Normally extreme-libertarian Bryan Caplan summarizes a paper about how the elite firms hire.
The conclusions were:
1.The prestige of the school is the most important thing (unless someone who didn’t go to a prestigious schools is evaluating your resume). Public schools like the University of Michigan aren’t considered prestigious.
In addition to being an indicator of potential intellectual deficits, the decision to go to a lesser known school (because it was typically perceived by evaluators as a "choice") was often perceived to be evidence of moral failings, such as faulty judgment or a lack of foresight on the part of a student.
2. Accomplishment in non-work-related extracurricular activities is considered very important: in order to screen out the “’boring,’ ‘tools,’ ‘bookworms,’ or ‘nerds’ who might turn out to be ‘corporate drones’ if hired.”
So it turns out that firms don’t hire in a rational manner predicted by economists who preach market efficiency. Caplan’s blog post is a must-read if you are in high school or college yourself, or if you have a kid in high school and you care about his or her future.
This paper confirms everything I ever said about the importance of going to the best colleges. Except that I missed the importance of college-level extracurriculars, probably because I never participated in elite-firm hiring. At the non-elite company I’m associated with, extracurriculars aren’t important to hiring. What’s most important is having previous experience doing whatever is being hired for, and being a minority. The HR department will reject hiring decisions if the manager didn’t interview enough minorities.
Also, I think that law firms are a little bit different than other elite firms because (1) they value the top fourteen law schools as ordered by US News, and that list includes two state schools; (2) they care about grades more and extracurriculars less. Law firms hire nerdier people than investment banks.