On the heels of a four-spot jump last spring in the U.S. News and World Report Magazine’s business school rankings, the Yale School of Management shocked the business world early this summer by landing a third-place finish in the Wall Street Journal’s first annual graduate business program rankings.

The Journal accorded its top three slots to Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, and Yale SOM, business schools which BusinessWeek magazine ranked 16th, 14th, and 19th respectively in its most recent rankings. The newspaper’s ranking methodology conferred relatively low rankings to traditional powerhouses Harvard Business School, Wharton School of Business and Stanford Business School.

“The Wall Street Journal rating put us in the limelight of the business community,” School of Management Dean Jeffrey Garten said. “And my guess is that over time, the Wall Street Journal will become the principal place to look for ratings, because it’s read by so many people.”

But many members of the business community are taking the Journal’s unorthodox ranking methodology with a grain of salt, said Jonathan Jacobson, a director of public finance at Standard & Poor’s.

The major point of controversy is that the Journal’s rankings relied primarily on feedback from recruiters, rather than adopting a more holistic approach like BusinessWeek or U.S. News and World Report.

Ingrid Dev, a senior marketing manager at Charles Schwab Inc., said that firms like investments banks and consulting firms tend to fare well at SOM because the Harvards and the Stanfords attract more entrepreneurs and students who want to run their own companies. At Yale, she said a higher percentage of graduates are willing to go into banking or consulting.

“I think it is definitely biased, and puts Yale at an advantage,” Dev said.

Jacobson agreed that relying heavily on recruiter opinions could produce skewed results.

“The School of Management has devoted a lot of attention to its career development activities the past few years,” he said. “That’s why you’ve seen such strong feedback from recruiters. It’s made a great difference in recruiter’s lives.”

But Garten disagreed that the simplistic nature of the newspaper’s approach necessarily detracted from the legitimacy of the results.

“I think that the Wall Street Journal did something rather exceptional in its simplicity,” he said. “Other surveys go through gyrations to measure every micro-detail of incoming students.”

In specific department-by-department ratings, Yale failed to receive a top-four spot under accounting, finance, or any other academic discipline, fields dominated by the traditional business school giants. But Yale students ranked third in “communication and interpersonal skills,” second-best in “past success with quality of graduates hired” and “ability to work well within a team.”

Regardless of the controversy over the rankings, earning bronze from the Journal has conferred its share of perks on Yale’s program.

“It has had a massive effect on the business community,” Garten said. “We’re on the receiving end of new employers who are interested in our students, and so many new CEOs who want to visit our school.”