Why Hiring from the Top Schools May Not Always Be the Best Strategy
Thomas L. Friedman's recent interview with Laszlo Bock, Google's senior vice president of people operations, revealed that at Google the percentage of people without any college education has increased over time. In other words, a degree from a top-notch university may not be enough for you to land a job at Google. This opens an interesting debate about whether hiring from the top schools is really valuable for technology companies.
Yahoo was in the news last year for employing rigorous hiring standards, part of which included hiring people who have studied at top schools. With good talent always in short supply, imposing restrictions like these may not always be beneficial. Moreover, it rules out giving a chance to supremely talented people from lesser-known schools.
In a workplace that is looking for diversity, hiring people who are trained the same way (in similar colleges) often acts as a hindrance. Lesser diversity often leads to lesser innovation as there is not enough of a clash of ideas and perspectives.
There is a belief that the graduates from top schools often lack intellectual humility. As Laszlo Bock explains further:
Without humility, you are unable to learn. Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure. They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved.
Google believes that people who make it without college are often the most successful. Such people are probably more valuable because they manage to find success without depending on the conventional means. The top schools' education may not equip students with all of the tricks of executing business.
As Mark H. McCormack says in his book What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-Smart Executive, "The best lesson anyone can learn from business school is an awareness of what it can't teach you—all the ins and out of everyday business life. Those ins and outs are largely a self-learning process."
The top schools can more or less guarantee a great IQ from its graduates, but that is not a reasonable indicator of one's cognitive ability. In his book Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success, James Bach too advocates the unconventional approach to self-education.
A recent Gallup survey suggests that only 9 percent of business leaders say that the candidate's school of formal education is “very important." To present a fair picture, hiring from top schools has been an old and reliable practice, and organizations have gained a lot from the focused expertise such talent brings.
Google's decision to not go overboard in hiring candidates from top schools is more a recognition of the fact that organizations are questioning the status quo with respect to age-old hiring practices.
Do you agree?