Recruiters and Schools Value MBA Rankings

MBA rankingsThe 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.

Major MBA Rankings

A snapshot of how MBA programs rank:

School NameUS News 2021US News 2020US News 2019Total EnrollmentGMATGPA
Penn Wharton2131,7087303.6
Northwestern Kellogg3661,3017283.6
Chicago Booth4521,1857263.58
MIT Sloan5458097243.58
Berkeley Haas7675027173.64
NYU Stern1012137907103.51
Virginia Darden1112136787123.5
Dartmouth Tuck1212105677173.53
Duke Fuqua1310118966953.47
Michigan Ross141088017083.44
Cornell Johnson1515155807003.37
UCLA Anderson1616167347153.52
USC Marshall1717214416923.37
Texas McCombs1819175216993.42
Carnegie Tepper1917174286863.3
UNC Kenan-Flagler2019195747003.37
Washington Foster2121222536913.38
Indiana Kelley2321273706703.34
Vanderbilt Owen2429263416913.4
Georgetown McDonough2524255466923.4
Rice Jones2626232266903.42
Georgia Tech Scheller2729281436803.39
Florida Hough2825341006853.43
Minnesota Carlson2935291936753.43

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.

Photo by Rochelle Nicole on Unsplash
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