The simplest way to judge the quality of a business school’s ability to put you into a great job is to look over the starting salaries and the percentage of a class with jobs at graduation and three months later. Those numbers are widely published by all of the best schools every year and widely examined by MBA applicants.
But what those numbers fail to tell you is how satisfied MBAs from each of those schools are with the number and quality of firms recruiting on their campuses and how they feel about the effort made by each school’s career management office. As discerning customers of the service, graduating MBAs view and judge their placement offices more completely than a starting salary or a placement stat.
Those MBA customers would consider how well prepped they were for a job search, how helpful the school was in getting them an internship, how easy it was to get on the interview schedules of the companies they most wanted to work for, how successful the office was in linking them with key alumni for job placement, and ultimately whether they landed the dream job they really wanted–rather than just a job to pay off their loans. That’s what starting salary and placement numbers can’t tell you.
JUDGING THE PERFORMANCE OF A SCHOOL’S CAREER MANAGEMENT CENTER
So the opinions of people most qualified to make them—graduating MBAs—is a far better indication of the performance of a career center than school-reported data. Several media brands that rank schools and survey graduates collect this information, but none has done this as long and as thoroughly as BusinessWeek, which has been in the MBA rankings game since 1988, much longer than any other ranking brand.
Every other year since then for the past 24 years, BusinessWeek has surveyed the graduating classes of dozens of the top business schools in the world and then handed out grades on how the career centers meet the expectations of MBAs. Schools that win an “A” grade, or in latter years an “A+,” are those that are in the top 20th percentile of all the institutions whose graduates are surveyed by BusinessWeek.
What we’ve done for this analysis is to examine the data over the entire 24-year period from the magazine’s inaugural ranking in 1988 to its latest list in 2010. All told, our findings are based on the opinions of 83,099 responding MBAs—a powerful and impressive number of satisfaction impressions. By looking at the outcome of a dozen surveys over those 24 years, we’re able to filter out odd results that can occur in a single year due to any number of factors, from low sample rates to cheerleading campaigns organized by students or their schools.
THE UNDISPUTED WINNER: NORTHWESTERN’S KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
The winners? Only one business school’s career management center has been able to land in the top 20th percentile in MBA graduate satisfaction for each of BusinessWeek’s surveys over the 24-year span: Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. This is an awesome achievement, a record of consistency that showed a career center’s staff ability to overcome economic ups and downs as well as changing student expectations.
And at Kellogg at least it’s a level of success made even more difficult because of the school’s unusually broad appeal to a large number of industries and companies. A recent strategic study by Northwestern, for example, found that most of Kellogg’s competitors get 80% of their job offers from just 18 to 20 firms, largely the McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan/Chase crowd. In contrast, at Kellogg there are some 200 companies that offer jobs to 80% of the school’s MBA students, according to Kellogg Dean Sally Blount. Cultivating relationships with that large and broad a range of corporate recruiters is difficult enough. Getting them to come to campus and actively recruit your students is another thing. And finally, assuring that your graduates believe the career center is really working hard for them over such a long period of time is a big deal.
WHARTON AND BOOTH’S CAREER CENTERS SCORE HIGHLY IN STUDY
The top schools after Kellogg? Wharton and Chicago Booth are next, having achieved a 20th percentile rate of satisfaction 10 out of 12 times. Four schools are next tied for earning A grades in seven of the 12 surveys: Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Duke University’s Fuqua School, Virginia’s Darden School, and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
Harvard and Columbia Business School reached this “A” standard in half of the surveys, six of 12. Not a bad record at all, though you might have expected HBS to nail this measure. One possible reason: The expectations of its graduates are so high they are often difficult to meet or exceed.
This year, when BusinessWeek surveys MBA graduates once again for the 13th time, Kellogg will face an unusual test. For the first time in 17 years, its career management center will be run by a newcomer. Roxanne Hori, the highly successful director at Kellogg, was recently promoted to associate dean of corporate partnerships. Michael Malone, who had been at Columbia Business School as director of career education and advising, succeeded Hori in the post effective Jan. 30th. Obviously, he has very big shoes to fill.