The MBA Programs Recruiters Love

Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley. UC photo

Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley. UC photo


Each year, U.S. News consults with recruiters to formulate their annual rankings. Using their experience at particular full-time MBA programs, recruiters score them on a scale of 1 (Marginal) to 5 (Outstanding). The average is then based on the past three years of results. The beauty of this methodology, of course, is its simplicity. Even more, U.S. News has traditionally targeted recruiting heads to conduct evaluation, meaning each firm has equal representation. However, U.S. News approach comes with several drawbacks. First, using a three year scale —where each year is equally weighed —means that it takes longer to detect shifts in recruiter opinion about programs. U.S. News’ scoring criteria is also so vague that it risks schools being measured against disparate variables, such as cultural fit or technical aptitudes, by different recruiters.

The highest average in U.S. News’ 2017 ranking belonged to Harvard Business School at 4.6. However, recruiter scores are often self-fulfilling prophecies for top-tier schools. In U.S. News, recruiter averages account for 15% of a ranking. As a result, it is little surprise that 9 of the 10 highest-ranked programs also enjoyed the highest averages from recruiters.

University of Texas-Dallas

University of Texas-Dallas

The only anomaly was the University of Texas-Dallas, which punched well above its weight for the second year in a row by ranking alongside the likes of Tuck. The only T7 school to score lower than expected with recruiters was Columbia Business School, whose 4.1 average tied it for 11th alongside stalwarts like Michigan, Duke, Cornell, and Texas. Two surprise entrants, 88th-ranked St. Louis University and 81st-ranked SUNY Buffalo, also crashed the top 20 among recruiters, with St. Louis’ average suspiciously rising from 3.1 to 3.8 in just one year. That contrasts sharply with SUNY Buffalo, which has been competitive, score-wise, for three years now with higher-ranked programs like Washington University, Vanderbilt, and USC.


Wondering which programs are gaining momentum among recruiters? It helps to look three years back to the 2014 recruiter rankings, which don’t include any of the data used for 2017. The big takeaway: recruiters are happier with full-time MBA programs than ever…for the most part.

Take the ten-highest ranked MBA programs, for example. Seven have higher averages than they did three years ago, including Haas and Yale, which each rose from 4.1 to 4.3, and Tuck, which climbed from 4.0 to 4.2. Just Stanford, Wharton, and Columbia had lower marks than 2014 — and a 0.1 point difference at that.

The trend is even more stunning If you dive down into U.S. News’ top 25 schools (26 considering that Rice and Notre Dame tied for 25th). Here, 21 schools have seen their average recruiter scores go up since the 2014 ranking. The biggest gain was made by Rice University, which leaped from a 2.9 to a 3.5. Georgetown enjoyed a similar spurt, going from 3.3 to 3.8. At the same time, Emory and Vanderbilt climbed by 0.4 over the past three rankings, with Texas and Washington University adding 0.3 point to their averages.

Go to the next page to see school recruiter scores from 2006-2017.

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