Ivy leaguers of the world, take note.
A recent survey by Society of Human Resource Managers asked 286 randomly selected human resource professionals to rate the influence of a number of attributes in deciding who gets hired for jobs. The results seem to turn the adage “it’s not what you know, it’s whom you know” on its head.
The criteria most frequently rated either “very influential” or “influential” are all related to here and now. That is, they directly reflect a candidate’s ability to fit the job in question — not a candidate’s connections.
Interview performance and professionalism in interactions were tops with 95 percent of surveyed HR managers, while only 53 percent of HR managers showed a preference for candidates referred by a current employee.
The more specifically related to ability, the better. For instance, while employee referrals were named by only about half the participants, internal candidates (78 percent) were highly valued, presumably because of familiarity with the candidates’ performance. Similarly, advanced degrees per se don’t mean as much to HR executives as relevant certifications (57 percent verus 82 percent).
The least frequently named criteria were those that bear little application to a candidate’s potential as an employee. These include quality of the cover letter (cited by 50 percent of survey participants), total years in the workforce (49 percent), and test scores (43 percent).
Interestingly, it seems HR executives care the least about where a candidate comes from. Twenty-eight percent named previous employer’s prestige, while 26 percent cited familiarity with a candidate’s previous employer. And get this: d only 23 percent cared about the prestige of a candidate’s educational background.
Aside from interview savvy and professionalism, what do HR professionals value most? Years of relevant work experience (90 percent), fit with the company culture (89 percent), and the passing of relevant background checks (79 percent).
Good references (73 percent) and the ability to add diversity to the workforce (60 percent) were also frequently cited by the HR manages in the survey.
Glenn Schaeffer, president and CFO of Mandalay Resort Group, came to corporate finance only after testing his fiction-writing skills in the MFA program at the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop in 1976. But in a class with such budding stars as T.C. Boyle, Allan Gurganus, Rita Dove, and Jane Smiley, the then-21-year-old Schaeffer quickly concluded that his own talent was third-rate “at best.” With a college minor in economics and a head for numbers, he quit the workshop and returned to his native Los Angeles to pursue a career in business.
After working as a stockbroker, he joined Circus, Circus, a Las Vegas casino, in 1983, and by financing the acquisition or construction of one additional property after another — including Mandalay Bay — helped turn it into one of the country’s largest.
Three decades after abandoning the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, however, Schaeffer hasn’t lost touch with the literary world. He still socializes with some of his former classmates, owns a large collection of first-edition poetry, recently donated $1 million to the workshop for a new annex, and three years ago founded the International Institute of Modern Letters at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to support writers subject to censorship and persecution.