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With some 13,000 graduate schools of business across the globe, the MBA

degree has clearly become a commodity.

Even among elite schools, courses and case studies are pretty much water from
the same well (i.e., finance, operations, marketing, accounting). So how do you
choose? By using the rankings? Which ones? The Economist's? Businessweek's?
The Financial Times'? And if you do, how do you tell the difference between a
school ranked No. 6 and a school ranked No. 7?

Don't ask us. Don't ask the schools, either. Their slick brochures try to be
everything to everybody, and in the process they obscure rather than illuminate.

Conventional wisdom will tell you that Harvard is for Fortune 500 jobs, Wharton
for Wall Street, Kellogg for marketing and Insead for multinational entities.
There's truth to some of it, but times change, and so do employers' recruiting
preferences. The smartest move might be to choose your business school by
focusing on a very specific outcome and, assuming a good fit personally, going
to the one with an impressive record of helping students achieve the same.

If You Want to Work at Amazon

Go to: Ross School of Business (University of Michigan)

This might come as a surprise: Amazon regularly hires more MBAs from top-10
business schools than big Wall Street firms. And its demand is surging: In 2014,
Amazon hired 40 percent more MBAs than it did in 2013, a large chunk of them
from Ross. The e-commerce giant hired 27 MBAs from Michigan last year,
displacing Ross' historical No. 1 recruiter, Deloitte Consulting, and 37 the
previous two years.

The most senior Ross graduate at Amazon is Peter Faricy, class of 1995 and vice
president of Amazon Marketplace. Faricy says that while Ross graduates have
traits common to most MBAs - analytic ability and problem-solving skills - some
curriculum-related offerings are particularly well suited to Amazon. One course
takes students into the field to solve a problem for a sponsoring company. Last
year, Amazon was home to three teams. Faricy worked on one while at Ross,
using multilinear regressions to help executives at Target understand employee
turnover; the experience, he said, opened his eyes to the importance of deep
Faricy also mentioned desirable soft skills - humility, listening and a hearty work
ethic. Readers of "The Everything Store," Brad Stone's chronicle of the rise of Jeff
Bezos and Amazon, will be aware that Bezos is one of the hardest-working CEOs
in the country, and he surely expects the same of his MBA employees.

If You Want to Work at McKinsey & Co.

Go to: Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern)

For an MBA, landing a job at McKinsey is a bit like trying to get into a competitive
business school all over again. Except the field is much stronger, made up of only
those who managed to pass the first hurdle. But graduates of Kellogg perform
quite well the second time around. The school's MBAs are in demand at elite
consulting firms, which hired 35 percent of its graduates last year, a higher
percentage than at Harvard (23 percent) and Stanford (16 percent).

The top four recruiters at Kellogg in 2014 were McKinsey, Deloitte, Bain and the
Boston Consulting Group. McKinsey alone has hired 215 Kellogg graduates over
the last five years.

Elizabeth Ziegler, associate dean of MBA programs at Kellogg and, more

important, a former partner at McKinsey, says that consulting firms look for two
specific things in MBA graduates: a natural gift for building trust-based
relationships and strong problem-solving skills. The school's pedagogy is based
on a team-based model, which develops the first. And its curriculum stresses the
second, with a particular focus on helping students answer a question McKinsey
consultants grapple with every day on behalf of clients: Do you know what
problem you're actually solving?

The school's emphasis on persona is historic. In the early 1980s, Don Jacobs,
then the dean, had a pioneering idea: Kellogg would interview every single
applicant, assessing qualities like presence and articulateness - interpersonal
skills that just so happen to be the most desired by consultants. The commitment
continues. Today, Ziegler says, no one gets admitted without a successful

If You Want to Work at Apple

Go to: Fuqua School of Business (Duke)

Silicon Valley hasn't always welcomed MBAs. After all, you don't need a graduate
degree to hatch a bold idea in your garage. Steve Jobs, Apple's late chief, didn't
finish college and was known to have disdain for "suits," whether investment
bankers or management consultants. But the company, once the scrappy symbol
of the tech counterculture, has undergone an evolution.

Two of Apple's top 10 executives hail from Fuqua: the chief executive, Timothy D.
Cook, and the senior vice president of operations, Jeff Williams. And they are,
apparently, loyal. Apple has hired 32 Fuqua graduates over the past five years,
while also providing 42 internships for Duke students.

