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“I am not posh or clever enough to apply for an elite graduate job”

You may think being ‘posh’ is what gets you an elite graduate job. You are wrong!

Heaps of graduates feel ‘incompetent’ and disqualify themselves from even trying for high-end jobs, because they believe the opportunities are far from their reach. These jobs are not only for Oxbridge graduates or those at top Universities such as from the Russell Group. Success in business is determined by a wide interplay of factors. It is not gauged by how widely aware employers are of your degree bestowing institution’s ‘brand’ as this is not a guaranteed pathway to obtaining a job. Merely a prestigious name such as ‘Oxford’ or ‘Cambridge’ is not enough. Nor does it weight on your gender or ethnic background.

On the one hand, unfortunately, there is some evidence that some firms are side-lining the UK’s bright working-class applicants in favour of privileged and ‘polished’ contenders. In a recent study based on a collection of interviews with staff from thirteen elite accountancy, law and financial services firms, it was found that despite attempts to improve social inclusion, over the past 10 to 15 years, some quality companies continue to be heavily filled at the entry level by people from privileged social backgrounds (Richardson, 2017).

The study concluded that elite firms are overtly biased in the manner through which they select their new employees, with few middle-class members. To land a top job, state school hopefuls need an extra bounce to their list of academic accomplishments versus their privately educated peers who have not necessarily made as much of an effort. This need for extra effort can mainly be attributed to the types of recruitment methods which target the top UK universities, called the Russell Group (see Appendix for the list of these top Universities).

Approximately 40% to 50% of job applications to these firms were made by contenders who had attended top-ranked academies and later received 60% to 70% of all job offers. Candidates from fee-paying and selective schools, which tend to dominate Russell Group universities, formulated around 70% of graduate trainees despite being only 7% and 4% of the UK population respectively. Valued qualities include confidence, poise, elegance eloquence, and conducting oneself well in social and networking events, such as, ‘middle-class’ dinner parties. Aspirants bearing these traits are considered as safe bets by employers.

Now the good news:

Virtually all the elite companies are making huge commitments to recruit the smartest and premium competitors, regardless of their background, trying extremely hard to be socially inclusive and assorted. Therefore, there is a substantial change occurring which could be to your advantage. Many top firms acknowledge that raw academic ability or privileged background does not translate to business success and so they want to try and recruit from many diverse backgrounds as possible. You will need to have a ‘fighting spirit’ to compete, but the rewards make it worthwhile.

A lot of this bias is due to the dominance of the Russell Group, which are harder to get into and have a disproportionate number of privileged students. The recruitment budget of top employers are limited, and so they actively visit only the Russell Group Universities where they get ‘a bigger bang for the buck’. Firms which have 20,000 people applying for 1,000 jobs just are not prepared to go to the ‘University of Obscureland’ in search of a ‘diamond in the rough’.

If you are not studying at a Russell Group institution, do not despair. With your one hundred percent and dedication, executives will recognise your efforts, and this will trump the reputation of graduating from a prestigious university. In virtually all cases what school you go to does not matter in your application.

July 7th, 2017

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