Dave, as a hiring manager at a large almost Fortune 1000 company, I constantly find myself looking at resumes and trying to weigh the relative value of degrees from different colleges. Does someone with a computer science degree from MIT or an MBA from Stanford but less relevant experience beat someone with a similar degree from Unknown U., and multiple years of directly applicable work? What do you think?
This is an interesting question because it mirrors the thought process I went through about four years ago when I decided to study for a Masters in Business Administration degree.
My first question was whether to do it online or at a physical facility. Since I was in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, I toured the Stanford Business School and went to an open house at Santa Clara University’s school of business too. In both instances I was much older than the typical incoming student and being married and a parent, didn’t feel like I had much in common either.
Instead, I turned to online education and evaluated some of the many hundreds of different online MBA programs. I used both Strayer University Campus Finder and Business Week as my reference lists and decided that I would only choose a college that had both a ground-based and online-based MBA program. That eliminated quite a few possibilities.
But along the way, one of the questions I kept asking myself was: how much more valuable would a very expensive degree from a prestigious college be when compared to a relative no name or regional institution?
Rather than just guess, I polled a few dozen of my business colleagues, and the conclusion I reached after listening to a variety of opinions is that there are a very small number of highly prestigious schools in any given area of study, and if you didn’t go to an “A-list” school, then it really doesn’t matter what college you attended.
In terms of hiring from an A-list college or not, if you go into the office and walk around, ask yourself who is the most productive and who has most helped the company achieve its goals, and I bet you’ll find that there’s actually little correlation between college and value to the organization.
In certain areas, of course, the network of classmates is the secret value of a more prestigious school like MIT or Stanford, but even then, most alumni I’ve talked with tend not to recognize this and five years after matriculating aren’t in contact with more than one or two fellow grads.
So my advice would be unless you really need someone from MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, or one of the other prestigious colleges, hire the person with relevant experience. I bet you won’t regret it.