Speaking in 2013 on the occasion of his 25th reunion, Cook stressed to students
that while they should focus first on how to collaborate, they should look to write
their own rules after that, words that might describe the ethos at Apple itself.

If You Want to Work at Procter & Gamble

Go to: Kelley School of Business (Indiana University)

While MBAs don't dream of working at giant consumer products companies the
way they did a few decades ago - today, it's consulting, startups, tech giants or
private equity - one of America's legendary corporate success stories still draws
them in hordes: the 177-year-old Procter & Gamble.

And P&G clearly has a thing for Kelley. The school is its biggest source of brand
managers. Of the 172 Kelley alumni there, the most senior is Marc S. Pritchard,
the chief brand officer, who also sits on Kelley's dean's council. The MBA class
"Marketing Performance and Productivity Analysis" could just as well be called
"Getting You Ready to Work at P&G."

The closeness stretches back to 1950, when the company formed a joint
research project with Dr. Joseph Muhler at Indiana University to develop and test
a new toothpaste - with fluoride. P&G says the connection runs deeper than
marketing, a specialty of Kelley's. Monica Boutchard, P&G's Indiana University
recruiting team leader, who has an undergraduate degree from Kelley, credits
the broad-based curriculum in preparing graduates to be leaders at P.&G., not
just experts in finance or, well, marketing.

There's that, as well as the fact that the university's Bloomington campus is a
mere 125 miles from Procter & Gamble headquarters in Cincinnati. Dean Idalene
Kesner says that Midwestern companies tend to be good fits for Kelley graduates,
as they're looking for talented hard workers who have something sometimes
lacking in their coastal counterparts: the humility to grow.

If You Want to Start Your Own Company

Go to: Harvard Business School

No, the world has not been turned upside down. The substantial resources
Harvard has devoted to its entrepreneurial offerings in recent years are starting
to show real results. By many accounts, Harvard has as strong a claim to being
top startup destination as Stanford does.

Anchored by its Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, the school offers 33
graduate-level entrepreneurship courses, with the second-largest number of
dedicated faculty after finance. But its push reaches well beyond the classroom.
An annual New Venture Competition awards $150,000 in cash plus in-kind prizes.
The school also assists graduates who are pursuing new ventures with loan
reductions of $10,000 to $20,000 - last year, 21 student entrepreneurs received
more than $325,000 through the program. Its biannual entrepreneurial summit
gathers alumni with demonstrated early-stage traction, and an entrepreneurs-in-
residence program invites accomplished founders (and funders) to hold weekly
office hours to advise students.

Rob Biederman, class of 2014, says he entered Harvard Business School pretty
much prepared to go back to Bain Capital, where he had been working in private
equity. But a required first-year course, "Field III," forces students, in teams of six,
to found a company. The professorial advice and an eventual $5,000 in seed
money and free office space on campus gave Biederman startup fever, and he
and his classmates created HourlyNerd - a rent-an-MBA business model to
disrupt the low end of the consulting industry - and had it up and rolling by the
end of their first year. They met Mark Cuban - the Dallas Mavericks owner, who
kicked in $450,000 - when he visited a class, and connected with other investors
through a classmate. (No surprise there: Harvard says that 25 percent of venture
capital partners in the world are HBS alumni, providing significant networking
possibilities.) Recent graduates have also founded the likes of Birchbox, Rent the
Runway and Gilt Groupe.

John A. Byrne, author of eight books on business and founder and editor of Poets
& Quants, a website that covers business education, ranked Harvard No. 1 in his
most recent assessment of startup culture. Stanford's graduates usually raise
more money, he points out, but Harvard grads consistently start more
HBS is so serious about the push that it recently backtracked on a longstanding
policy not to participate in Entrepreneur magazine's ranking of graduate
programs. And the decision had its desired effect: Harvard came in at No. 1 last
year, while Stanford, long considered the entrepreneurial hotbed among MBA
schools, placed fifth.

If You Want to Work in Private Equity

Go to: Stanford Graduate School of Business

Private equity has the most lucrative jobs for MBAs, but also the fewest. "Only a
handful of business schools on the planet can even pretend to open doors in
P.E.," says Matt Symonds, co-author of "ABC of Getting the MBA Admissions
Edge" and a director at Fortuna Admissions, a business school admissions

While East Coast schools would seem an obvious choice given their proximity to
Wall Street, private equity isn't tied to New York in the way investment banking
is, and in recent years Stanford has managed to defy conventional wisdom. Its
graduates' success in landing coveted private equity jobs has proved it is more
than just a recruiting ground for California's technology industry.

