By Peter Walker for CNN
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(CNN) -- The main objective of most people studying for an MBA is to improve their job prospects.
So, when deciding which business school to target, who better to ask than the recruiters?
That is the rationale behind the newly-released Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive ranking of business schools, which is compiled on the ratings of more than 4,000 corporate MBA recruiters.
As well as ranking schools, the survey provides a series of other nuggets of information for students and institutions alike -- for example that recruiters see honesty as the most important leadership characteristic, followed by accomplishing goals, working in a team and inspiring others.
"Our study provides schools with an in-depth understanding of recruiter perceptions towards business school talent, and the characteristics they consider most important when hiring graduates," said Beth Forbes of Harris.
"Over the six years that we've conducted the business schools study, we have seen many schools use the results to help them strengthen their position in the marketplace."
The study puts some familiar heavyweight names at the top of the list, but also highlights the sterling work done in some lesser-known institutions.
The survey gives three separate rankings -- for national US business schools, regional US schools and international ones.
Of the 19 national MBA programs assessed -- many of which share the same blue chip recruiters in the eastern United States -- University of Michigan's Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, ranked top again.
Michigan edged out fellow top five members Dartmouth College, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia University and Berkeley, thanks to recruiters' top ratings for its students' ability to work well within teams, analytical and problem-solving skills and their overall well-roundedness.
The program was also praised for an emphasis on practical experience, meaning employers are confident Michigan graduates can connect theory with practice.
Closer to home
The separate ranking of 51 regional schools, which assessed feedback from recruiters who generally work within a network of schools that are geographically close, threw up some lesser-known names.
Top spot went to Thunderbird's Garvin School of Management in Glendale, Arizona, with students highly rated for international knowledge and experience, well-roundedness, ability to work well within teams, strategic thinking and work ethic.
The next four spots were taken respectively by Ohio State University, Brigham Young University in Utah, Purdue University in Indiana and Michigan State.
On average, the regional programs tend to receive more positive ratings than national schools, and also, unsurprisingly, enjoy generally closer relationships with their recruiters.
A total of 24 international schools were assessed by recruiters; nine from the United States, nine in Europe, three Canadian and three Latin American.
ESADE, in Barcelona Spain, was ranked first, receiving praise for its socially responsible ethos among other things. Its students come from around 30 countries, only a quarter of them from Spain.
The next four spots were taken by the Swiss-based IMD, Mexico's IPADE, London Business School and then Thunderbird again, which packs students from 50 countries into its campus.
The poll saw 4,125 MBA recruiters who hire full-time business school graduates rate schools with which they had recent experience. In all , more than 5,500 ratings were received, and schools needed a minimum of 20 to feature in a list.
ESADE school in Barcelona was top ranked aming international recruiters.
FACT BOXFT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006
FACT BOXEMBA SNAPSHOT
Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.
A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.
A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.