The subject of MBA rankings comes up a lot with b-school applicants. We’re always surprised by the extreme interest in rankings, which are, after all, rather fleeting. You may have your sights set on the “No. 1” business school. But a decade from now, that same stellar program might have slipped to number 10.
Make sure you’re looking at the data points that are important to your own career path when determining the value of a particular ranking. However, know that if you aspire to a highly competitive position in banking or consulting, a potential employer will likely give an advantage to an applicant from one of the elite schools. That’s the reality of the game.
Recruiters’ view of MBA rankings
Despite periodic grumblings over the value of the various MBA rankings, a recent article by Seb Murray in BusinessBecause supports the notion that corporate recruiters still consider them a valuable tool. Keith Bevans, global head of consultant recruiting for Bain & Company, tells Murray that they use rankings to determine which business schools to invest resources into, such as on-campus recruiting.
“We use rankings at a macro rather than micro level,” Bevans explains. Rankings provide an initial guide, but the rest comes down to the appropriateness of each individual candidate. It’s worth noting that Bain hired over 500 consultants in 2018 and plans to expand on that figure this year.
The schools’ view of MBA rankings
UV Darden School of Business‘s assistant dean for career services, Jeff McNish, points to another value of MBA rankings. McNish tells BusinessBecause that rankings are among the only ways recruiters can assess the quality of an MBA cohort. This matters because much of the learning at business school happens during case discussions among students.
Along those lines, Columbia Business School‘s former dean Glenn Hubbard once noted that it’s human nature to want to experience the best of anything. But Hubbard suggested that applicants take a closer look at the students of the programs they are targeting as they come up with their shortlist of schools.
“It’s in the student network that you will find the metrics that matter for assessing any business school: inputs and outputs,” he explained.
Employers want the best employees money can buy. Hubbard said students will receive good job offers if the job market believes they have received a valuable education.
“Schools that routinely graduate classes at full or near-full employment, with good job satisfaction, have reason to believe they’re receiving a vote of confidence from the market,” he said.
SBC’s view of MBA rankings
We don’t like to encourage clients to focus too heavily on rankings when they’re making their MBA program selections. In fact, placing a heavy emphasis on rankings can actually become a distraction for some applicants. Applicants would do well to focus more on a program’s culture, size, or the strength of its alumni network.
If you’re a prospective MBA, you should decide the factors that will play a role in where you apply. Consider cost, location, program specialties, faculty’s areas of expertise and so on. Keep these factors in mind as you research specific programs. This will help you home in on the ones that are your best fit.
Most likely, your list will contain a few under-the-radar programs that aren’t at the top of the rankings—provided, of course, that reputation isn’t the only factor that matters to you.