Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs

Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs



The Pequod Review:

Lauren Rivera’s Pedigree is a detailed review of the hiring practices at top tier investment banks, consulting firms and law firms. Rivera did real first-hand research for the book, closely tracking every step of the hiring process — the determination of eligibility criteria for job postings, the structure of on-campus recruiting, the process for initially screening resumes, the job interviews themselves, and the hiring committee meetings that ultimately determine who receives an offer. Her conclusion is clear: 

The central argument of this book is that the way in which elite employers define and evaluate merit in hiring strongly tilts the playing field for the nation’s highest-paying jobs toward children from socioeconomically privileged backgrounds. These processes create a class ceiling for students, even among those at selective universities, in terms of the salaries and types of jobs they attain after graduation.


I find that institutionalized and individual social capital set the bounds of competition. Students needed either to attend a university with pre-existing ties to a firm or have an insider contact within a firm or industry (both of which are strongly associated with parental socioeconomic status) in order to have their applications considered… I show how resume screeners use the status of applicants’ educational and leisure credentials, particularly super-elite university affiliations and participation in prestigious extracurricular activities, to judge applicants’ social, intellectual, and moral worth… I offer an inside look into interviewer training, revealing how firms gave evaluators little guidance regarding how merit should be systematically judged… I analyze how evaluators judge interviewees’ hard and soft skills and assess merit more generally. I show that the types of activities, stories, experiences, and answers valued in the interview setting are deeply entrenched in class-based definitions of self, success, and personal style. 

By writing a How To book for aspiring members of the professional elite, Rivera is able to get straight at the issue without any concern for political correctness or bothsidesism. Noam Chomsky has long argued that you can often learn a lot more from the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal than other mainstream newspapers, since their readers don’t have any illusions about how the world really works. The same is true of this book, which presents clear and persuasive evidence of social reproduction, and with truly radical implications.