The MBA Programs Recruiters Love



In networking, it’s all about who you know. With recruiting, another factor is who knows you — and your school.

It’s no secret: Recruiters prefer some schools over others. Geography is one reason. Imagine you’re a time-starved recruiter with a popular brand. How would you maximize your resources? That’s right: You’d focus on areas where top schools are clustered. The I-95 corridor is the best place for that. In one week, you could hit five top-10 MBA programs — Harvard, MIT, Yale, Columbia, and Wharton. Do the math: That’s nearly 6,400 full-time MBAs alone! Plus, you’d have the flexibility to hit other attractive venues like Boston College, New York University, and Temple.

You won’t find that concentration or convenience in Texas, Florida, or Ohio!


But recruiters are looking, to borrow a line from Liam Neeson, for “a very particular set of skills.” They also prize recruits who’ve been immersed in distinct cultures and embody certain qualities that fit with their own traditions and value systems. When MBA recruiters were surveyed about their favorite schools, they bucked conventional thinking and chose Chicago, Illinois, as the epicenter for their favorite MBAs.

The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

In U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best Business Schools ranking, the University of Chicago (Booth) and Northwestern University (Kellogg) each scored a 4.5, tying them for the second-highest recruiter score (behind Harvard). In the Bloomberg Businessweek recruiter survey released five months earlier in October 2015, Booth and Kellogg ranked first and second.


The appeal of these schools, at first glance, is hard to miss. Both are well-rounded programs draped in tradition and fueled by excellence. Kellogg is a top 20 program in eight of the ten specializations ranked by U.S. News, including the top-ranked marketing program. Booth, on the other hand, ranks in seven specializations, including second in both finance and accounting. However, it would be a mistake to label them as a “marketing” or “finance” school.

At Kellogg, for example, 18% of 2015 graduates entered finance and accounting, a number consistent with its previous five classes. This percentage is nearly equal to the 20% of 2015 full-time graduates ticketed to marketing and sales (and that doesn’t count the 35% of graduates who choose the consulting route). Even more, the school attracts a range of employers; firms hiring 10 or members of Kellogg’s 2015 class range from McKinsey to Heinz Kraft to Amazon. You’ll find a similar dynamic at Booth, where finance barely outpointed consulting by a 37.1%-to-33.5% margin in the 2015 class. That said, just one of Booth’s top five employers —Bank of America —was involved in finance (and it only accounted for 2.5% of 2015 hiring).

What separates Booth and Kellogg in terms of recruiter sentiment? That’s nearly impossible to say without categorical metrics or unfettered feedback from recruiters. Both attract the crème-de-la-crème among prospective MBAs (with Kellogg average GMATs rising from 712 to 728 over the past five years and Booth enrollees boosting their average GMATs for 13 consecutive years). Not to mention, both schools’ emphasis on “Midwest nice” make for pleasant atmospheres for recruiters.


Keith Bevans heads up global consultant recruiting for Bain

Keith Bevans heads up global consultant recruiting for Bain

Bain & Company is a popular destination for Booth and Kellogg talent, with the firm hiring a combined 46 members of their respective 2015 classes. While Keith Bevans, a managing partner who heads Bain’s global recruiting efforts, is careful not to pick favorites among MBA programs, he understands the appeal that Booth and Kellogg have with MBA recruiters.

“Both schools have been incredible sources of talent for us at Bain,” he tells Poets&Quants in a written statement. “The analytic skill set, practical problem-solving approach, collaborative teamwork and global experience students are exposed to at these programs help shape them into results-oriented leaders – exactly what we’re looking for in a strong candidate at Bain.”

The University of Chicago, in particular, is known for historically producing one of the highest placement rates among full-time MBA programs, including a 97.4% clip for the 2015 class. According to Julie Morton, Booth’s associate dean for career services and corporate relations, the school’s value flows from delivering what employers are seeking.  “Chicago Booth students are attractive to employers because of their critical thinking and problem solving skills,” she says. “The intellectual rigor and data analysis skills they bring to the tasks at hand are lauded by employers across industries, functions, and geographies.”

Go to next page to see how recruiter scores have changed over the past three years.

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