Lauren A. Rivera : Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015. 375 pp. $35.00, hardcover.
The book is a very detailed read on hiring and elite firms and is thus best suited for individuals interested in these topics, such as scholars studying early professional careers, elite labor markets, inequality, or hiring specifically. With this said, many insights in the book could be beneficial to scholars interested in these topics more broadly. For instance, Rivera makes a strong case for rethinking core assumptions underlying empirical studies by management and sociology scholars, such as the importance of human resources personnel (who are often cordoned into roles providing administrative rather than strategic support that offer little oversight to assure meritocratic hiring) or the importance of résumés or grades in getting hired (because extracurricular activities that can serve as fodder for interview conversation trump any hard data presented on a résumé). So although the book is clearly situated as a study of class and elites, it does have broader insights into hiring that a wider set of scholars could benefit from reading.
The book’s strength is its rich qualitative descriptions of what goes on behind the curtain of hiring within a firm, particularly the ethnographic portions in which Rivera uses her keen skills as an observer to carefully document, often with sharp wit, what is occurring around her. As Rivera contends, this area has been a black box for empirical research in sociology and management, as information is known about the candidate and then about the hiring outcome for that candidate, but less is known about what happens in between. The book’s limitation is in offering concrete conclusions around solutions to the problems identified (more on this below). Nonetheless, it is an interesting read, and readers will be impressed with Rivera’s complete immersion in this elite world.
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