When it comes to choosing a college or university, what matters most: A big brand with big name recognition or getting the most bang for your university buck? With tuition soaring, and with more than half of college grads believing they will have trouble paying back their student loans, this is an important question for students to ask.
But it’s not an easy one to answer.
While a recent Payscale survey suggested that a student’s major could have a greater impact on paying back those student loans than where the college students choose to attend, a new survey from Intelligent.com adds more murkiness to the already cloudy waters.
The June survey from Intelligent.com – an online magazine centered around helping students make informed choices about their college education – found that 84% of hiring managers say a candidate’s higher education institution is a “very important” or “important” factor in their decisions. That means that students from top-tiered schools may have an easier time getting their foot in the doors of preferred employers.
BIG BRAND VS BEST VALUE
While going to a top-tier college may be good for one’s resume, it’s not necessarily great for one’s wallet. In our latest ranking of the Best Undergraduate Business Schools for 2022, we found 14 business schools with total costs of a four-year degree soaring to more than $300,000. Of those, 11 are ranked in the top 25 meaning students are paying big for the name-brand schools on their resumes.
However, when measuring the return on investment within five years of earning the degree, the highest priced schools don’t fare as well.
While school brand likely helps candidates advance in the hiring process, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these students will automatically make better employees, says Stacie Haller, a career strategist and job search coach, who cautions hiring managers against putting too much importance on candidate schools.
“Attending a top school does not really guarantee a candidate will be successful in a given position. Hiring managers need to put more emphasis on the experience and skills of the candidate,” she says.
“Those who are new to hiring employees tend to rely more on education as a factor as they are still struggling to evaluate the full potential of candidates in the interview process. This may explain why we see younger hiring managers, in particular, putting more weight on where a candidate went to school. Also, those who have put a lot of time and money into their own education will tend to believe it is a more critical factor to be successful. This is simply a result of their own bias.”
WHERE YOU GO TO SCHOOL STILL MATTERS
As the gatekeepers, hiring managers’ school bias can have an outsized impact on how far a candidate advances through the hiring process.
Of the 1,250 hiring managers surveyed by Intelligent.com:
- 84% say the institution a candidate attended is a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ factor.
- 71% are more likely to move forward with a candidate who attended a top-tier school.
- 66% are more likely to move forward with a candidate who attended their own alma mater.
- 61% say candidates from top-tier schools are more likely to be better employees.
- 63% are more likely to meet a candidate’s wage requirements if they attended a top-tier school.
“The age of and education level achieved by the hiring manager seems to play a role here with younger and more educated individuals placing more importance on a candidate’s educational background,” the survey says. “Eighty seven percent of hiring managers under 44 say where a candidate attended college holds importance compared to just 68% of hiring managers over 45. Additionally, 90% of hiring managers with postgraduate degrees and 84% with bachelor’s degrees say the particular institution is important compared to 82% of those with vocational or technical college degrees and 77% of those with high school degrees.”
7 IN 10 HIRING MANAGERS MORE LIKELY TO ADVANCE CANDIDATES FROM TOP SCHOOLS
In the survey, 71% of hiring managers say they are more likely to advance a candidate to the next round if they attended a top-tier school compared to a student who attended a lesser-known school. Four-year institutions are similarly favored over community colleges with 76% of hirers saying they are less likely to advance a community college graduate.
This favoritism also extends to candidates who attended the same university as the hiring manager. Of respondents, 66% say they are more likely to advance a candidate who attended their alma mater.
“Perhaps this gives additional weight to the idea that one should tap into their alumni network,” the survey report says. “You may increase your chances of landing a job by networking with and applying to jobs where an alumni makes hiring decisions.”
DO TOP SCHOOLS CREATE BETTER EMPLOYEES?
Do students from top-tier schools turn out to be top-tier employees? Hiring managers think so, and that’s important to students’ job prospects.
Some 61% of survey respondents believe that candidates from top-tier schools are more likely to be better employees, and 63% say they are more likely to meet their wage requirements.
Certain industries put even greater importance on where a candidate earned their degree. In media and communications, for example, the vast majority of hiring managers, or 94%, say where a candidate attended college is “very important” or ‘important’ compared to 93% in health care, 92% in advertising and marketing (92%), 92% in computer and information technology, and 89% in technology.
Haller believes that such assumptions are unfair and problematic.
“Making broad assumptions about candidates just from the school they graduated from is a mistake,” she says. “A deep dive into the skills and experience of a candidate is necessary to determine who is the best fit for a particular position. Putting so much emphasis on the attended school will result in hiring managers passing on talented individuals who may not have been in a position to attend a particular institution.”
Intelligent.com surveyed 1,250 hiring managers in the United States in June via the online by survey platform Pollfish. To take the survey, respondents had to answer that they are directly involved in hiring new employees.
Read the full survey here.
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