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Recruiting Intelligence

How Can Your Institution Compensate For Rank-o-Mania?

The season of new ranking releases will be upon us again soon. Admission departments worry that their school's U.S. News & World Report ranking will be lowered and student, faculty, and alumni will let their displeasure be known. 

And you know, that your work will be slighly easier or harder in the coming recruiting year based on your ranking. 

In the international markets, especially in Asia, rankings (unfortunately) seem to matter as much, if not more than in the domestic U.S. market.  Survey and anecedotal data confirms that fact. Chart 1 shows the survey data collected by Grok International from 100 Chinese families. Program ranking and school reputation (a rather amorphous concept for a survey) rank highest in importance for these families

Interestlingly co-op or internship opportunities was the third most important criteria. If you correlate that fact with the desired outcomes in Chart  2, which refers to employment in the United States or China, income levels and stability of income, you can start thinking about developing a long-term strategy to counter balance our "rank-o-mania."

Education is not unique in our need to prioritize and select services. We all look for easy criteria to evaluate quality in a confusing world of many choices.  Education is a mix of gaining knowledge, personal development, self-actualization and attaching a credential to our learnings that our external world will use to choose us for future opportunities. 

All admission departments rely on the personal strength and hard work of their admission staff through connections and relationship building skills. Unfortunately, the personal touch will get you only so far. Institutions rely on their prior accomplishments and need to build and showcase new accomplishments. 

  • Continued active brand building in your geographic target areas (and/or targeted professional communities).
  • Personal introductions to alumni, current students and even their parents (in particular in international markets) 
  • Build strong relationships with alumni and the admission department
  • Build stronger partnerships with future employers to benefit your students   

And, yes, any smart admission and marketing department will showcase whatever ranking you have available to demonstrate your value proposition and outcome. 

Northeastern University accomplished one of the most professionally managed processes of growing an institutional brand, market position and ranking. The institution built on their tradition and strength in experiential learning and extensive co-op programs. If you are interested in their reflection on success, here is a link a recent presentation on their planning process and thinking.  

Northeastern University Case Study

Please register here, if you would like to receive access to the video of the key note presentation made by Philly Mantella at the 2014 Intead Global Marketing Workshop.


Senior university leadership and admission departments need to drive strong efforts in universities that incorporate building relationships with future employers. Faculty offer the opportunity for mutually beneficial contacts. Alumni are key in that effort as well since they are your external allies with a vested interest to make your school and their alma mater more successful.  No alumnus in the world wants to see their school suffer or go out of business. 

The admission department alone needs to be a professionally managed advocate, marketing and recruiting organization, but in the end they are marketing faculty, community and educational outcomes that they have little influence in the short-term and depend greatly on the strength of the institution. 

Chart 1


Chart 2 


Source:  Grok, Webinar SanamS4 July 2014