TO MBA RANKINGS

Indeed, the holy grail of MBA recruiting is a consistent track record. And some schools fare better than others in particular companies. Take McKinsey and Bain, the crème de la crème of business consulting. A 2014 Poets&Quants study found that such prestige programs as Harvard, Wharton, and Kellogg had the highest concentration of MBAs in both of these firms. That’s not surprising, considering these are three of the five largest U.S. full-time MBA programs (where, between a quarter and a third of graduates enter consulting traditionally).

However, this numbers game doesn’t fully explain why graduates from smaller MBA programs at Texas (McCombs), Indiana (Kelley), and Michigan (Ross) represent the largest proportion of MBAs at Deloitte – nearly a third more than Harvard, Wharton, and Kellogg combined. Some might argue that there are fewer available candidates from these latter programs once they’ve been gobbled up by McKinsey and Bain. And that plays into it, no doubt. But this discrepancy could also stem from something else: recruiter sentiment. As part of its annual business school rankings, Bloomberg Businessweek gauges  recruiter opinions about the programs that feed their talent pools. According to its 2016 Job Skills Report, Michigan (Ross) and Texas (McCombs) actually earned higher cumulative marks from consulting recruiters than Harvard, Wharton, and Kellogg – with Indiana (Kelley) nipping Harvard as well.

There are several factors that play into why some programs are more popular than others with recruiters. Certainly, industry expertise, cultural fit, availability, and price tag are among them. However, for the first time, Bloomberg Businessweek has broken out school-specific data by industry and skill set. Based on survey data from 1,251 recruiters at 547 companies in 2015, the data takes a far deeper dive than simply slapping a flat 3.1 recruiter score (on a 5.0 scale) to a particular school. Instead, the numbers show exactly what recruiters are seeking – and exactly how schools are stacking up in these areas.

AN IMPERFECT BUT HIGHLY INFORMATIVE PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

Mind you, the data isn’t flawless. It’s not unusual, for example, for several of the more prestigious recruiters of MBA talent, such as McKinsey and Goldman Sachs, to refuse to complete Businessweek’s surveys. As a result, it’s entirely possible that the views of major consumers of MBAs may be missing from the data set (particularly when over 15,000 recruiters declined to respond to the survey and Businessweek does not make public the companies that do respond). Their absence can badly skew the results in a way that makes them far less authoritative, causing even silly and nonsensical outcomes.

In addition, the survey includes scores from several recruiters who are representing the same company, which may artificially boost (or undercut) a given school’s score. It’s well known, for instance, that larger recruiters of MBA graduates typically send alums of schools back to campus to host info sessions and interview students for their companies. Not surprisingly, they are likely to name their alma maters when they fill out Businessweek’s survey.

Weight also plays a role. As you’d imagine, some industries participated more in Bloomberg Businessweek’s employer survey than others. For example, the top three respondents came from the financial services (21.9%), consulting (20.9%) and technology (14.8%) sectors – with manufacturing (8.4%), consumer products (8.2%), health care (6.4%) and energy (6.3%) bringing up the rear. As a result, some industry scores are based on more recruiter responses than others.

So why share the results? Because they’re downright interesting, sometimes entertaining, and still provide valuable insights from companies that largely make the MBA market. It’s another puzzle piece to help MBA applicants choose the right school for themselves.

BOOTH TOPS ALL COMERS IN CONSULTING

So how do schools fare in particular industries? Let’s start with the aforementioned consulting industry. Among Top 25 programs, that honor technically belongs to the University of Washington (Foster) with a 4.4 score. But that comes with a caveat – it was based on the scores of only five responses (confirming our earlier point about how badly flawed some of these results can be). Another interpretation of the data might very well be that Foster receives little attention from consulting firm recruiters. The same principle plays out at Notre Dame (Mendoza), where a 4.13 average is based off 15 recruiter responses. That leaves the University of Chicago (Booth) – the top-ranked U.S. MBA program overall according to recruiters. Recruiters, as a whole, awarded Booth with the top mean score of 3.83, where 51 of 190 recruiters gave it the highest score of five (with another 69 firms ranking it as a four).

That’s not an easy feat. At Booth, 32% of its graduates enters consulting, meaning the school must deliver top-to-bottom excellence, quality in quantity if you will. Based on the data, Booth is pulling it off with aplomb. Unfortunately, this impressive performance has had little tangible impact for Booth graduates. (beyond giving them the benefit of the doubt in interviews). Despite scoring higher in consulting than all other comers, Boothies  still receive the same $140,000 starting base and $25,000 bonus as every other top school (though they did merit a $5,000 raise in base salary over the previous year).

Kellogg bears a similar burden as Booth, with 35% of its most recent graduating class choosing consulting. Despite Kellogg’s well-earned reputation as a destination for future consultants, it also scored lower than Booth at 3.53 based on 221 responses. More telling, fewer consulting recruiters considered Kellogg to be a five star program compared to Booth by a 51-to-29 margin. Two other programs known for their consulting prowess, Tuck and INSEAD, also earned unexpectedly-lower mean marks of 3.41 and 3.39 respectively (though Tuck attracted only a tepid 70 responses). Those are far lower grades than Darden (3.9), UCLA Anderson (3.8), Haas (3.66), and Texas McCombs (3.78).  Notably, INSEAD was hobbled by over half of respondents (89 of 163) giving it a mediocre score of three. At the same time, Tuck was doomed by just two recruiters bestowing a five, the highest possible score.

If recruiter scores indicate the depth and intensity of interest in particular school, than the number of responses would also suggest the breadth and volume of interest. While Booth topped all comes in the former, Harvard won on volume with 249 surveys, with Kellogg (221) and Booth (190) trailing behind.

To see how recruiters ranked American consulting firms and both domestic and international financial services firms, go to next page.