Connections Help in Senior Recruiting

"It's not what you know; it's who you know."

Harvard students don't like to hear this phrase. Here in the ivory tower, we like to think that everyone advances according to his or her abilities. After all, that's what got us here, right? Those long nights in high school, cranking out a 10-page paper when everyone else stopped at page eight. Doing your BC calculus homework on the bus to a soccer game, as teammates around you instead carried on about who was hooking up with whom. Nobody else worked as hard as you did, and here you are at Harvard--that's the way it should be.

You need look no further than the fact that "legacy" students on campus quite often elicit whispers and snickers behind their backs from "real" Harvard students. The latter know that they didn't have to rely on Dad's name or money to get them into the college, gaining entrance instead by virtue of their hard work. The top efforts garner the top rewards--this is the model that has become entrenched in our brains. And this mindset will serve us well the rest of our lives, no?

No.

I hate to burst everyone's idealistic bubble, but I feel it is time to impart some valuable knowledge that I have picked up during my several years at this school. After all, what are columnists for? Well, largely, for bitching and moaning about stuff they don't like. But also, they are here to lend advice and get important messages across to you, the reading population. And my counsel here today is this: in the real world outside Harvard, it really is who you know, and very little of what you know.

I can speak the truth having personally experienced it through the maddening ordeal that is recruiting. For the uninitiated out there, recruiting is the brutal, puerile, demeaning process by which seniors jockey for plum positions within investment banks, consulting firms and various other fast-track jobs in the business world. It is also the process by which the realities of the real world come crashing down on our sheltered little heads.

In competing--and there is no nicer way to describe it--against your fellow classmates for the best jobs at the best firms, you begin to see how things really work. True, you submit your resum and transcript to each employer, outlining your achievements and scores. But if you have a friend already working at the firm, you can guarantee yourself a first-round interview, avoiding the massive weeding-out process that comprises the initial stage of recruiting.

Once you are interviewing, a sparkling GPA or a litany of awards may get a brief mention as the face across the table quickly scans your resum. However, the discovery that you and the interviewer have a common friend, or share a common interest, is golden. You could have no idea how to spell "investment bank," but if you're both amateur pilots, or your fathers went to the same law school, by golly, you're in. Your interviewer becomes your fiercest defender during the firm's decision-making process, and if he's got pull--again, it's who you know--you've got yourself a job.