School discrimination in job application… is it real?

Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin

A few months back, I talked with a recruitment officer who told me that during the hiring process, she prepares three receptacles for the applicants. The first is for the graduates of UP, Ateneo, La Salle, and UST. The second is for the graduates of other exclusive schools. While the third container will hold the applicants coming from “the other schools”.

She elaborated that she scans first the documents coming from the first receptacle, and if nobody qualifies, that is when she would browse on the second container. According to her, no way would she ever dare touch the applications from the third receptacle.

I took the conversation very lightly, and believed that we were just spending the day casually. I have been hiring staff since 1987, and school has not been an issue with me. But then my company was not a giant and few applicants came from the exclusive schools.

Yet, I was surprised when one of our on-the-job trainees narrated her experience when she was looking for a job in a well-known business district. She prepared all her requirements and made sure she dressed up on the day she submitted her application. When she got in the office, there were several other applicants with her.

A receptionist scanned her documents then told her to just leave them with her. She will be called if her qualifications will match their needs. However, she got dismayed, when she found out that all the other applicants coming from exclusive schools were requested to stay. She had to fight the urge of going back to the receptionist to retrieve her application letter, believing she won’t be called anyway!

Apparently, this is D-I-S-C-R-I-M-I-N-A-T-I-O-N. I never thought this would be done so blatantly until I have heard it straight from someone I knew. I was even told that some hiring officers ask the following questions during interview: “Do you own a car?” “Do you have outstanding loans?” “Do you own or rent a residence?” How can these questions help in deciphering whether an applicant is qualified or not? I was quite sympathetic for the trainee who narrated this as she is ambitious and hardworking.

This proves a prevalent belief of recruitment officers that graduates of exclusive schools perform better than those coming from the other schools. This is plausibly true, but perhaps certainly not for all cases. A graduate from a less prominent school could just hope that this should not be the basis for denial of employment.

That this manner of selection by school is common is what drives parents to work hard just to send their children to exclusive educational institutions. These schools burgeoned because of their reputations. The mere mention of the name of these schools evokes a distinct sense of pride to their graduates; and while they are often perceived as elitists, we cannot deny the fact that such schools have clout in the community.

But how would this affect employment? As you can see, most of the high paying jobs are usually taken by graduates of exclusive schools. On the other hand, the rank and file positions are reserved for their non-exclusive counterparts.

The best attitude to this problem is similar to my reply to an email who disapproved of my article on age discrimination. It was the sender’s position that those who discriminate on age have good reasons for doing so. At first, I was tempted to try to disprove him but then I realized that I might have given the wrong impression. I certainly do not believe that just ascribing fault will resolve anything.

Blaming your problems on external factors is a fruitless exercise. Attributing your lack of employment to age discrimination is similar to blaming employers for preferring those from the top schools for not getting the higher position, it may assuage your ego but it will bring you nothing.

Despite their handicap of coming from a non-exclusive school, I have seen many people become extremely successful even if their college is quite ordinary. In most cases the advantage of coming from a prominent school declines over time. After a few years in the company the criteria will almost wholly depend on your actual performance on the job.

Over the course of one’s career, success will depend far more on your determination and other factors rather than on just the school you came from. Sooner or later, you will get the position you deserve based on your performance. It is you and not your school that is ultimately responsible for your future.

(All rights reserved. Copyright by Manila Bulletin and Ruben P. Anlacan, Jr. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)


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