College reputation ranking and the job market
Warning: I am going to miff a number of readers with this post. I have been sitting on this post for a few weeks now, and even behind a mask, I wonder if I should go this far, just like I did here with my resume racism post. But this is the truth, and it needs to be exposed. Especially before folks spend $15-$20-50K a year on education. I have debated writing on this topic for a long time and “I kain’t hold back no mo’ yo”!
Alrighty then! This week’s topic: College reputation ranking and its effect on the job search. As always, comments welcome.
Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, West Virginia University, and Florida State. What comes to mind when you think of these schools?
Don’t get me wrong, I know VERY successful people who went to all of the above schools. If I had a kid, and I was going to help pay for college, this is the advice I would provide. And yes, don’t have kids for a reason.
As more and more parents are taking soon to be high school graduates on college tours, I find myself holding back on my opinions towards specific schools. I don’t have anything against any individual schools, I have just seen how hiring managers react and baby, “it ain’t pretty”. You won’t see these reactions in public. No one is going to put your school down after you spent 4 years and $1000’s if not a $100K. But you can count on me.
First and foremost: If you have the option, go to school. Go to any school, just go to school. The job market is only getting more competitive and unless you have tech chops and know how to code, entry into the job market without a degree will be tough.
This is what I say to my closest friends touring colleges as they get ready to invest in their children’s education.
If possible avoid schools with a college reputation ranking for partying.
There, I said it. It felt so good I am going to say it again.
If possible, avoid schools known for beer drinking, parties, and anything related.
Every state has them, and we all know the party school in our state.
I know plenty of very successful people who have attended party schools including the ones listed above. But if you can, try to stack the deck in your favor. From a recruiter’s perspective, if the recruiter has two resumes and one of them lists a party school, the recruiter is probably going to go with the resume with a better reputation. Again, better reputation doesn’t have to be Ivy League; it just shouldn’t bring visions of beer, raves, and parties.
Schools with a college reputation ranking for partying are a flag. The last thing a recruiter wants to defend to a hiring manager is a degree from a school known for partying or making Playboys top 10 “anything” list. I have personally presented these candidates to hiring managers and will do it again, but I know what I am setting myself up for.
Most candidates do not give the education section of the resume a second thought. By the time education is listed on the resume it is too late to do anything about it, so we forget it. Within the first few years of our careers, we don’t get a realistic opportunity for a Do-Over when it comes to listing the college attended. For many candidates, this section will not change for the rest of our careers. The content of your resume will change over a 20-year career, but for most of us, the education section will be etched in stone.
What is the school known for?
I live in the Pacific Northwest, and as in any area, we have the usual line up of schools. We have state schools, small private schools, large well-known schools and community colleges that just received state accreditation. Some are known for their great educational programs that are hard to gain acceptance to, others are known as places to go if you want to party. We have great engineering, teaching, veterinary, and comp-sci programs in this state as well as great liberal arts programs. I see a lot of resumes and regardless of whether or not the candidate is qualified, I do look at the education section on every resume.
10 years after graduation, college party habits have hopefully worn off and we are hired for our experience, not necessarily the school we attended. At that point in time, the school isn’t as important as it is immediately out of school.
Recent graduates do not have very much experience. Because of this, hiring managers do pay attention to the education section of the resume. Before a career is launched, the biggest accomplishment most of us have is our education. This is why the education section gets a serious look for entry-level positions.
Let’s start with what recruiters want to present to the hiring manager:
A well-known school:
The school doesn’t have to be Ivy League, and it doesn’t have to be private. Recruiters just don’t want the hiring manager asking, “Have you heard of this school”? or worse “Is this a real school”? This candidate just added friction to the process. The
Big-name public school
Recruiters and hiring managers would rather see a big name public school than a small private school that I have never heard of. The private school may have been stellar and expensive, but if the recruiter hasn’t heard of it in their local area, then it won’t make a difference. This often happens when a candidate has attended a small private school from a different part of the country. Well known back home, but in the local area, not so much. I don’t know anything about Villanova or Kentucky State and it’s academic program, but most hiring managers have heard these names so the credibility of the school doesn’t raise any flags. Even if it is only for their sports program, the validity of the school doesn’t come into question. No matter where in the continental US you apply, the hiring manager will have heard of these schools.
The last thing I want to present to a hiring manager is a candidate that didn’t finish school at a college known for partying.
This, unfortunately, sends up all kinds of flags and assumptions.
Education can separate candidates:
Many hiring managers will say that no two candidates are equal. Generally speaking, I agree and the statement holds logic. Unfortunately, we are not all Vulcans without emotions. We can be irrational beings and we all know the HR department holds a lot of irrationalities. We are working with human beings and each has a different judgment and rating scale. Yes, some of us are more judgmental than others. Some of us woke up on the wrong side of the bed are in a bad mood when reading your resume. Every little thing will set them off.
When comparing candidates with 5 – 10 years of experience, it is easy to say that no two candidates are equal. With a few years of experience listed, it can be very easy to stack rank resumes based on the companies and accomplishments listed on the resume. Remember, at this point in our careers, the resume is a complete document rich with accomplishments and probably showing career trajectory. Line up 10 experienced candidates inspection style shoulder to shoulder and it becomes even easier to stack rank the candidates. Yes, your presentation layer absolutely matters. We can all agree that looks may or may not matter, but how you present yourself absolutely makes a difference when compared with 10 other “equal” candidates lined up for physical inspection. This doesn’t mean you need to have model good looks. You want to be “presentable”.
When I look at the resumes of 10 recent graduates, most resumes look very similar. Yes, there may be a part-time work listed, maybe even an internship. But for the most part, these resumes are “equal” because of a complete lack (justifiably so) of work experience.
This is where the reputation of the college listed in the education section can make a difference for the recent graduate.
As you consider the school your son or daughter is going to attend, as you look at shiny college enrollment brochures, take into account what the first thing a hiring manager will think of when they envision your school.
See you at the after party, (hopefully at Florida State)
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. E.G. “He has a nasty fork ball”.