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Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs Hardcover – May 4, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Winner of the 2016 Max Weber Book Award, Organizations, Occupations, and Work Section of the American Sociological Association

Winner of the 2016 Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book, Sociology of Culture Section of the American Sociological Association

Co-Winner of the 2016 Distinguished Book Award, Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association

Co-Winner of the 2016 Silver Medal in Career (Job Search, Career Advancement), Axiom Business Book Awards

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2015

"Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs is an academic book with the requisite references to gender theory and Marxist concepts of inequality. But read it carefully and it becomes something far more useful--a guide on how to join the global elite."--Economist

"[Rivera's] richly described account is mesmerising--and horrifying."--Gillian Tett, Financial Times

"[Pedigree] provides an insider look at how top-notch places hire, and explores how their processes serve those with the most privileged and affluent backgrounds."--Bouree Lam, The Atlantic

"Sociologist Rivera has written an exceptionally useful study of how hiring for elite starting jobs is actually done in the US. This insider study shows how the top investment banks, law firms, and consulting companies hire only from a double handful of leading universities, law schools, and business schools. . . . This significant sociological study will also likely be read as a how-to manual."--Choice

From the Back Cover

"In this riveting account of how the nation's top investment banks, consultancies, and law firms choose employees, Lauren Rivera goes inside the recruitment process, interviewing the interviewers and sitting in on their decision meetings. This eye-opening book exposes how the American elite keep the best jobs for themselves."--Frank Dobbin, author of Inventing Equal Opportunity

"Pedigree provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at the hiring processes for elite jobs. Rivera's thoughtful ethnographic observations illuminate exactly how social class matters, and how the display of cultural skills can be crucial for job seekers to gain access to elite positions. It is an eye-opening book."--Annette Lareau, University of Pennsylvania

"Rivera identifies the myriad ways that class influences every stage of the hiring process at top-tier firms, showing how it is that individuals from affluent backgrounds have come to dominate the most elite segments of the American labor market. She pulls back the curtain time and time again, revealing how processes that are apparently class, race, and gender neutral are anything but."--Elizabeth A. Armstrong, coauthor of Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality

"Pedigree sets a new standard of rigor for qualitative social-science research. Rivera shows how educational stratification in the United States is particularly pronounced and caste-like at the gateway to elite professions, and how the boundary between elite colleges and the elite firms that recruit from them is so fuzzy as to be only ceremonial."--Mitchell L. Stevens, author of Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (May 4, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691155623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691155623
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By booktalk29 VINE VOICE on June 13, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not sure what to make of "Pedigree"'s marketing campaign. The book certainly has received a lot of hype, most provocatively in the Economist (headline: "How to join the 1%"). I'm baffled, however, that Amazon is promoting "Pedigree" as "vocational guidance."

"Pedigree" is not a "how-to" guide for joining elite firms. (Again, I'm not exactly sure why it's being promoted as such.) Rather, the book is an easy-to-read text that details/gives an overview of Rivera's research on hiring practices at a few investment banking, consulting and law firms. The insight the book offers is certainly not new for anyone familiar with these industries, but Rivera (heavily influenced by Bourdieu) offers a succinct, beautifully written sociological analysis of a world that is foreign to many -- and one that has not received much attention from academics.

I found the book a pleasure to read, though I found Rivera's analysis slightly repetitive and her presentation of nontraditional candidates who succeeded in accepting offers (chapter 10) lacking. I do look forward, however, to following her work in the future, and I am impressed by her life story (from a single-parent home in L.A. to Yale to Northwestern's Kellogg). Overall, this is a great read for scholars/professionals/laypeople who are interested in exploring the state of our "meritocracy" and are excited by the growing publication of "popular" books about American educational inequality ("Our Kids;" "Privilege;" etc).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Pedigree is a thought provoking case study into hiring practices of what the author terms Elite Professional Services firms (EPS). From the viewpoint of someone interested in inequality, Rivera explains how choices in target campuses, interview structure (fit, polish), and choice to use revenue-generating staff to interview (vs HR) stack the deck against non traditional candidates. Alternatively, for a jobseeker, Pedigree is an amazing insight because it informs about systemic biases and specific techniques to overcome them. Despite having prepared extensively for a summer internship interview at an EPS, this guide provided much deeper understanding about the interview evaluation and hiring committee process. Finally, I was impressed with the quality of the research methodology (hands-on research, inductive coding, accounting for author's own background). I highly recommend Pedigree for people interested in equitable and effective hiring practices and MBA/law school students seeking EPS jobs.
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A thought-provoking, well-researched analysis of the entry-level hiring process at the most elite employers in finance, law and business consulting -- one might even call them "the gatekeepers of the 1%." My husband and I are both part of the world described here (he in consulting and me in law), as we both managed to gate-crash our way in from non-elite family backgrounds. Having done our share of hiring committee work, we can vouch for a lot of the picture painted here.* However, the book's value derives not from the care taken in accurately describing the hiring process, but from the new light the author throws on the subject, even for those already familiar with this world.

Rivera has done society a service by illuminating the unspoken norms against which all applicants to these top employers are judged. These norms, like the need to show participation in a team sport (or similar significant time commitment in a familiar group activity), or the ability to seize and hold the floor in a conversation about serious subjects, are unremarkable features of upper class life. However, they are not the natural outcomes of being raised in a poor family, and outside of attending a boarding school on a scholarship, there is nowhere you can go to learn them. So, although none of these norms overtly discriminate against applicants who are not rich, white Anglo-Saxons (though there are incidents of blatantly illegal discriminatory acts in the book too), their net effect is to largely screen out people whose lives do not resemble those of the wealthy. The book is worth reading in order to see this process in action, or for would-be applicants, even to structure your college years and take other non-obvious steps in preparation.
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Don't listen to anyone who says this book isn't a how-to guide or a vocational book. Rivera does something better than just tell you what to do in order to get an elite job. She describes the thought process, backgrounds and actual behind the scenes conversations of interviewers who are the gate keepers for consulting, banking, and law firms. Anyone who shrugs off this book or believes that it just is telling everyone something about 'elites' that they already know hasn't read it very closely or even finished the book. Rivera explains how the college you attend, your socioeconomic background, race, ethnicity, gender, and even hobbies or interests impact the way an interviewer may perceive you. This is so important especially if you have absolutely nothing in common with the people who are going to interview you. As a 1st generation underrepresented minority from an improvised background who did not attend an ivy league school - I learned from this very book - how to land a highly coveted investment banking internship. This book actually shaped the way I interviewed at firms. I wish I could personally thank the writer herself!
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