Hiring from top schools (or requiring degrees at all) is a simple proxy for intelligence and hard work. These things are hard to evaluate in an interview or two, so you say “well, if this candidate managed to get into Harvard and graduate theymust be smart and hard working!”
And you probably won’t be wrong, because the competition to get into the top schools is so fierce. But, just because you have to be smart to get into the Ivies (or other top schools) it doesn’t mean that if you’re smart you have to go to a top school.
So, instead of intensively evaluating a candidate, companies often let the admissions committees do it for them. Box checked, you advance to stage two.
Martin Casado wrote a Twitter thread that goes into why top school hiring is lazy and causes you to reject a whole lot of intelligent and qualified candidates. You can read the entire thread, unrolled, at Threader.
"We only hire from top schools" is lazy practice that results in less-than-top teams. This thread is a rough attempt to explain why 🧵👇— martin_casado (@martin_casado) March 28, 2021
Casado uses this handy graph to help explain why you miss out on great people by limiting yourself to certain schools. (And, of course, by limiting yourself to people with degrees, although he doesn’t mention it. Some jobs do, indeed, require specific degrees and licenses, but many jobs do not.)
However, populations are distributions. And hiring should be focused on the tail (e.g. upper 10%). Take the following two normal curves with a mean difference of 50%. pic.twitter.com/My8JgkUMLX— martin_casado (@martin_casado) March 28, 2021
While Casado focuses on the top 10 percent, I like to point out that your company probably isn’t in the top 10 percent of employers. Why should the top 10 percent want to work for you?
When you don’t take time to evaluate candidates base on anything other than their acceptance at a top school, what you’re really judging the candidate on is their high school performance. That’s utterly ridiculous. (Yes, you are judging on their graduation as well but generally, by limiting schools, you’re looking only at their high school performance.)
You don’t increase your diversity by limiting the alma mater to a few. If you want true diversity–of thought, experience, background, and race–you need to diversify your recruiting strategy as well.
Now, a few words about the term “lazy.” We all know that recruiters are often overworked and beholden to the hiring manager’s rules. If the hiring manager won’t interview someone from the state university, there’s no point in sourcing candidates from there. If the company will only pay for recruiting trips to a few golden schools, then that’s where you hire your entry-level employees.
However, do keep in mind that recruiters should be the subject matter experts on recruiting and should work to help hiring managers understand that by limiting their candidate pools, they reject great people.