In 2014, Stanford put 12 percent of its graduates into private equity jobs, a larger
percentage than Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania (8.5 percent), Booth
at the University of Chicago (5.1 percent) and Columbia (2.4 percent), and a
shade less than Harvard (13 percent). While more Harvard graduates entered the
industry, Stanford's starting salaries last year for private equity were the highest
for any job at any school - ever. Median base salary was $170,000 (compared
with Harvard's $150,000), and signing bonuses plus other guaranteed
compensation took the total take up to $385,000 (compared with Harvard's
$255,000). One lucky 2013 MBA actually received a shocking $522,000 starting

Madhav V. Rajan, the acting dean, points out that Stanford's long heritage in
teaching students how to scale small, fast-growing companies dovetails perfectly
with its more analytical finance courses to prepare students for jobs in private

Several of today's most prominent private equity firms count Stanford graduates
as founders or early hires, including TPG Capital (James Coulter), General Atlantic
(Steven A. Denning, who is chairman of Stanford's board of trustees and a
member of its advisory council) and SPO Partners (John H. Scully, William J.
Patterson and William E. Oberndorf). The legendary finance professor Jack
McDonald has been teaching a fundamental, value-based approach to
investment at Stanford for the better part of two decades.

A recurring guest lecturer: Warren Buffett.

If You Want to Work in the Luxury Goods Industry

Go to: HEC Paris

HEC Paris isn't just about luxury - The Economist named it the top business
school in Europe in 2014, and the fourth best globally - but the school is a no-
brainer for an MBA hellbent on working in the luxury goods industry. Its proximity
to Paris is clearly crucial. Students have the opportunity to visit stores,
workshops and headquarters of a Who's Who of luxury icons, including the
behemoth Kering (Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Brioni, Gucci, Puma), Cartier,
Chanel and Hermes. Named for Kering itself, the five-year-old luxury program is
restricted to just 50 students annually, and those 50 consistently find jobs with
some of the biggest brands in Paris and elsewhere.

HEC graduates include the chief executives of Kering, Balenciaga and L'Oral.
Vincent Bastien, a graduate and CEO of Louis Vuitton from 1988 to 1995, is a
professor in the program as well as co-author of the industry bible, "The Luxury
Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands."

If You Want a Global Education Without Leaving the Country

Go to: Yale School of Management

Edward A. Snyder is reinventing Yale's business school. Soon after his arrival as
dean in 2011, the school created the Global Network for Advanced Management.
The network has since assembled an impressive membership of 27 schools from
five continents, including well-known names (INSEAD, London School of
Economics) as well as lesser-known ones in China (Fudan University School of
Management), the Philippines (Asian Institute of Management), Nigeria (Lagos
Business School) and Turkey (Koc University School of Business).

The consortium has produced joint faculty research and case studies, and
created online courses available only to students at network schools. Students
also have the opportunity to pursue study at another network school - 630 did so
this March.

Those seeking a truly global education always have INSEAD or the London School
of Economics to choose from, but as stand-alone business schools they don't
offer the resources and credential of an Ivy League institution. "The concept of
the network was waiting to happen," Snyder says, "and Yale is a great convener."

Since its establishment in 1976, the Yale School of Management has insisted that
business, government and nonprofit leaders need to better understand one
another, giving the school a distinct public/private flavor. Snyder makes clear:
"We're not abandoning the school's longstanding mission. Environmental
sustainability, for example, is not going to get solved by the government, the
market or the nonprofit sector alone. We're continuing within the frame, but with
a more modern - and more global - view."

If You Want to Change the World

Go to: Presidio Graduate School

The youngest school on this list, Presidio, has been around only 12 years, created
by a lawyer and a former advertising executive who believed that established
schools weren't producing the kind of socially minded graduates the country

Presidio is doing well toward that end. It has placed sustainability directors at
companies from to Facebook, and its graduates have founded
sustainability-focused companies like Muir Data Systems (data management for
the wind turbine industry) and Mission Motors (electric vehicle systems).

They're playing in the big leagues as well. Katie Schmitz Eulitt, who holds an
executive education certificate in sustainable management from the school, is
director of market research for the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, a
large-scale effort to move the field of accounting toward the use of sustainability

The nonprofit organization Net Impact publishes an annual guide to business

school programs, and last year Presidio placed No. 1 in social impact and No. 2 in
environmental sustainability, after the University of California, Santa Barbara.
2015 New York Times News Service