By John Lawrence
It used to be accepted without question that a college degree was necessary to get a good job, and over the course of a lifetime, you would make more money with a college degree than without one. But not so fast. Despite the propaganda put out by colleges who hope to profit off your matriculation, it turns out that the latest thing in hiring practices is to disregard the college degree altogether.
Companies like Xerox are hiring not based on your resume, which includes your degrees and work experience, but on a test they’ve devised which they claim is a better predictor of job performance. Xerox runs 175 call centers around the world. In all, the centers employ more than 50,000 customer service agents who deal with questions about everything from cellphone bills to health insurance.
Xerox was having a problem hiring the right people for the jobs and reducing turnover. So they hired a company to help them do a better job of finding the right people. This company studied the characteristics of those people already at Xerox who were successful at their jobs and came up with a test whose aim was to find new applicants with exactly those same characteristics.
The company, whose name is Evolv, tested prospective employees based on the data collected from employees already on the job and doing well. With these new techniques, Xerox says it has been able to improve its hiring and significantly reduce turnover at its call centers.
Other companies that parse employee data say that the conventional wisdom about the desirability of college graduates as employees is flat out wrong. Michael Rosenbaum of Pegged Software said the following: “We find zero statistically significant correlation between a college degree or a master’s degree and success as a software developer.”
Really?! This is not what the for profit colleges or even the traditional colleges want you to hear. They profit from loading you up with a huge load of student loan debt. Why would you acquire a prodigious amount of student loan debt only to find out that your degree was practically worthless in the job market?
On the Evolv website they say they are the recognized leader in Big Data workforce optimization. The idea is that they collect a lot of data on what makes for a successful employee, and then assist companies in finding those individuals whose characteristics correlate with that data. This does not mean that they look for people with college degrees. The whole degree process is effectively bypassed and invalidated by means of Big Data.
[They mine] employee performance to help stanch turnover and upend HR. Big data is also changing the way companies hire and manage their workforces. Like other HR software, Evolv helps employers better understand employees and job candidates by comparing their skills, work experience, and personalities. But Evolv takes it to a deeper level, crunching more than 500 million data points on gas prices, unemployment rates, and social media usage to help clients like Xerox—who has cut attrition by 20 percent—predict, for example, when an employee is most likely to leave his job.
Other insights Evolv’s data scientists have uncovered: People with two social media accounts perform much higher than those with more or less, and in many careers, such as call-center work, employees with criminal backgrounds perform better than those with squeaky-clean records. Evolv’s sales grew a whopping 150% from Q3 2012 to Q3 2013.
Hey, this is great news for criminals who finally will be able to compete for jobs on a level playing field with college graduates! So let’s get real. A college diploma is nothing more than a piece of paper. It shows that you were able and willing to be bored to death and sit through 16 years of classes while being a pretty good test taker. It’s the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. It commends you as a docile and compliant employee, one who will not make waves, one who will submit to a boring job in order to pay off all those student loans.
Here’s an example of the counter-intuitive wisdom that Evolv purports to have discovered: Workers who use Chrome or Firefox—instead of Internet Explorer—stay at their jobs longer, miss 15 percent fewer work days, and deliver higher customer satisfaction. Who would have known?
So all you job applicants out there – make sure you are using the correct browser if you want to get hired! Some of this stuff is downright silly. Here’s another bon mot: Job performance is higher among employees who use three to four social networks compared to those who are less involved with social networks (sort of contradicts the blurb above on Fast Company).
We are entering an era of hyper-meritocracy where everyone applying for a job will be given a rating by Big Data. Finally, Huxley’s Brave New World is being realized. You might be rated as an alpha or a beta – if you’re talented – or a gamma, delta or epsilon if you’re not. Your job rating complemented by your credit score will be determining factors in predicting your success or lack thereof throughout life. As long as you tow the line, you’ll be OK. Having fun, yet?
So who needs college? Apparently most billionaires don’t. Many of those at the top of Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans are college dropouts including #1 (Bill Gates) and #3 (Larry Ellison). Charles and David Koch, tied for #4, are graduates of MIT. Most of the the Walton family (#s 6, 7, 8 and 9) have college degrees which had nothing to do with their inherited billions. Sheldon Adelson (#11) is a college dropout, but he’s calling the shots in the political arena. Robert Reich has this to say about dropout Sheldon:
At this very moment, Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (worth an estimated $37.9 billion) is busy interviewing potential Republican candidates whom he might fund, in what’s being called the “Sheldon Primary.”
“Certainly the ‘Sheldon Primary’ is an important primary for any Republican running for president,” says Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. “It goes without saying that anybody running for the Republican nomination would want to have Sheldon at his side.”
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, (#12), graduated from Princeton. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, (#s 13 and 14), founders of Google, are college graduates although they dropped out of Stanford before getting their PhDs. Mark Zuckerberg, (#20), founder of Facebook, is a college dropout. Michael Dell of Dell Computer (#25) is a college dropout. Paul Allen, (#26), cofounder of Microsoft, is a college dropout and current owner of the Seattle Seahawks.
Lorene Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs founder of Apple Computer who was a college dropout, is #35. Local billionaire Irwin Jacobs, founder of Qualcomm, has a PhD from MIT and is tied for #342 with seven other guys. He has something in common with the Koch brothers although not their political philosophy.
Most of these guys came from humble backgrounds and achieved success by dint of being extraordinarily talented and obsessively hard working. They are the meritocrats of the new meritocracy. Put another way they are the upper 1% intellectually who became the upper 1% financially.
They are not only meritocrats; they are plutocrats as detailed in Chrystia Freeland’s book, Plutocrats. This is what is driving income inequality in the US and the world: the phenomenal success of extremely gifted people helped along with a multiplier effect that capitalism and in particular the stock market via Initial Public Offerings provides.
As Chrystia Freeman states in her book:
Forbes classifies 840 of the 1226 people on its 2012 billionaire ranking as self-made. It’s true that few of today’s plutocrats were born into the sort of abject poverty that can close off opportunity altogether…but the bulk of their wealth is generally the fruit of hustle, intelligence, and a lot of luck. They are not aristocrats, by and large, but rather economic meritocrats, preoccupied with not only consuming wealth but also with creating it.
The concentration of income and wealth at the top comes about as a result of meritocracy more than anything else. Income and wealth inequality represent the dark side of meritocracy. There is a disconnect between the values that got the plutocrats to where they are (intelligence and hard work) and the results which have been produced (erosion of the middle class due to income and wealth inequality).
Incidentally, Bill Gates does not even have a job, having retired from Microsoft, but still made a substantial sum last year. As of March 2014, Gates is worth $76 billion, according to Forbes’ annual list of billionaires. That’s $9 billion more than a year ago and $4 billion more than six months ago. Even though he’s given $38 billion to his charitable foundation, he still keeps getting richer year after year. There are no such similar gains, however, for 99% of US citizens whose wages have been stagnant for years.