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Pedigree vs. Potential: Should Alma Mater Influence Your Hiring Decisions?

In recent blog posts, we have explored the phenomenon of inflated education requirements which end up costing organizations more money while decreasing the candidate pool. The education demands don’t stop there. It is not just if candidates got a degree, it is also from where. But is the distinction paying off?

Degree pedigree matters

A 2016 study of 500 senior level and executive managers who require candidates hold a college degree found that 29% prefer to only hire candidates from top institutions. Another 48% consider the institution to play at least a somewhat important role in their hiring decisions.

Just 4% of respondents said they didn’t care about which school an employee went to so long as the educational requirements for the role were met. And those who went to an elite school themselves were far more likely than those who didn’t to favor candidates from top institutions.

With such emphasis being placed on the school the student went to, there should be evidence that school pedigree has a major impact on job performance, right?

Degree pedigree matters… not really

Research published in 2017 reveals that among senior executives across 15 major sectors, barely 10% went to an Ivy League college. And of the CEOs helming the top 20 companies on 2018’s Fortune 500 list, just one—Jeff Bezos—holds an Ivy League degree.

Clearly, school pedigree isn’t the defining factor in determining a person’s suitability for and/or success in a role.

In fact, some organizations have found that a person’s academic background in general is less important. In 2015, EY’s UK division announced that it was removing the degree requirement for its entry-level positions altogether in favor of a series of pre-employment tests. Why? After an extensive 18-month study of 400 employees, the company found that little evidence that academic success correlated with job performance at all.

Higher education can be very valuable, but it is not the act of getting the degree that is most important, it is what the individual has gotten from the experience (just as with any other experience). So then why are so many companies bending over backwards and paying more to hire more students who check the box of attending elite schools?

Here’s an idea: why not let candidates prove whether they’ve got the right stuff—regardless of where they did or didn’t go to school? At, we champion this approach, letting candidates demonstrate their skills and knowledge first before any personal details (like their alma mater) are revealed. That way, you know your decisions are based on the candidate’s abilities—not influenced by the name of their school.

Try it for yourself. Discover the way today.




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