Of American graduate business schools, the Yale School of Management has placed the highest percentage of its graduates in jobs, despite the recession, according to a report published in BusinessWeek magazine last week.

The report is based on data released each fall that describe the percentage of graduates placed in a job within three months of graduation. Ninety-two percent of the SOM class of 2009 found a job in that time frame, falling only slightly from 98 percent in 2008. By this measure, Yale bested schools that traditionally place higher in BusinessWeek’s annual rankings of “The Best U.S. Business Schools,” including the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Harvard Business School and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. And signing bonuses for SOM graduates opposed industry trends, increasing by 15 percentage points over 2008 levels.

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The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, ranked fourth in BusinessWeek’s report, was one of the hardest hit schools, and ranked 23rd in job placement, according to BusinessWeek. Wharton has a strong tradition of placement in finance jobs, the article said, which is likely a fundamental reason for its plunge in job placement. With the collapse of the financial services industry in particular, these recruiters have been hiring fewer students across the board, according to an article last spring in the Wall Street Journal.

Twenty-one percent of 2009 Wharton graduates did not have jobs three months after their commencement, a steep increase from 3.9 percent in 2007. The BusinessWeek article noted that Yale graduates “emerged almost shockingly unscathed by the financial turmoil” but did not comment on the reasons for this relative success.”

Nearly half of Wharton MBA graduates went into finance in 2008, compared to only 36 percent of Yale SOM graduates.

Instead of finance, SOM places greater emphasis on less traditional career paths. The SOM may have a comparative advantage over peer schools in such fields, including the environmental, non-profit and governmental sectors, Ivan Kerbel ’96, director of the SOM Career Development Office, said.

“I’ve been impressed by SOM students’ very broad range of abilities and interests, and by the ability of the MBA program to deliver an education that incorporates not only the ‘hard skills’ needed by business managers but also a greater quotient of the policy, regulatory, and environmental and social impact dimensions of modern business,” Kerbel said in an e-mail.

But Kerbel attributed the success of SOM graduates to a variety of factors, including “alternative recruiting methods,” such as webcast interviews between students and prospective employers and career workshops led by employers in specialized fields. He said SOM Dean Sharon Oster’s “direct appeal” to alumni was effective, citing the over 60 responses. Some alumni even responded with information about job openings at their organizations, he said.

Still, SOM continues to lag behind peer schools in overall rankings. In the 2008 annual report of business schools compiled by BusinessWeek, SOM ranked 24th, while the business schools of the University of Chicago, Harvard, Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania comprised the top four. And the 2009 median starting salary ($96,000) for SOM graduates remains below those of graduates from each of these schools, all of which are at or above $100,000.

Nevertheless, SOM students said they remain optimistic about finding a job. Leandro Margulis SOM ’10 said he has successfully secured multiple interviews, in contrast with last year’s graduating class, which he said he observed to have struggled to obtain interviews.

“Last year there was a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “[Employers] were interviewing but not necessarily hiring. This year they know they have to hire because they didn’t hire enough last year. So it’s an encouraging picture.”

Some second-year students already have offers from employers at successful summer internships, they said. But internships do not guarantee job placement, Antonina Tarassiouk SOM ’11 said, explaining that some students must now begin building new connections with other organizations.

Kerbel said the class of 2010 had 100 percent internship placement last summer.

And students in the first-year class at the School of Management are already thinking about getting internships for this coming summer, Tarassiouk said.

“[Advisers and faculty members] make you think of jobs from the first day,” she said. “Since orientation, actually.”

First year students begin interviewing for summer internships in January, and the process continues through May.