If you want to get a job at the very best law firm, investment bank, or consultancy, here’s what you do:
1. Go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or (maybe) Stanford. If you’re a business student, attending the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania will work, too, but don’t show up with a diploma from Dartmouth or MIT. No one cares about those places. ... That’s the upshot of an enlightening/depressing study about the ridiculously narrow-minded people who make hiring decisions at the aforementioned elite companies. ... These firms pour resources into recruiting students from “target schools” (i.e., Harvard, Yale, Princeton) and then more or less ignore everybody else. Here’s a manager from a top investment bank describing what happens to the resume of someone who went to, say, Rutgers: “I’m just being really honest, it pretty much goes into a black hole.”
Being, I suppose, an insider to this process (Princeton - Harvard Business School - McKinsey & Company) I'd like to make a few comments
- First and foremost, this problem cuts both ways. I can imagine outsiders are frustrated with the lack of access. But as an insider I can tell you (cue Admiral Akbar) It's a Trap! You go to Princeton, think, wow, I did well at Princeton, it would be a waste not to do something with that. You are a competitive sole, so getting into a top grad school is an honor to be pursued just like good grades. So you go to Harvard Business School (it could have been Harvard Law) and do well. And what is the mark of achievement there? -- getting a job at a top consultancy or top investment bank. So you take the McKinsey job, have your first kid, and what do you find out? Wow, I hate this job! In fact, the only thing I would have hated more is if I had taken that Wall Street job. Eventually you find happiness running your own company, only to discover your Ivy League degrees are a liability since they intimidate your employees from sharing their ideas and most of the other guys you know successfully running businesses went to Kansas State or Rutgers.
- My only data point inside this hiring process is from McKinsey about 15-20 years ago, so it may be out of date. But at that time, the above statement would be BS. Certainly hiring was heavily tilted to the top Ivies and a few top business schools. But we had people with undergrad degrees from all over - in fact most of our office in Texas had undergrad degrees from the Texas state schools (at lot from BYU too -- McKinsey loved the Mormons). At the time, McKinsey was hiring hundreds of people out of business school around the world each year. No way this could have come from only a few schools.
- My hypothesis is that this may be more a regional than an industry bias, limited to Boston/New York/East Coast. Since many top law firms and consultancies and investment banks are in NYC, they reflect this local bias. But I would bet these same firms and industries hire differently outside of the East Coast.
- There is some rationality in this approach - it is not all mindless snobbism. Take Princeton. It screens something like 25,000 already exceptional applicants down to just 1500, and then further carefully monitors their performance through intensive contact over a four year period. This is WAY more work and resources than a private firm could ever apply to the hiring process. In effect, by limiting their hiring to just a few top schools, they are outsourcing a lot of their performance evaluation work to those schools.