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Do employers care about what school you go to?

Would I be considered a failure/ not qualified if I didn’t go to the top schools?

#college #career #job #college-selection

Thank you comment icon I’m interested in computer science, so would not going to MIT, CalTech, etc make me seem unqualified for a job? Stephanie L.
Thank you comment icon Hi Stephanie, I hear and see a lot of students going to Cal-state schools and getting jobs right after graduation. I don’t think the school matters as much as your experience does. Whatever school you go to, I would look into what their career services are like and how they help connect students to working professionals. That seems to be a big factor in success after graduation. Good luck!! Ashley T.
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John’s Answer

It matters not at all where you got your degree Stephanie, but rather what you did with your time while in the college you attend. It matters what kind of person you are, how persistent you are, how hard you work, how creative you are, and how you present yourself when applying for a new job. College students often do not consider the actual skills that employers want. Most students may only be thinking in terms of their college requirements: i.e. the requirements in their major, and possibly their minor, and what credits they need to do to graduate. Students will often miss the connections between what they are doing in college and what they will need to do once they graduate – especially regarding those courses outside of their major. Employers aren’t getting what they want from graduates today. If you’re a university student keen to narrow this gap (and want to make an impression in your future job interviews), below these are the skills think employers globally find most important.

• COMMUNICATION SKILLS – The ability to communicate effectively—both verbal and written—are both essential and rare. Those with strong communication skills are in high demand, regardless of the job or industry. You need to be able to communicate successfully with employees, managers, and customers in-person, online, in writing, and/or over the phone.
• POSITIVE ATTITUDE – Attitude may not be everything, but it’s extremely valuable. Employers want employees who are positive even in stressful and challenging circumstances. Positivity shows your level of resilience. Employers want to hire applicants with a “can-do” attitude who are flexible, dedicated, and willing to contribute extra effort to get the job done in the face of challenges.
• TEAMWORK – Regardless of the job, employers want to hire people who are team players—people who are cooperative and work well with others. They don’t want employees who are difficult to work with. When you are interviewing, be sure to share examples of how you worked well on a team. Your level of teamwork indicates your ability to collaborate effectively with a wide variety of people.

In addition to soft skills, there are other, more tangible skills that most projects require. These are called hard skills or technical skills. They are the specific knowledge and abilities required to do the job. Examples of hard skills include computer coding, software knowledge and equipment operation.

• TECHNICAL SKILLS – The technical skills you need will vary, of course, depending on the job. However, most positions require at least some technical skills, including experience using industry software, completing higher-level education (such as college degrees or vocational certifications), or being experienced at highly specific tasks.
• PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS – These may seem a little like analytical or interpersonal skills, but problem-solving is often considered a separate skill. You may have to deal with problems that require a quick response and resolution. Being able to think on your feet and solve problems at a moment's notice is an important quality many employers are looking for.

Hope this is helpful Stephanie
Thank you comment icon Thank You Emma. Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much. John Frick
Thank you comment icon Thank You Jennifer. The best time to do something significant is between yesterday and tomorrow. John Frick
Thank you comment icon Your Welome Stephanie. Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come. John Frick
Thank you comment icon Thank you Dexter for your continued support. It's not important to count the things we do, but to do the things that count. John Frick
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Alejandra’s Answer

Hi Stephanie,

I agree with all the answers above, but here to give an interesting perspective that's from the other side. While going to a top school isn't what lands you the job, it may help in two ways: (1) getting your resume read (2) having connections to hiring managers or staff. I'll explain more below!

(1) Getting your resume read- While it's unfortunate, humans do have a bias when looking at resumes. More and more, companies are removing names to prevent gender bias from resumes, but that doesn't mean there aren't other things that make managers bias when liking at resumes. Besides obvious things that do make people want to read your resume (clean design, no spelling/grammar errors, clear experience) having a top university on your resume will get your resume read more readily. Why? Because there still is a huge bias that people that get into top schools have gone through the wringer in education and can potentially handle high-level stress at work better than others. Is this true? ABSOLUTELY not, but that doesn't mean the bias is not there. I can say first hand that I've been next to a manager reading through resumes and they did in fact give more weight to schools they were familiar with than not, but that is just 1 experience I've had.

(2) Having a connection- I did not go to an Ivy League school, but I did go to school in Boston where many, many top schools are. Although I didn't go to an ivy league, going to school in Boston has given me a major "relatable" asset when interviewing. If they went to Harvard, MIT, Tufts, BU, BC, then we automatically have a connection despite the fact those school names might not be on my resume. Going to a top school (or any school) is about building up a network and it's so important that you look at school in this way. I am not arguing that you should go to a top school because that will make you more relatable, but it's worth noting that there is a way to capitalize on name brands schools without physically attending them.

