Under What Scenario Can a Non-Target Beat H/S/W/Y/P

Sunshine Funshine's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,940

Title says it all - have any of you ever been conducting interview and chose a candidate that went to a non-target school over someone who went to H/S/W/P? I keep seeing all these threads about "is my GPA good enough" or "how can I stay competitive," so I'm curious if any of you have ever extended an offer to the underdog, and what about them made you do it.

Comments (18)

Feb 10, 2019

It's simply impossible Lol. Maybe the one scenario is when the Harvard student is a total dweeb that you wouldn't want to hang with and the non target is a total boss while also being the top student at his respective university.

But I doubt that would ever happen cause Target students are generally bosses + really chill.

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

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Feb 10, 2019

You forgot to add your disclaimer.

"Target Student here, interning at a EB."

Feb 10, 2019

lol

Feb 10, 2019

The question is a bit general, but below are my thoughts on this:

Target schools are helpful in a few ways when applying for jobs, and most of them have to do with getting the interview, after that you are MOSTLY on your own (outside of network and benefit of the doubt):

1) network
2) filter/getting the interview
3) benefit of the doubt (related to #2 above)
4) educational opportunities at the school (more interesting classes, finance related clubs, interesting speaker series, connected professors, etc)

Target students have more opportunities, mostly due to #2 and #4 above. Top students USUALLY go to top schools. As a company if you want to maximize your ROI you go to the schools that have the highest concentration of the "best" students (yes quotes used on purpose since we can debate the meaning of "best" all day and I don't necessarily believe this).

Once you have an interview you should mostly consider everyone starting with a blank slate. The way a target student might have an advantage is with my #3 point above, that if the interviews are close they might get the benefit of the doubt.

So have I seen "non target" students "beat" target students (lots of air quotes here...)? Yes, definitely but as you can imagine there are multiple filters in place and it is just harder for a non target to get through each (fewer on campus job postings, smaller network, fewer educational opportunities), it just takes more work as you have less margin for error.

Most Helpful
Feb 10, 2019

This is false.

HR is extremely risk averse and will place a significant premium to target applicants over non target applicants. There's a lot more explaining to do when things go wrong with a non target applicant ("why did we hire the HYP kid" is easily explainable).

I'm general, the target students will get softball, more fit type questions while non targets get reamed on technicals. It's why you see HYP liberal arts students land banking/restructuring gigs that non target finance majors would kill for.

So yeah, you can safely ignore the comment above.

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Feb 10, 2019

Why did you spend so much time writing out this long response? Shortened version: if you go to a non-target you're fucked for life

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Feb 10, 2019

I guess it depends on your industry and company. I don't treat candidates differently (and have been in industry for almost 15 years).

We review resumes, if your resume is good enough then you get an interview. From there I ask the same/similar questions, I don't care if you are a high school graduate or valedictorian at HPW.

The target school is a filter and benefit of the doubt. Now that also means that target students will get more interviews than non-target, but I want to make sure that anyone I hire is smart enough, regardless of what school they went to. Will the non target student have to show more on the resume? Many times, yes, due to the fact that the target school acts as a filter, but I'm not going to softball interviews for target students.

Feb 10, 2019

This is a stupid question, but why would a liberal arts major not get asked technicals, even if they come from a target school? Correct me if I'm wrong but I feel like a math/stats/econ/finance quadruple major from a no-name school will me more useful in a restructuring transaction than a philosophy/politics double-major from H/S/P

Feb 10, 2019

As mentioned above, on-campus recruitment at target schools is a huge reason that many firms also hire students from said schools. Firms have a finite amount of time and resources for their recruitment, and of such, it's easier to just go with the time-tested schools.

Furthermore, where the people in charge (themselves) went to school, will also effect where they recruit from. My experience is that if a high % of senior employees went to schools X/Y/Z, then they're probably going also hire from X/Y/Z - there's a certain element of familiarity and safety to that...if you went to Harvard, and your boss, co-workers, etc. went to Harvard, then you know fairly well what kind of candidates you're getting, and their work standard.

