In terms of firms, even if schools were to be completely class neutral in their admission processes—which we know they're definitely not—that alone wouldn't change the situation, because firms themselves really do use these class-based hiring criteria.
Things that firms could do to help neutralize this and create a more level playing field … the first would be to adopt a more expansive definition of educational quality. Many of the schools currently on [HR] lists have no practical training in things relevant to being a banker, consultant, or lawyer. And many of the lower-tier schools do.
To help them cope with a wider pipeline, which is something a lot of the professionals in these firms are really concerned about, they could perform more intensive screens on grades as well as tasks performed in prior jobs. Those are two things that are somewhat used in the interview process now and somewhat used in a resume screening, but the degree to which they are used is surprisingly low.
I think another thing that could be done is blinding evaluators, both in resume screens and in interviews, to candidates’ extracurricular activities. That's because extracurricular activities are a huge source of class inequality whether it's in university admissions or in interviews. It's one of the primary ways people judge both fit and drive at the resume screening stage and they tend to create biases by socio-economic status and also, again, by this gender typicality thing.
It's not limited to sports, when you talk to interviewers about what kind of extracurricular activities they find fascinating, they mention things that are adrenaline-inducing such as gambling, high-stakes dice rolling … these very stereotypically masculine activities. People tend not to get wowed by knitting. Most people would rather have a triathlete, or someone who does something that's stereotypically masculine and awe-aspiring. That emotional aspect is really important.
Most firms are just doing best guesses. People have their lay theories about what makes a good hire, and that's how the hiring criteria are implemented. You see people having pet favorite questions, "Who would you go to dinner with if you could choose anyone?", and people really believe that's what predicts a really good hire. But creating interviews that both reduce inequality and increase the quality of new hires involves systematic data analysis of what actually drives on-the-job performance and then matching the hiring criteria accordingly. A lot of firms don't want to do that, because I think many are afraid of what they'll find.
Lam: I think you're giving the firms a lot of credit by saying that they want to hire someone who can do the job, and that's all they're looking for.
Rivera: I think, fundamentally, they are looking for someone who can do the job. Most would say they're looking for someone who can do the job adequately but also who will provide them with a sense of personal enjoyment and fulfillment on the job … People are not only looking for people who can do the job but they want to find friends on the job, they want people to fill them with positive emotions, and they use these very personalized metric to judge that. But whether or not that ends up benefitting organizations in the long run is an open question.