IS LINKEDIN TRULY ACCURATE?
Second, the nature of Linkedin itself is troublesome. The ranking’s accuracy rests on self-reported information from Linkedin users. According to a 2012 study co-sponsored by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 46% of resumes contain false information. CareerBuilder found the number to be around 30%. Either way, does Linkedin have a mechanism to ferret out inaccurate data? And are Linkedin users more honest than the general public?
The latter is possible considering that Linkedin is a public forum. But using profiles also brings up another potential issue. Were all of the profiles that Linkedin pulled up-to-date? While college graduates are logically more inclined to maintain a Linkedin account, you can bet that there are outliers who don’t use it (with Linkedin adding two new users per second, that number is obviously dwindling). In other words, Linkedin profile accuracy and timeliness are – to be charitable – a work-in-progress.
U.S. News’ rankings are often criticized for placing 40% of its weight on assessment scores from academics and recruiters. The Linkedin ranking is an example of why relying strictly on vaguely quantifiable data is a fool’s errand. In these rankings, there is no mechanism to measure the “quality” of the educational experience in particular business programs. This may include the curriculum, career services, networking, clubs and activities, and teaching quality. Of course, plenty of non-business majors filter into business-related jobs, no different than any other field. Even if Linkedin ranks the “best undergraduate schools” overall, their rankings don’t necessarily reflect the “best business programs.” Big difference. The same is true of “desirable companies,” where a quick look at Glassdoor reviews and ratings can give professionals a clearer picture of a firm’s culture and direction.
And here’s a final flaw…and a fatal one at that. According to Inside Higher Education, Linkedin’s “top 25 lists include filters for the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.” In other words, the top universities from Europe, Asia, and Australia have been shut out. In fact, not one Canadian or British program appears in any top 20 list for marketing, accounting, finance, or investment banking. Seems pretty suspicious, doesn’t it?
By relying heavily on quantifiable data, Linkedin falls into a common rankings trap, where certain schools maintain a built-in advantage based on location. For example, 12 of the top 16 financial programs are found in a swath that stretches from Boston to Washington DC (and investment banking reflects a similar trend). In other words, it may not be what you teach, but where you’re located that ultimately determines a school’s ranking with Linkedin.
EXCEPTIONAL NETWORKING TOOL
So is this outcome-driven ranking worth a serious look? Consider it a first draft – and a decent one at that. While Linkedin’s rankings require some serious tinkering, they reflects a genuine and helpful effort. Not to mention, Linkedin’s sheer volume of data – and its ability to map careers as they progress – make it the ranking to watch.
However, the rankings excel where Linkedin does its best work: Networking. For example, click on a ranked school and you’ll get a list of the top employers for schools in various disciplines. If you’re a Linkedin member, the school profiles also include 1st and 2nd connections, giving students an opening to connect with potential employers and mentors. The profiles even include a list of alumni with similar careers, another helpful tool for reaching out.
If you dig deeper, you’ll also find where alumni in particular specialties live; where they work; what they do in the jobs; and which skills they possess. You can even organize alumni by year of graduation to narrow your search. Even if the rankings are flawed, the data behind them is extremely valuable for choosing schools and identifying employment targets.
To see Linkedin’s rankings of the top undergraduate schools for accounting, finance, investment banking, and marketing schools, continue to the next pages.