Explain Academic Snobbery in Hireing to me

I didn’t want to threadshit on the thread regarding Degree mills, in which Shagnasty says…

This is something that I really wonder about. It always seems like there are people who have some steadfast view on schools, what really doesn’t seem to stand up past what I view as brand marketing. For example, in Ohio the OSU business school is frequently ranked in the top 25 Business Schools in the country. What’s odd though, is the schools pass rate for CPA’s isn’t even in the top 3 in the STATE.

Also, it seems like every region has its “private prima donna school” that is supposedly “the place to go”, but outside the area no ones ever heard of. I’ve encountered this “regional” academic snobbery that I find doubly interesting as well.

I am willing to grant the Harvard/Yale/etc argument on the basis of networking, but dropping down below about the top 5 schools on any ranking I question how much difference there really is in the programs.

Finally, I wonder what the corellation is between sports programs and school hireing preferences are?

So, if you are willing to fess up to being an academic snob :smiley: how did you come to that opinion?

It gives the hirer plausible deniability. It is hard to tell whether a new hire will work out, and if they don’t, at least the hirer can say, “Hey, how could I have known. He went to Harvard!”

Academic reputations are kind of a funny thing, and it’d be possible to write a lot about them. But this is specifically about hiring practices (presumably specific to positions that don’t require a graduate degree), so I’ll concentrate on that.

All of the big name schools have pretty rigorous programs that require their graduates to develop skills that are valuable in the working world. Furthermore, if someone’s not cutting it there, they’ll get kicked out. So you have a highly probable guarantee of a certain minimum level of quality from an applicant who comes from a well-known school.

A school you’ve never heard of may have that same quality, but you can’t guarantee that without some research. Ideally all hiring managers would be willing to put the time in to do that research, but realistically some just don’t have the time (which is understandable) and some are too lazy (which is less understandable). As a result, school recognition and prestige are used as a proxy.

With regards to the U of Phoenix specifically, they’re notorious for never kicking anyone out or even failing them. After all, students who are kicked out can’t continue to pay tuition, and those who aren’t completely satisfied might take their business elsewhere.

ETA: Also, most people will react favorably to someone who went to their school. That’s one of the biggest advantages of going to a big name school: they have graduates all over the place, and so your chances of having that bias work out in your favor are better than if you went to a smaller/less well-known school. You see that at the regional level, too–most of the local places to go are generally one of the biggest schools in the area, if not the biggest.

If you’d gone to a better school, you’d know how to spell hiring.


It’s often reported, though, that if you correct for intelligence, the prestige of the school you attend doesn’t affect future earnings. Here is the abstractfor a widely-cited study:

That would seem to indicate that in the long-run, the school you attended doesn’t make so much of a difference (unless, of course, you come from a low-income family).

I went to a nominally “elite” undergrad school and met some of the dumbest people I’ve ever encountered. And a whole lot of brilliant people. But the ratio was skewed in favor of the geniuses.

For grad school, I went to a vastly larger run-of-the-mill school. While there I encountered some brilliant people. And some dumb people. The ratio was a bit more even.

In my entirely subjective opinion, your odds of randomly selecting a brilliant person are better at the elite institutions, but you can still find a dud. Easily. At No Name College you can still find a genius. At the end of the day, college is what you make it, regardless of whether or not Daddy put your name on a new building.

For hiring managers I think it’s an easy way to at least hedge your bet of finding a good hire. At least one company I’ve worked for refused to hire anyone who didn’t come from a high end school. Of course the founders were all MIT grads, so that probably had something to do with it. And they were douchebags.

I went to an excellent and highly-ranked college, but it has lower name recognition because it has no graduate programs. I then went to a graduate program at an Ivy League school. Sometime when I’ve been hired, someone on the committee has commented admiringly on my graduate school. This always makes me laugh because my undergraduate school was rigorous, fair, and very difficult, while the graduate school was run by little despots in their tiny, fear-based kingdoms, and easier than my high school. Evidently a rose with higher name recognition smells sweeter.

That’s what I get for changing the thread title at the last minute (F7 is MY friend):smack:

I think this point is interesting, since I have seen HR managers bring people up based solely on schools for a position that requires 10+ years of experience. I totally understand the “safe bet” position, but I wonder how much is ego driven (We have XXX Ivy League Grads who work at our company!)

A doubly strange example of this was a previous employer, who had their name all over the business school refused to hire students from that school, demanding top 25 b-schools instead of the “local yokels”.

I suspect that having a degree from a top school might give you a short-run advantage, but in promotion, pay raises, etc., performance is going to win out over pedigree. Thus, the advantage doesn’t persist in the long run.

There are also some fields that are small enough that if you keep up with the literature, you pretty much know who’s doing what how well. So if you get an applicant who went to Foo University and has publications with Professor Bar, you’ll know that they’re probably pretty good.

I think I’ve seen that website.