With that said: Banks these days seem to hire more broadly than before, and as long as you can land an interview, you shouldn't have much disadvantage - given that you're a top student with comparable experience.

It's not like the interviewers are going "Damn, that candidate was exceptional - Oh well, too bad he's not from [HYPS], moving on to the next" and then automatically hiring a so-so HYPS candidate over the previous guy. People forget that candidates from target schools also get rejected all day long.

So, I want to say that it's harder for non-target candidates to get their foot inside the door (i.e land interviews) - but if they're top material, then their alma mater shouldn't be holding them back - given that they perform well on interviews. It could of course be that every candidate is doing well, and that they then start introducing random filter parameters - but that's not my experience. You do find top candidates (on paper) that will go on to bomb their interviews.

FWIW, high-school kids and college students tend to blow everything out of proportions - landing a IB job is hard, no doubt, but it's a far cry from impossible. If you're (mentally) setting yourself up for failure - well surprise, surprise - you're gonna fail.

Feb 10, 2019

What industry do you work in and what is your position?

Feb 10, 2019

A couple of disjoint comments:
* My impression is that at almost any school, the upper 1-2% are going to be exceptionally smart and hard working. What differentiates the "target" schools from other places is the quality of the median student.
* A kid that was the best student in his high school and then was one of the best students in his 3rd rate school might not know what "smart" really is since he's competing in a smaller field.
* Through my career I had multiple junior traders working under me and my impression was that schooling was irrelevant. As a result, recommendation would always carry a higher weight for me than any degree

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Feb 10, 2019

Very helpful insight, thank you

Feb 11, 2019
Mostly Random Dude:

A couple of disjoint comments:
* My impression is that at almost any school, the upper 1-2% are going to be exceptionally smart and hard working. What differentiates the "target" schools from other places is the quality of the median student.
* A kid that was the best student in his high school and then was one of the best students in his 3rd rate school might not know what "smart" really is since he's competing in a smaller field.
* Through my career I had multiple junior traders working under me and my impression was that schooling was irrelevant. As a result, recommendation would always carry a higher weight for me than any degree

Absolutely agree. As someone who went to HYP (I'm probably 60-70th percentile there though), I'm pretty sure the valedictorian/top 1% at a state school like Rutgers could outperform me (even academically). Anyone who says otherwise is delusional.

There are so many scenarios where a non-target can beat out someone from HYPSW, once you get your foot in the door it's all about interview performance, and how much the interviewer likes you.

For lateral hires, I've interviewed quite a few candidates from state schools which were so much better than your average Wharton guy. They had to fight to hell and back to get to where they are, and usually in terms of technical performance at least, they're so much better than some clueless Ivy League graduates. This is, of course, at the analyst/entry level. Frankly speaking, sometimes for 1st year analysts, I'd prefer to get someone from UNC Chapel Hill who knows his shit than some guy from Harvard that needs me to babysit him and teach him what's a DCF (although, one of my best buds from college was an art history major who didn't know what a bond was when he entered banking, he went on to MS M&A and TPG, and obviously knows his shit extremely well now)

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Feb 11, 2019

Yeah this is what I mean. You have HYP types land banking jobs but they don't know what bonds are. That doesn't happen in the non target crowd. The only way that happens is if the dude from Harvard got extremely softball questions during the interview process.

So no, it's not accurate to say the playing field is leveled at the interview process. That said, the non target can win out if he/she absolutely dazzles. It does happen, so you've mentioned.

Feb 10, 2019

If you exit out of life with hara-kiri before the target kid dies, then you could potentially win that race

Feb 10, 2019

When the job requires a hard skill set, like advanced math or advanced programming, and the quality of the work really matters, employers will look beyond top tier schools. This happens mostly in situations where it can be objectively measured how good a candidate is. Also happens 5+ years into a career. Places like Two Sigma and Citadel care about prestige, but theyll bend pretty far if a candidate shows real talent.

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Feb 10, 2019

D1 athletics and a good gpa

Feb 11, 2019
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