Last week, I wrote the Tyranny of the Meritocracy, where I tried to explore, a little, the rise of a self-perpetuating educational elite from a system that was supposed to break down barriers to intergenerational income mobility.
1. Most applications practically go straight in the trash.Because professionals balanced recruitment responsibilities with full-time client work, they often screened resumes while commuting to and from the office and client sites; in trains, planes, and taxis; frequently late at night and over take out... [E]valuators tended to do so very rapidly, typically bypassing cover letters (only about fifteen percent reported even looking at them) and transcripts and reported spending between 10 s to 4 min per resume.2. Evaluators have a lot of slack. . . . In fact, evaluators explicitly select candidates similar to themselves in school rank, grades, etc. For example:[R]oughly one-third of evaluators did not use educational prestige as a signal. One of the primary differences between these two groups was their own educational history, with those who had attended "top" schools being more likely to use educational prestige as a screen than those who had attended other types of selective institutions.3. Super-elite credentials matter much more than your academic record:[E]valuators drew strong distinctions between top four universities, schools that I term the super-elite, and other types of selective colleges and universities. So-called "public Ivies" such as University of Michigan and Berkeley were not considered elite or even prestigious...4. Super-elite schools matter because they're strong signals, not because they're better at building human capital:Evaluators relied so intensely on "school" as a criterion of evaluation not because they believed that the content of elite curricula better prepared students for life in their firms - in fact, evaluators tended to believe that elite and, in particular, super-elite instruction was "too abstract," "overly theoretical," or even "useless" compared to the more "practical" and "relevant" training offered at "lesser" institutions...5. At least in this elite sample, I'm totally wrong to think that extracurriculars don't matter:
[I]t was not the content of an elite education that employers valued but rather the perceived rigor of these institutions' admissions processes. According to this logic, the more prestigious a school, the higher its "bar" for admission, and thus the "smarter" its student body.
. . .[E]valuators believed that the most attractive and enjoyable coworkers and candidates would be those who had strong extracurricular "passions." They also believed that involvement in activities outside of the classroom was evidence of superior social skill; they assumed a lack of involvement was a signal of social deficiencies... By contrast, those without significant extracurricular experiences or those who participated in activities that were primarily academically or pre-professionally oriented were perceived to be "boring," "tools," "bookworms," or "nerds" who might turn out to be "corporate drones" if hired.
There's some valuable analysis at the link, so you should click through.