From what I’ve seen jobhunting in the IT industry, there are three levels of contact in the interviewing process:

  1. Headhunter. This person has a 75-words-or-less description of the job, with a laundry list of skills, and knows absolutely nothing about the work that needs to be done. He bumps this description up against monster.com and careerbuilder.com and emails everybody that has a higher than N% match, N defined by something I don’t know. If you have the right words on your resume, he asks if you’d be interested; saying yes gets you to…

  2. Tech lead. This guy knows what the job is and how it needs to be done. He assumes you’ve got all the right words on your resume, and all he wants to know is whether or not you can really do all that stuff. If he decides you really can do the job, you get to…

  3. HR rep. Doesn’t know a dang thing about the job, but this person wants to find out whether or not the company wants you to work for them. It is at this point that your college education is examined. If you got your degree online while living in your parents’ basement and basically went four years with no human interaction, this will not help you to look like somebody who fits their corporate image. If you went out and saw the sun from time to time and met people and took some art classes and maybe did some stuff in the community, that looks even better. But spending the time in college, an actual place with buildings and stuff that you have to go to, means you spent a minimum acceptable amount of time socializing outside the home with other grownups.

You can also figure you are using the schools to do some pre-selection for you. Chances are, the kid had to show something to even get into a name school.

I think it ridiculous, tho, that someone at the bottom of the class in a top-10 school is considered necessarily more capable that someone at the top of the class from a lesser-rated school.

At my job there is a long history of hiring folks who looked great on paper. But within 5 seconds of meeting them you’d realize they had zero personality and would contribute nothing to the office atmosphere. You really wonder what kind of glasses those interviewers must be wearing.

Also, I’m a lawyer - and I have lots of issues with many aspects of law school and how well it prepares people to be lawyers. The bigger schools wish to present themselves as “national” and intentionally refuse to present too much on specific nuts-and-bolts for any particular jurisdiction. Instead, they teach “how to think like a lawyer” and any practical knowledge comes through on-the-job training. In fact, if a school has too much clinical training, that can be a basis for losing accreditation.

In my experience, many of the hardest working most effective lawyers I’ve known got their degrees from lesser rated schools, often getting their degrees at night and such.

Not so much as you might think. Your degree is the major factor in deciding where you get your first job, and your experience is the major factor in deciding where you get all subsequent ones. If you start out at McKinsey or Goldman Sachs, you have a lot more options than if you start out at some local software house.

I work in industrial R&D. I have seen no small amount of academic nepotism in various groups at my workplace. Having done one’s doctoral research under the same advisor as the hiring manager is almost a guaranteed shoe-in. The next best thing is having gone to the same school. Beyond that there’s favoritism toward schools that are known to have good graduate programs for chemistry.

Those of us without graduate schooling are left to chance, as we couldn’t possibly know anything of substance anyway.

In doing the initial winnowing, you can bet that on average someone who got into Harvard is smarter than someone who got into Podunk U, and thus is worth a look. I doubt you are right about the bottom of the class, though. A bad GPA is going to hurt no matter where you go.

All the companies I’ve worked for had selected schools to recruit from, based in part on the quality of the departments we cared about. It’s a lot easier to get noticed if the recruiter comes to you.

And there is a difference between student populations, which no doubt affects the level and kinds of classes taught. I’ve TAed at both the University of Illinois and the University of Louisiana (USL back then.) The U of I undergrads slewed much smarter - I had some scarily smart kids in my classes. At USL I had one kid who got data structures. At the U of I our test questions were mostly open ended. At USL people expected multiple choice. I actually chose not to go into academics because the shock of discovering that I’d probably have to teach dumb people, which was no doubt a good decision for all concerned.

Absolutely. There is a halo effect from some schools and companies. I’ve been the beneficiary of this in lots of ways. Not in hiring but in selling, saying we were from Bell Labs opened a lot of doors to us in Japan.

The basic theory is that if you were really so smart and talented and driven, you would have gone to an elite college.

Also, don’t think everything is about grades and studying (although that’s very important). There is also a social and political dynamic that one needs to learn to be successful in corporate America.

Forget software as that is a secondary support function at McKinsey and Goldman. If you want a career as a management consultant (McKinsey) or an investment banker (Goldman Sachs) at all, you generally need to start out at those companies as one of their college hire analysts. And they tend to only hire at their pre-selected list of mostly Ivy League and elite colleges.

If you don’t get that entry level experience there, it’s very difficult if not impossible for you to get in anywhere else.

You generally want to be in the top 50 or so undergraduate colleges and top 15 -20 or so business school programs otherwise it doesn’t matter. I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale but my school is rated as one of the top for alumni networking.

Both my undergrad and grad school were of the “private prima donna school” that is supposedly “the place to go”, but outside the area no ones ever heard of" types. The difference between people from those schools and people from plain ole schools you never heard of is that we fundamentally believe if you didn’t hear of our school, the problem is you and it doesn’t matter since you wouldn’t have gotten in.

I understand the theory, but then I think of the practical counter-example: who is the only President to hold degrees from both Harvard and Yale? :eek: