The MBA Programs Recruiters Love

Columbia University - Ethan Baron photo

Columbia University – Ethan Baron photo


In measuring recruiter sentiment, Bloomberg Businessweek uses a methodology that diverges from U.S. News. Unfortunately, it also contains the same fatal flaw, with its own methodology noting that it is predicated on assessing “how well these schools’ graduates performed on specific qualities important to them when they recruit MBAs.” Translation: Recruiters are basing their scoring on their unique expectations and needs, making scoring inherently inconsistent between firms.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s recruiter scores include two components: “average rating (a measure of the school’s quality in the eyes of recruiters); and the sum of ratings it receives (a measure of the school’s reach).” Although Businessweek’s sample may include multiple recruiters from the same firm, they apply an index score based on the number of MBAs they hired and the size of the firm to better reflect the impact of each firm on full-time MBA recruiting as a whole.


Transparency is a hallmark of Bloomberg Businessweek’s recruiter ranking—to an extent, at least. It notes that its survey was completed by 1,461 recruiters at 672 firms (which amounts to an 8.6% response rate). This transparency also filters into which recruiters participate. Unlike U.S. News, Bloomberg Businessweek addresses alumni recruiters who evaluate their alma maters. Since alumni “tended to rate their own school significantly more favorably than non-alumni who rated the school,” they were excluded from scoring their alma maters (though their evaluations were used for specific skills and reach).

Bloomberg Businessweek also discloses the sources of its responses, with the leading industries being financial services (21.9%), consulting (20.9%), and technology (14.9%). At times, Bloomberg Businessweek even breaks scoring down by industries, even using a five point scale. For example, the University of Washington earned the highest consulting score at 4.4, though this was based on five responses. Contrast that to Harvard, which notched a 3.4 off 249 responses. That said, as noted earlier, school rankings also factor in variables beyond industry. Notably, recruiters also score programs on particular skill sets in Bloomberg Businessweek. For example, Booth produced one of the highest scores in any category with a 4.1 in analytical thinking, with other schools faring better in creating problem-solving (Vanderbilt), decision-making (Dartmouth), and entrepreneurship (Stanford).

As a result, the only way to compare recruiter opinion between the U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek rankings is through their ranking as a whole.  The results both confirm and challenge conventional wisdom. Exhibit A: Stanford ranks just 14th among recruiters with Bloomberg Businessweek, compared to 3rd with U.S. News. Why? For one, Stanford ranked well below its peer schools in consulting (a 3.3. vs. a 3.83 at Booth or 3.6 at MIT). Its 3.55 score in financial services also lagged behind schools like Booth, Kellogg and Darden. Despite this, Stanford topped all comers in the consumer products and tech fields. Tuck also ranked 12 spots lower on Bloomberg Businessweek than U.S. News, with its Achilles heel coming in consulting (a middling 3.39, which was actually just a hundredth shy of Harvard Business School in this category).

Kenan-Flagler MBA students participate in Habitat for Humanity

Kenan-Flagler MBA students participate in Habitat for Humanity

Columbia Business School was the big winner in Bloomberg Businessweek’s rankings by ranking third, a spot above Harvard Business School and eight spots better than its performance in U.S. News.  CBS’ secret was scoring at or above average in consulting, financial services, and consumer products. Other big winners on the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking include Virginia Darden (+6 over U.S. News), Carnegie Mellon (+6), University of the North Carolina (+6), USC Marshall (+9) and the University of Washington (+47).

Not surprisingly, the University of Texas-Dallas, SUNY Buffalo, and the University of St. Louis all ranked far lower among Bloomberg Businessweek recruiters, with the latter not even finishing among the 74 full-time MBA programs that it ranked. The University of Texas (-11), Emory (-10), Washington University (-23), Vanderbilt (-24), and Rice (-10) also performed worse on Bloomberg Businessweek’s more expansive methodology.

One potential culprit is lower scoring by the recruiters used by Bloomberg Businessweek. Among the 14 skill sets evaluated by Bloomberg Businessweek, which each included up to 68 schools, an average score of 4.0 or better was conferred just eight times. Compare that the U.S. News rankings, where 16 schools managed a collective score of 4.0. Among industries, recruiters responding to Bloomberg Businessweek were also hesitant to confer high marks, with just two schools managing an average of 4.0 or better in consulting, with just one each in consumer products and technology and none in financial services.

To see how school recruiter rankings compare between Bloomberg Businessweek and U.S. News, go to the next page.

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