I hope these two tips give you a different perspective, but keep in mind that what's more important than these two things are what everyone else listed.. experience and what YOU as an individual bring to the table. That will always trump what school you to have on your resume.
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John’s Answer

I have been a hiring manager for 40 years and I can tell you that unless a candidate had an advanced degree from MIT or CalTech, I cared more about their GPA and the relevant internships/projects they worked on during there scholastic endeavors. I would give them extra points if they formed or ran a tech oriented or tech derived business and could communicate how and why they were successful. Beyond that its all about their interaction with me or the interview team if they made it through screening, and the way to succeed there is to present well as a person (professional, limited or no use of linguistic nervousness [uhm, you know, etc], no nervous laughter) and whether they had and could communicate a personal value proposition.

To be honest anyone can get hired if they find a way to stand out from the crowd, present themselves well and can articulate their personal value proposition to myself and others. I have hired really gifted non-degreed candidates over degreed ones often because they had "working brains" and could adapt and adjust under pressure. I do technical screenings but NEVER do coding tests unless the hiring team for some reason requires them. I'm genuinely more interest in the candidates ability to think on their feet in front of strangers and preferably in the face of a social challenge (long interview w/o a bio-break, a travel challenge, something that forces them out of their comfort zone. I've interviewed candidates at family BBQ's, after their travel arrangements had "issues", anything to throw them off and force them to adapt to succeed.

John recommends the following next steps:

Get the best overall education you can afford wherever you are matriculated and get a high average in GPA
Don't let the perceived threat of competing schools intimidate you now or anytime in your future career
Develop and maintain ongoing, your personal value proposition - what makes me want to hire you; what will I miss out on if I don't pick you
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Dexter’s Answer

Hi Stephanie,

From my experience, I can tell you that Alejandra hit it right on the head. While the quality of education doesn't differ too much, the connections you make, and how certain managers look at your resume will differ.

I did want to add one more aspect, which is that large companies aren't staffed to actively target and go to the career days of all schools. So, they make a prioritized list, and guarantee staffing for the top schools. As you can guess, the "top" schools that are fully staffed are the same "top" schools for college rankings. Of course, at major companies, they also take volunteers to staff the career days, so they reach out to their employees, and usually, the employees volunteer to staff the "top" schools that they're an alumni of. And because of this model, it's the "top" schools that will give you a certain advantage in finding a job.

So to answer your question, does it matter? Yes. Would you be considered a failure? Not by a long shot. Would you be not qualified by going to a state or even a city college? Nope! Your qualifications are dependent on your experience, skills, and core values.

I wish you the best!

--
Dexter
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Emma’s Answer

Agreed with many of the answers already posted. It does not matter as much as it feels like it does, but there are still some benefits.

I am a former admission counselor. I recommend also looking for the school that is the right "fit" - which one has an environment that will truly allow you to thrive? Where will you be able to learn and discover yourself and continue growing in confidence? Which school has a supportive community, academically and socially?

Big schools can have a ton of options, access, and name recognition, but it might also be difficult to "plug in" to student life. Sometimes classes are lecture halls with 400+ students. Smaller private schools often offer small class sizes, personal relationships with professors, and a more tight knit student body. But depending on your field of study and career goals, you may need more exposure and networking opportunities to land internships and jobs.

As others have mentioned, the quality of the education itself probably won't vary too much. Reflect on what type of school might be the best fit for your personality and growth.

Lastly, since you specified studying a technical field, I can almost guarantee that part of your interviewing process will include a hands-on component to ensure you have the actual skills to do the job (such as competing a coding project). This helps reduce bias and making hiring decisions based on feelings.
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Vivian’s Answer

I know that in interviews for jobs they usually see your experiences and skills more than the school you graduated from. Speaking with confidence and composure are qualities that many employers seek! It does not necessarily have to do with education rather the qualities you possess. A well-rounded resume along with knowledge about the position will help you land the position! Good luck!
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Maeve’s Answer, CareerVillage.org Team

It definitely does NOT matter. What matters is that you show you made the most of your time at whatever school you choose to go to and foster relationships with the people you meet there. When I was in high school, I felt like my whole life would be determined by the college I went to. I thought that if the school I chose wasn't prestigious enough, people would pass over my resume when I went to search for a job. The reality is, once you enter the workforce, people rarely care about what school you went to. They are focused on your work ethic, leadership skills, your ability to learn and take feedback and how you treat others. This means that at any school you attend, you can show that you are qualified by getting involved in students activities (join clubs, research opportunities, internship, part-time job, volunteering, leadership roles, being a TA etc.).

When making career changes or applying to new jobs, it is important that you have references who can speak to your experience and what it is like to work with you. The relationships you form will speak the most to how qualified you are for any future job! Relationships are the most important resource I gained from going to college. The network of people I met at school, and the network of alumni who I can reach out to, have been so valuable in my life and in my career. You can foster these relationships at any school you go to--you don't need to be at a fancy university to create connections that will help guide you!
Thank you comment icon Great advice, Maeve! yoonji KIM, Admin
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Nick’s Answer

Your skills and experiences matter most to hiring managers. It is important to get summer internships in your field of study to help make your resume complete. It is also important to many hiring managers for you to participate in extra-curricular activities like intramural sports, on-campus clubs, etc. as it is important to show you are a well-rounded individual.
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Nancy’s Answer

Hi Stephanie!

