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Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  245 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Americans are taught to believe that upward mobility is possible for anyone who is willing to work hard, regardless of their social status, yet it is often those from affluent backgrounds who land the best jobs. Pedigree takes readers behind the closed doors of top-tier investment banks, consulting firms, and law firms to reveal the truth about who really gets hired for th ...more
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published May 4th 2015 by Princeton University Press (first published April 26th 2015)
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May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is both an interesting study in sociology and also (perhaps for a select few) a hiring manual.

Rivera addresses the idea of how 'culture' affects social stratification by performing a series of interviews and empirical studies of students from elite universities, and how they could be employed at multiple firms. Her specific focus is on investment banking, management consulting, and elite law firms which pay $70,000 starting for BA students and $100,000+ for MBA, JD, or PhD graduates.
Darien Carter
May 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up not as someone interested in critiquing the expansion of racial prejudice into the business world, rather a POC interested in learning what firms and the people who work for them look for in promising candidates.

While I certainly didn't leave this book feeling sympathetic for the firms (especially Holt), I'm inclined to think that I will never agree with Rivera's premise that it is the responsibility of firms to correct serious prejudices that likely exist within the minds
Alisi ☆ wants to read too many books ☆
I did want to like this more but unfortunately, the writing is very dull and lifeless. It took some will to get through without skipping ahead, which was a shame because I was actually looking forward to this one (more than Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice, which I picked up at the same time, tbh.)
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Bleak scholarly study on how elite east-coast companies hire from elite east-coast universities. The author shows how these recruiting practices make a mockery of America's supposed income mobility and affirmative action: for example, recruiters at investment banks care more about whether you grew up playing expensive sports like polo than they do about your grades in college. In my experience at these kinds of schools and firms, I think the author gets more right than she gets wrong, and it is ...more
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Culture contributes to the persistence of privilege (and underprivilege) through shaping peoples aspirations and worldviews, how people judge and are judged by others in everyday social interactions, and their success in navigating society's gatekeeping institutions. p. 7

In fact, [Pierre] Bourdieu (1986) identifies three forms of cultural capital: the objectified state (e.g., material goods and possessions), the embodied state (e.g., individual skills and knowledge; styles of self-presentation
Tori-Ann Holness
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly researched. Lauren really dug into the perspective and exhaustively covered the subject matter. Finished the book in 4 days. I do not believe the author considered the audience of her book quite well. Though the analytical arguments were strong, I couldn't tell who she was writing to until the end of the book, where she starts making suggestions to companies on how to improve.

