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How Your Alma Mater Impacts Your Job Application

- June 11, 2013

Here at MyPerfectResume, we maintain contact with hiring mangers in order to hear what they have to say about recruiting new employees. This week, we asked them for their take on an important question with long-term implications for students and entry-level job seekers: How can an applicant’s alma mater influence a hiring decision? Here’s what they told us.

Kelly, technology marketing

“When we review a resume, we enjoy seeing the name of an Ivy League school in the education section, but that certainly doesn’t seal the deal. In fact, it makes us look closer for red flags and warnings that the candidate may be trying to coast on her Ivy League pedigree. In general, we’re perfectly happy with any accredited and recognizable school as long as the candidate’s overall application suggests that the person is ambitious and intelligent. At the end of the day, our hiring process is long and fairly complex. And after a quick initial resume review, we’re pretty much finished talking about alma maters. From that point forward, other aspects of the candidacy come into the foreground.”

Gavi, product development

“Since we prefer to promote from within, alma maters matter most to us at the entry level – the stage when we first make contact with most of our new candidates. At that stage in life, work histories tend to be limited. So alma maters and academics carry more weight for us. We look at GPAs first, then we factor in the reputation of the school.”

Pat, consumer electronics manufacturing

“We use degrees and certifications as minimum cut-offs. In other words, we factor them in so we can narrow a giant stack of resumes down to a manageable size. We simply remove all contenders who don’t have the degree requirement we specified in the posting, then we give all the remaining resumes in the stack a close review based on a wide range of other criteria.”

Ellen, business administration

“We’re suspicious of online degrees, but if a candidate has a degree from a legitimate, accredited, real-life institution, we don’t split hairs over the difference between ‘this state school or private liberal arts college and that one.’ We don’t read the national rankings ever year, and even if we did, the name of a school wouldn’t make us bypass a first-rate candidate in favor of a weaker one.”

Tad, pharmaceutical sales

“I’d like to say we don’t care about this at all, and that as long as a candidate holds a completed, legitimate degree in the subject area required by the position, we move on to the next evaluation criteria. But unfortunately, that’s just not true. Our hiring managers will often bend over backwards to bring on candidates from their own alma maters. And sometimes something as simple as an alma mater sports rivalry can actually get a candidate removed from the running. Our mangers don’t admit this, of course, but it’s important for young people to recognize that the hiring process can be very subjective. Especially when the stack of resumes for an open position is a mile high, and the top fifty contenders in the stack are more or less equally qualified.”

Make the Most of Your Education – No Matter the School

Your education decisions aren’t just limited to the name of your school; your major, your selected courses, your thesis, and your extracurricular projects may also influence the feelings of a hiring manager. But since you can’t anticipate these feelings, it’s wise to make your academic decisions on your own.

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