How Employers Rank The Best Biz Programs

The favorite: Indiana University's Kelley School of Business

The favorite: Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business

It’s a great time to be a business major!

That’s what the 2014 employer surveys indicate. In a March survey from CareerBuilder, 39 percent of employers wanted to hire business majors, the highest among all disciplines. According to a spring survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), nearly 70 percent of 161 participating companies were targeting business majors in 2014.

Still, it isn’t easy being young, even if you’re in demand. Sure, graduates are cheap labor who can be molded before they grow too set in their ways. Make no mistake: Employers harbor reservations about hiring graduates. And that sentiment was around long before Gen-Yers picked up their first gadgets.

Why Companies Are Wary of Graduates

So let’s get it all out in the open, shall we? We hear the same refrains with every generation: “Graduates lack job skills.” “They’re not prepared.” And let’s not forget: “They weren’t taught what they really needed to know.” You read it in survey-after-survey and year-after-year: Graduates are mediocre communicators who struggle with working in teams, balancing priorities, going above-and-beyond, and even following directions. Worse of all, they quickly lose their curiosity. As a result, companies are always wondering if their mercenaries (I mean graduates) will jump ship when the first shiny new thing bops along.

Ever manage recent graduates? Then, you’ve probably grumbled about how they expect someone else to come up with solutions and act. Not to mention, many fail grasp that their job is (in essence) to serve others and generate revenue.  In the workplace, they struggle to find that balance, to persuade without selling and influence without dictating. And those skills can only be developed over time (and with great patience at the frontline).

Of course, employer criticism has only accelerated with Gen-Y. And that criticism can be summed in one word: Entitled. Ah, how quickly they forget! What generation of graduates didn’t charge into the workforce thinking they knew everything?  Who hasn’t wanted to skip to the front of the line? And who hasn’t carried a vision for themselves greater than their entry level job? “Pay your dues?” “Know your place?” “You’re not all that special?” Maybe that’s all true. Fact is, graduates are transitioning into the workforce, still living in the moment and figuring things out.

And once they do…watch out!

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Survey Methodology

Sure, good help is hard to find. But some schools grow talent better than others. When it comes to undergraduate business programs, Bloomberg Businessweek offers a guide to the schools that employers trust. As part of its 2014 business school rankings, Bloomberg Businessweek emailed surveys to companies involved in recruiting undergraduate business students. Restricted to one high level contact per company, 922 employers were contacted, with 301 replying for a 32.6 percent response rate.

As part of the survey, decision-makers evaluated the quality of candidates and track record of hires from particular schools. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “…each employer listed all schools at which they have recruited or attempted to recruit business undergraduates in the last five years. From that list of schools, each employer then ranked up to 20 schools according to their opinion of the quality of their graduates. Schools received points for being ranked by employers—more points for being ranked more highly. Those points were then weighted by the proportion of employers who recruited at a school that ranked a school in the top 20 and by the number of actual hires of undergraduate business students an employer made in 2012 and 2013. The more undergraduate business majors an employer hired, the more its ranking points counted for schools.”

In addition, Bloomberg Businessweek docked points from schools if they received fewer than 15.8 mentions by employers. From there, rankings were compiled by giving a 50 percent weight to the 2014 employer assessments and a 25 percent weights each to employer assessments from 2012 and 2013. Employer opinion accounts for 20 percent of a program’s overall score.

The Most Popular Schools 

So which schools scored the highest among employers? That honor goes to Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, which maintained its #1 ranking from the previous year. Kelley, which jumped five spots to #8 overall in the overall undergraduate rankings, maintained its A+ placement grade. However, its average starting salary – $55,000 – remained the same as the previous year.

So what’s Kelley’s secret? Although Bloomberg Businessweek doesn’t share comments from recruiters, the student feedback they publish sheds light on what makes Kelley so attractive to employers. For starters, several students lauded the school’s career services office for its outreach, which one student said, “…could not have done a better job finding opportunities for internships and full time positions.” Others mentioned the program’s emphasis on ‘teamwork,” real-world applicability,” and “technology.” Such terms are certain to grab the attention of employers, with Ernst & Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Macy’s being the top consumers of Kelley talent.

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