As a student reading this, who was originally seeking a career in the EPS field, after this read I felt desper
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I believe this is one of the most important books I'll read this year. Having spent a year at a prominent Ivy league institution and interviewed (and rejected) at a prestigious management consulting firm, and now aiming to enter a prestigious b-school, this book explained and clarified a lot of the behaviors, attitudes and incidents that I did not quite understand while socializing in those elite circles. Moving forward, I'm armed with the knowledge and wisdom of this book--with very crucial inf ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is blunt but helpful to anyone trying to break into a select few fields. She describes in detail what is meant by "culture" by hiring managers and how that benefits certain groups. The author put words to things I had felt in hiring but didn't have the words to describe. It does become repetitive past a certain point.
Matthew Green
Rivera's study is a good one. While what she documents is, for the most part, annoyingly predictable, her insights on recruiting and interviewing at elite professional service firms are valuable. Rivera also provides some strong sociological insight on cultural capital and how it functions within the process of social reproduction.
Nanbo Li
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Well-researched. While it may presented a frighting story to the public, nothing really new in the “ESP” field.
May 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting ideas and discussions, but a bit repetitive after like pg. 7 and also dry
Tom Elliott
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I described the content of this book to my wife, and her reaction was that it seemed to be stating the obvious about access to high paying jobs. But what Pedigree outlines both the structural privilege and the role of personal bias in hiring decisions, which propagates the generational transfer of wealth. It may seem like conventional wisdom, but to hear specific examples from specific evaluators/interviewers/job seekers makes it seem a bit less monolithic, and gives some focus to efforts to cre ...more
Kelley Jansson
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
An inside account that follows elitism beyond the Ivies and into the workplace. We already know about the strong relationship between a higher socioeconomic status and the elite schools, so this book really validated what seemed obvious but had yet to be studied. Disproportionately, privileged kids attend elite schools and that that pedigree provides access to the highest paying entry-level jobs. The recruiting behavior and methods described of the elite consulting firms, investment banks, and b ...more
Lance Eaton
If you work in higher education and believe in any kind of social justice mission that higher education is to fulfill, then this book is worth picking up. Furthermore, if you plan any role in hiring employees, it would be equally important for you to check out this book. Rivera explores and deconstructs the "magic" of job hiring to illustrate how social and cultural capital often allows for more privileged people to acquire prestigious jobs, regardless of their actual skill and ability. She show ...more
Dean Orfield
May 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Liked the insight into high-level interviews in general and felt the author had reasonable credibility based on her narrow focus and immersion in the hiring process.
The read felt like it was edited to take off some of the "academic paper" edge--not quite successfully(?)
Interesting to hear the difference in interview approach between these three careers.
The conclusion--and much of the book's discussion--came across as intuitive/not surprising. "People hire in their own image" seemed to be the me
Jason Chandrapal
May 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as way to improve my application for medical residency. The job fields the author investigates are very similar to medical students trying to obtain a residency position. The notion of the hiring companies as gate keepers rang very true with my own personal experiences. While I could not change where I went to college or medical school, I tried to heed her advice regarding things I could change. For example I employed her suggestions of emphasizing specifics of hobbies and using ...more
Michael Feehly
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Should be required reading for all college graduates, both those from elite and non-elite educational institutions. Rivera's work dispels the myths of meritocracy in hiring and her first-person experiences inside the hiring process offers helpful guidance to those who are trying to break through a rigged system, and also to those who are looking to be reminded why so many people urged them to avoid the consulting/i-banking rat race.
Samantha Hines
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting methodology, good ethnography. Important look at how class defines us in the US and why it's hard to break out and move up.
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Disturbing and insightful insider view of the hiring practices at elite consulting, law, and financial firms.
Nick Huntington-Klein
A little repetitive and overlong, but an essential read for understanding the dynamics of entry into the world of the elite and the Bourdieu-ian reproduction of culture.
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Fantastic research! Well conducted, well documented.
A high quality popular social science book.
Jul 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Highly accessible social science, but did I learn anything new here?
Mills College Library
331.11445 R6216 2015
Jan 31, 2016 rated it did not like it
Pathetic whiny liberal wants-a-participation-trophy shite.
May 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, business, sociology
Reinforces my decision to never become a Chief Diversity Officer. The book is academic in nature (sociology) but very readable. Some solid tips on interviewing for any job, just just an "elite" one.
Jose Tobon
rated it it was amazing
Mar 31, 2017
rated it really liked it
Aug 22, 2016
Rahul Kanakia
rated it it was amazing
Jun 17, 2015
Martin Hughes
rated it it was amazing
Jun 14, 2017
rated it it was amazing
Oct 05, 2017
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“The school you went to is the most important thing. They don’t recruit at less prestigious schools. I was lucky. I didn’t go to a great school. I mean in my analyst class, we had thirty from Harvard, twenty from Wharton[’s undergraduate program], and only five from [my top-fifteen school]. Once in a while, you see someone from a state school. But usually they’re there because of connections. The most common type of connection was a personal one—either a direct or indirect friendship—with an employee of a particular firm. Michael, also a banker, came from a nonlisted school. He used his own job search experience as an example of the usefulness of connections: If you’re not from the core, then it’s much more difficult to get a job here. All firms say that you can submit your résumé online, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard of someone who was successful this way. In my case, I had to come out here [to New York, from the South], work through friends and friends of friends, really use connections and be proactive.” 0 likes
“Firms justified their approach to recruitment by asserting that the best students go to the best universities and by arguing that it was more efficient to hire from listed schools because the screening that had already been done by these institutions’ admissions offices saved firms time and money. But as the next chapter’s examination of recruitment at core campuses shows, limiting competition to students at elite schools was much more than a matter of efficiency or effectiveness. Firms spent vast sums of money each year engaging in an elaborate courting ritual with students at core campuses. This showy, expensive undertaking not only bolstered the status of the participating companies in the eyes of students but it also generated emotional investment in the outcome of the hiring contest and began to seduce students into an upper-class style of life.” 0 likes
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