Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Not to return to a topic I'm ready to leave, but... there's an interesting post on a less-interesting thread on the Princeton Review law school discussion board about Harvard's on-campus-interviewing process. The thread topic is about how the original poster didn't get as many callbacks as he or she hoped, and blames the school. Basically. Which isn't really fair, because if there's one thing Harvard does well, it's bring lots of firms to campus who all want to hire us. So most of the thread isn't all that useful. But there's a post by a poster, "Efficient Breach," towards the end of the thread, that talks about Harvard's policy against letting firms pre-screen by looking at our transcripts and instead forcing firms to go through the charade of a twenty-minute interview with someone they'll never hire. The thread is here. My take on it is pretty middle-of-the-road: if there are really firms that are pre-screening based on grades, and under no circumstances will give jobs to someone with a GPA below [whatever], then it really doesn't seem to make sense to waste their time and students' time by not letting them pre-screen these people beforehand. But, if it's possible for the firms to be persuaded by an exceptional interview, and override the grade cutoff, even in just a handful of special cases, then I guess I think not letting them pre-screen is okay. I break no new ground with this position, obviously. Efficient Breach's post basically says the same thing, but comes down in the direction of assuming these firms do have hard cutoffs, and therefore Harvard is being silly by not letting them pre-screen. I'm inclined to think that a truly superb interview -- and borderline grades that would perhaps have been screened out if pre-screening was allowed -- might in some cases tip the balance (obviously this is just a guess), even when a firm insists its cutoff is firm, and so I'd probably come out in the direction of keeping the policy as is. The biggest worry I'd have about letting firms pre-screen (and I imagine this is Harvard's worry too) is that firms that in practice wouldn't have a real cut-off, if given the chance would love to only have to see people in the top half/third/whatever of the class -- and will only interview those students, just because they only have to. While now, those same firms may very well be hiring people who fall below there. So the number of firms with "cut-offs" would increase, just because the process would enable them to have them. Maybe?

EDITED TO ADD (MONDAY 9:45 AM): "Efficient Breach" posted a response on the Princeton Review board here. I agree with EB's argument that if firms truly have "firm bars" then it's just wasting everyone's time for them to have to interview people below that bar. But EB writes: "Jeremy's hypothesis is that allowing prescreening will move employers from a soft bar to a firm bar. But why?" Like I said, it's just a guess: but I think more firms would employ cut-offs just because it would be easier for them to do so. Suppose a firm tends to call back 50% of students above a certain GPA, and 10% of students below a certain GPA, just because it's sufficiently impressed with them, or whatever. The firm may absolutely believe that the 10% they call back below the line are great candidates -- but given the ability to pre-screen, could decide it's just not worth sending three more interviewers up, and having to wade through the 90% they won't be taking, just to find the 10% -- when they can still get the 50% of above-the-line students they want, and maybe take a few extras to compensate on the numbers, who may have been borderline candidates before. I don't think that would be an unreasonable thought process necessarily. So not letting them pre-screen means those 10% get callbacks, but letting them pre-screen would mean they wouldn't even get interviews. Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe it's so competitive between firms that each firm wants to absolutely interview as many people as possible to find those "10%" gems that may not have the high GPA, or because they know if they pre-screen they may not get enough Harvard students to fill their class -- or whatever other reasons are out there. But just as a thought exercise, it seems to me it could cut either way, and for some firms (perhaps the very top firms, who aren't worried that losing my hypothetical "10%" will really impact the overall Harvard yield) it would go the way of closing a door that for a few students would have otherwise been open. (Also, thanks to EB for the kind words about my weblog at the top of his response... appreciated, really.)