Friday, May 29, 2015

Want the best jobs? Get into a top school and game the recruitment system

How does one land the best- paid jobs (and not necessarily the best jobs) which happen to be in investment banking, consulting and law (and, to some extent, technology companies)?

Well, for starters, you have to get into a top school. But, once there, don't spend all your time on studies. Make sure you have a great extra-curricular record. Many of us know this but there's weighty confirmation in a book that's just come out- Pedigree; How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs, written by Lauren Rivera, a US sociologist. Gillian Tett covers it in FT and Schumpeter writes about it in the Economist, each looking at the book from different angles.

As the title of the book suggests, recruiters are looking for 'pedigree' or class, which is evidenced in social behaviour. And such pedigree is best had by either belonging to the elite class or by picking it up through a variety of extra-curricular activities- at least recruiters seem to think so. So, it makes sense to be good at music or sports or debating or whatever.

The key question is: apart from having the right CV (including ECA), how do you impress the recruiter as having the right pedigree? Schumpeter gleans invaluable tips from the book:
Be vivacious. Hang on their every word. And flatter their (the recruiters') self-image as “the best of the best” and the most jet-lagged of the jet-lagged.....It is easier to give the impression you will fit in if you have swotted up on the firm in question. Speak to any friend-of-a-friend you can find on the inside, to learn about its internal culture and its inside gossip... you must at all costs avoid appearing nerdy or eccentric: there are plenty of jobs with tech companies for those types. 

...The final key to success is to turn your interviewer into a champion: someone who is willing to go to bat for you when the hiring committee meets to whittle down the list. Emphasise any similarities that you can find between the two of you.
Clearly, the top firms appear to value style over substance, once a certain minimum IQ level is assured. More depressingly, they seem to value sameness over diversity. That raises the question: if the top firms have people who think and behave alike, how do they get to performing well? I thought diversity was the essence of team performance.

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