Sunday, November 20, 2011

Elite Insanity

FLG read this post about hiring at elite firms the other day. As Megan says, much of it isn't very shocking, but some of it is just crazy. Here are a few random thoughts:

1) Look, anybody who doesn't know that having Harvard on your resume is almost a prerequisite to get a job at McKinsey isn't paying attention, and it sure helps a lot at places like Goldman Sachs and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Nothing surprising there.

FLG wishes he was on campus still because he had full access to the article there, but, according to the paper, recruiters viewed Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford as very elite. Okay, fine. Where FLG had a bigger issue was that they then seemed to draw a bright line between graduates of the vaunted HPYS and even the rest of the Ivies. Several comments explicitly stated that there is some sort weakness in one or more areas inherent to candidates at the other Ivies.

This made FLG ask, in what sort of fucked up world do people really believe that thetr is some material difference between the average student at Harvard and Columbia or Dartmouth? Seriously? Really? (Questioning Brown, okay, FLG gets that, nobody likes Brown.) FLG knows people who have attended all of the Ivies and there are some who are very impressive, some who are less so, and some who make FLG scratch his head. There are all sorts of reasons that a student would choose Columbia over Harvard, access to NYC being top among them. The only logic that says idiots choose Columbia over Harvard is straight up prestige whoring, which FLG thinks makes some sense given that we are talking about elite firms, which brings FLG to...

2) Who is shocked that elite organizations are full of elitists assholes?

3) There's a sort of irony here. Nobody in their right mind thinks ALL and ONLY the best people attend HYPS. Or even top 25 schools for that matter. So, what these elite firms are actually saying is that we have a baseline, it's a pretty high baseline, but still a baseline, not a demand for the best exactly, and since we have a larger selection of people from these institutions who meet that threshold than we can hire, we'll just do that and say we're hiring the best. When, as Megan put it, they're focused on hiring the very, very good. It's the self-delusion going on here that FLG finds so crazy.

4) Another thing FLG thought was just batshit nuts was the idea that being an Olympic athlete or world class pianist made a candidate "well-rounded" and "well-adjusted." It certainly shows drive, dedication, and ambition outside academics, which are great traits, but FLG finds the idea that somebody who, for example, does four hours of ice skating practice six days a week for ten years is therefore fantastically interesting and adjusted as a person silly on its face.


The Ancient said...

Forty years ago, when I first had to winnow the resumes of job applicants, I committed all these offenses.

(Except one. I'd didn't overweight an applicant who had gone from Yale to Oxford and found a place in the Blue Boat -- though I suppose I did add Oxford itself to the calculus.)

Did I ever think any of this was going to guarantee the best applicants? No, of course not. But I was very busy -- ninety hour weeks were the norm -- and I wanted to simplify the problem in a way that didn't have a big downside. I wanted to be sure I was passing along applicants who were bright, had the capacity for hard work, and had some rudimentary knowledge that would be relevant. The knowledge of college drinking songs was never in play.

P. Many large corporations, investment banks, and law firms give bonus points to star athletes. Part of this is fanboy bullshit. But the bigger reason is a sense that star athletes often have competitive skills -- and personality types -- that very, very bright college graduates frequently lack.

FLG said...


I get the I'm busy and I have a huge pile of apps, I'll just use pedigree as the primary sorting mechanism. What I object to is the idea seemingly common amongst the interviewers in the study was the idea that if an applicant didn't go to HYPS, then they were somehow flawed in ways the HYPS applicants were not.

If you narrow down a stack of 100 apps to 10 by just selecting Harvard and Yale grads, that's fine. FLG could see himself even doing it. But that's taking a short cut. It's about having a bar, again a high bar, but a good enough bar, and Harvard grads are in all likelihood above it. It's not about finding the best. It's about finding the good enough.

Kinda like how nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, nobody ever got fired for hiring a Harvard grad. But the self delusion that only the best are at hyps and only HYPS is crazy.

Oh, and FLG gets the sports thing to a point.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Questioning Brown, okay, FLG gets that, nobody likes Brown.

Hey, now.

Withywindle said...

Don't send my son to Harvard, the dying mother said.
And as for Yale or Princeton, I'd rather see him dead.
So send him off to Darmouth, or better yet, Cornell--
But as for Pennsylvan-i-a, I'd see him first in hell!

To hell, to hell with Pennsylvania,
To hell, to hell with Pennsylvania.
To hell, to hell with Pennsylvania.
To hell with the U of P; P-U!

Anonymous said...

As guys who went to community college, you and I should resent that mean elitist Douglas Brinkley for mocking alma mater, right? dave.s.

FLG said...

I saw that, but was conflicted for two reasons:
1) Brinkley is a fellow Hoya.
2) and far more importantly, Hastings is a jackass who had it coming.

FLG said...

Sorry, means Don Young, not Hastings.

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