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Wall Street Journal ranks colleges on recruiting

Laura McCrystal | Friday, September 24, 2010

Job recruiters ranked Notre Dame No. 22 for producing the most well-prepared and likely to succeed graduates, according to The Wall Street Journal’s new ranking system for undergraduate colleges and universities.


Penn State topped the list of 25 schools released last week. Notre Dame was one of only six private universities listed in this new ranking system, and one of six schools ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s top 25 national universities.


Jennifer Merritt, who led the project as The Wall Street Journal’s careers editor, said many college rankings look at the caliber of students who enter the schools, but not as they graduate and look for jobs. Merritt and her colleagues worked for six months surveying recruiters based on what they look for when they hire new college graduates.


“The impetus for it really was that we wanted to figure out who was hiring, where they were hiring and why,” Merritt said. “Other rankings and studies look at things like SAT scores and GPAs … And we decided to look at the other end of the equation, which is really, really important to people these days.”


Merritt said they asked recruiters to measure students’ academic preparedness, ability to adapt quickly to a new job and ability to succeed in companies. According to the report, 479 recruiters completed the survey.

Lee Svete, director of Notre Dame’s Career Center, said he was surprised when he first saw the Wall Street Journal’s rankings.


“My first reaction was ‘we’re 22?’ We should be higher than that,” Svete said.

Since last week, Svete said he has received phone calls from career counselors at Duke University, Stanford University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.


“They asked how we made the list,” he said.


When he realized that other elite universities were not on this list, however, he said his surprise turned to elation that Notre Dame was ranked.


Merritt said she was also surprised by the survey’s outcome, especially by companies’ preference for larger state schools.


“I expected that some of the common wisdom would be debunked, however I didn’t expect that to be sort of as extreme as it was,” Merritt said.


The surveys showed that the private universities that did make the list, however, represented a combination of preparedness and other qualities, Merritt said. Notre Dame ranked highly because recruiters reported a commitment to integrity and ethics in its students.


“Comments included things about the graduates being both academically prepared and able to sort of jump in and contribute quickly at companies, but also — things that Notre Dame is kind of famous for — having a really ethical approach to the way they carry themselves and do business,” Merritt said.


These qualities are typical of Notre Dame students, but may have also hurt Notre Dame in the overall ranking process, Svete said. For example, Notre Dame students pursue diverse career options, including graduate school and postgraduate service opportunities. Around 200 graduating seniors enter service programs, which Svete said limits the number of graduates seeking employment.


“We’re different,” he said. “Our graduates want to make a difference in the world in which they work. And that difference and that commitment to faith and community in a residential, Catholic institution, there’s different priorities. And there’s different values.”


For Svete, the size of a university also plays a large role. Notre Dame is the third smallest school on The Wall Street Journal’s list, larger than only Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University.


“Our size of institution, if you go with pure numbers of placement of graduates in all kinds of fields … we will not have the quantity that Penn State has,” Svete said.


The Wall Street Journal’s research also found companies to prefer hiring students out of their intern pool, as well as a decreasing desire for liberal arts majors, Merritt said.


Svete said Notre Dame Arts and Letters students who have internships do not face difficulty in their job search because internships serve as training experience. He did, however, agree with the finding that internships often lead to job opportunities.


“Our initial impression is [Arts and Letters students] are very impressive in the job market right now,” he said.


Merritt said the ranking list, which is on the Careers section of the Wall Street Journal’s website along with other information about job recruiting and career paths, marked the first time the newspaper focused on the job hiring process for new college graduates.


“It got a lot of response,” she said. “We had more than a million page views for this and all the components of this in the first day and a half.”