Where you went to school matters less than you think

Does it matter where you went to college? More business leaders say the answer is no than yes.

In a survey released Tuesday by Gallup, just 9 percent of business leaders said a job candidate’s degree was “very important” when it came to hiring. Meanwhile, 54 percent said it was not very important or not important at all, and 37 percent said it was somewhat important. Candidates’ majors, skills and knowledge of the field were far more important, the telephone survey of 623 business executives found.

Still, job candidates haven’t gotten the message. A whopping 80 percent of the American public surveyed by Gallup say they think their alma mater is important.

Some of that disconnect between employers’ and employees’ views may be less drastic than appears. What business leaders say in surveys and actually do aren’t necessarily one in the same. As Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup Education, told Quartz, many companies still hire from a small group of universities. That’s especially true in some industries, such as finance. 

Of course, one reason candidates’ schools may matter less is that fewer top executives have elite degrees these days. A study by professors at Wharton and IE Business School in Madrid found that just 35 percent of executives in 2011 went to private non-Ivy League universities, down from 54 percent in 1980. (The prevalence of Ivy League degrees fell too, albeit less dramatically, from 14 percent in 1980 to 10 percent in 2011.)

Education still matters plenty, though, even if the particular school doesn’t. A candidate’s major was considered very or somewhat important by 70 percent of the participants in the Gallup survey. And a surprising number of companies actually still care how candidates performed on their SATs, the Wall Street Journal is reporting — with some firms even asking candidates in their 40s and 50s how they scored way back when.

So while it may not matter where you went, how you did and what you studied could help you get the job.

By: Jena McGregor. February 26, 2014



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