Bloomberg Businessweek Associate Editor Louis Lavelle recently spoke to Dan Black, the head of EY recruiting in the US. Instead of pandering to Mr Black — who, admittedly, does plenty of pandering of his own — BB goes straight for the jugular in this interview.
Case in point, this hard-hitting question:
The College Board recently reported that college-bound high school seniors who intend to major in business have some of the lowest SAT scores around. Does that surprise you?
A lesser person might take that as LL suggesting business majors are dipshits. Dan Black, however, will not allow himself to accept this fact, perhaps implying that the "other" firms end up with the subpar SAT performers because the kids at EY are awesome, dangit:
I was surprised to see that. We’ve been in the business of hiring primarily business majors for a very long time. I haven’t seen any kind of lapse or decrease in the quality of the candidates we hire at all. I would have expected them to be on a par with their peers.
Unsatisfied with that response, the interviewer would like to hear more about the "quality" of these candidates:
Tell us about the quality of the business graduates you see coming out of the 200 college campuses where Ernst & Young recruits.
We’re data people here, and every several years we do a full analysis of all our entry-level hires. Those [performance] stats have been remarkably consistent for the 15 years I’ve had an oversight role for recruiting. The anecdotal feedback I get is that these students continue to be very impressive. They’re very well rounded. They’re much more diverse than they were 15 to 20 years ago. They have great cultural awareness. They’re great multitaskers and great at technology. One area where we continue to see an opportunity for improvement is around communications. Part of that has to do with the environment they’ve grown up in. Everything is shorthand and texting and technology. At the end of the day that’s where we’d like to see some improvement.
OK, so they can do 15 things at once and know how to use the Internet, we already know that. Moving on, the interviewer goes full troll on poor Dan:
Once they get to college, business students have been shown to study less and learn less than those in other majors—when they later take the GMAT for MBA admissions, they score worse than any other major. Does business have a reputation, fairly or not, as an easy major?
My experience is that business is not viewed as the path of least resistance. This is all relative, of course. If you were to compare business to pre-med or engineering, that might feel like a safer or less challenging route. But when you compare it to the liberal arts, I don’t get the sense that business is the easier way to go.
Now this is just getting offensive. Is the interviewer implying that business majors are stupid and lazy? Because that's sort of what I'm reading here, correct me if I'm wrong. Points to Dan for deflecting, and point back to the interviewer for calling bullshit:
If that’s the case, then how do you explain those findings?
To suggest that business students are not as smart or not as talented ignores the possibility that the SAT is geared toward people who have a specific skill set. It’s entirely possible that students who intend to be business majors down the road have a specific skill set around numbers or data analytics that does not play well in a test that involves reading comprehension and other things that are not their particular cup of tea.
Wrapping up, Dan has to remind the interviewer that the entire point of college — unless I missed it — is to get a job. While it's endearingly naive to think you deserve $60k fresh out of school to be a philosopher or underwater basketweaver following your dreams, fact remains most people go to college to, I dunno, GET A JOB when they are done. I know for a fact many of you did not choose accounting because you loved spreadsheets that much and wanted to make a difference in the world.
Is there anything to the idea that the business major attracts students who are less well-prepared for college simply because they haven’t decided on a career path, and business offers numerous possibilities?
Business more and more feels like a very practical major to think about. When you look at the people who are getting the jobs out of school, business, finance, and accounting are always up in the top. As a parent or a student, if I’m looking at plunking down 20, 30, or 40 grand a year for a top education, I’d love to have a job waiting for me on the other end of that experience. There’s a practical side to that: People are saying, “Hey, this may be one of the best paths to employment.”
Props to Dan for keeping a level head, a lesser recruiter might have snapped at the interviewer for calling his recruits lazy morons who couldn't hack it in liberal arts but really, as we all know, many of those people are still looking for work and you clever little monkeys are finding it fairly easy to get a job making decent money fresh out of college. So who is the lazy moron, exactly?