Absolutely not! When I was in high school, many of my friends got into big name schools like Dartmouth, Princeton, and Notre Dame. At the time, I felt like an idiot because I was going to plain old UC Davis, and I was almost embarrassed to tell them. I'm in the later part of my career now, and I've learned 3 important lessons.

First, I've hired many people in their first career jobs, and what appeals more than just a "top school" is a candidate who has experiences like part time jobs and student activities. It says a lot about you if you participated in student government, local community volunteering, sports activities, community theater, or other social clubs (book club, cooking club, ski club, you name it club). These are good signs that a person enjoys working and interacting with other people, and that counts for a lot in your first job.

Second, a degree from a top school doesn't mean a person will do well in industry vs. academia. I've personally worked with a few "top grads" who were a nightmare. Everything from being too theoretical and indecisive, to having a bit of an ego problem that gets in the way of learning the job, or being willing to do some of the grunt work of the job. More than anything, employers want people with good attitudes, who recognize that regardless of their education, they have a lot to learn about the actual job and the industry, and are eager to dig in.

Third, many people don't end up working in their chosen field of study. The key is not necessarily to plan your career/life out in college, but to always have an eye on what's going on around you and to be bold enough to ask questions about things that look interesting. If someone told my high school self that I would work in high tech, I would have laughed in your face. I was (and still am) allergic to math, so I never envisioned myself as a STEM person. I started as a business major, hated the calculus, but was good at writing so I switched to English and Communications... and then had a tough time getting my first job after college because the economy was terrible. I had to resort to taking a legal assistant job, which felt like total failure at the time. But it happened to be with a patent and trademark law firm, and a woman I worked with noticed my ability to easily understand and document technical concepts, and she turned me on to the idea of technical writing. I discovered that I actually really liked working with technology, so I found a Tech Writing Certificate program, took that, and then applied to a bazillion tech writing jobs, and finally scored one. After a few years of being a tech writer and working with engineering teams, I discovered that I was really good at coordinating projects across teams, and I wanted to be more involved in the management of things. I told my boss at the time, and a few months later a new opening for a technical program manager came up, and I got the job. Did I get it because I knew how to do it? Nope. I just showed a lot of interest, I took care to do my current job well and be a dependable employee, and I took the time to build good working relationships with people around me. Over time, I started managing PM groups and working on some pretty cool technology projects in startups as well as big companies, but none of that would ever have happened if I hadn't taken the "failure" legal assistant job in the first place.

Good luck out there, and always remember - keep your head up and your eyes wide open. You might be really surprised at what ends up inspiring you!

Nancy recommends the following next steps:

Consider schools that have a variety of programs that interest you, and also look for one that fits your personality well, even if it's a smaller school.
Think about what kinds of community volunteer work, or clubs outside of school might be fun to join.
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Priya’s Answer

Unless the place you are getting hired in has people from your alma mater, I do not think it matters so much. I do not think my employers cared too much. Of course, as long as the program you go to is accredited appropriately for your career (such as being in an accredited counseling program in your master's so you can get licensed appropriately) then it would matter you pick an appropriate school. For an undergraduate career I do not think this should be a big deal, aside from doing a degree like engineering or art that you would complete with a Bachelor degree. Check in on your specific career/license and check if there are any requirements. Other than that, it can help if you go to a good program, but I do not think it is an end all be all kind of situation. I think my employers just cared that I had the right degree and experience more than anything.
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Ashley’s Answer

Hi Stephanie,
I hear and see a lot of students going to Cal-state schools and getting jobs right after graduation. I don’t think the school matters as much as your experience does. Whatever school you go to, I would look into what their career services are like and how they help connect students to working professionals. That seems to be a big factor in success after graduation. Good luck!!
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Lori’s Answer

That's a great question, Stephanie!

I think the answer depends on several factors:

1. Your major and the industry you want to work in ---some schools have reputations for producing highly-qualified graduates because their program of study is rigorous or well-rounded compared to others; and/or the school program is listed in the Peterson's Guide to Four-Year Colleges as "competitive" making it quite impressive for a potential employee who graduated with honors.

2. If the college you attended was accredited---ALWAYS make sure you know this---if not, that could be a red flag for the hiring manager. It doesn't say anything negative about you, it just places doubt about the rigor and quality of the course of study you may have received.

3. The individual interviewing you (which you have no control over). It's like some people who are sports fanatics, they have their favorites and divide the world into groups of people: "Those who support their local sport's team" and "Those that don't support their local sports team". Even so, the overall resume and personal attributes contribute more to the overall decision by most hiring managers. As long as your college was accredited and you graduated with an excellent G.P.A., what college you attended is rarely an issue or determining factor for hire.
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