Bosses under fire for hiring staff who are just like them

The Times, 16.06.15, a leading City figure has waded into the row over social mobility, saying that too many banks, law firms and accountants were “hiring in their own image” and wasting “the talent of a generation”. HMC Chairman Richard Harman, headmaster of Uppingham School is quoted.

Mark Boleat, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, said that the financial services sector needed to recruit almost 150,000 people over the next ten years, so jobs had to be opened up to the best candidates from all backgrounds to avoid a skills crisis.

The Social Mobility Commission said its research showed that between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of job applications to 13 top companies were from people who had attended Russell group universities. They received 60 per cent to 70 per cent of all job offers. Candidates from fee-paying and selective schools made up 70 per cent of graduate trainees at companies in the case study.

Employers also revealed that they gravitated towards candidates who had travelled to exotic locations. Mr Boleat said that this was short sighted. “For some children, a school trip to the D-Day beaches will be the first time they have gone abroad and for that reason a very useful experience for them,” he said.

He also questioned whether embarking on expensive recruitment campaigns at the top universities was an effective way to get the best talent.

He attended Lanchester Polytechnic, now Coventry University, which would probably be considered unfashionable by many employers these days. However, universities such as Coventry “go to great lengths to make sure students are well equipped for the world of work,” Mr Boleat said.

His views were echoed by Sir Terry Leahy, the former chief executive of Tesco, who said that many senior figures in the professions believed that they would not be hired these days by their own organisations because they did not go to one of the “right universities” or perhaps did not go to university at all.

“They have proved that their business was right to hire them many years ago and that it may now be missing out on future leaders by not adequately judging potential,” Sir Terry said.

However Richard Harman, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of independent schools, said pupils won places at the best universities because of hard work and intelligence.

“It is sensible to choose candidates from a wide range of criteria. It is hardly fair, however, to put a barrier in front of young people who have gained a top university place through sheer hard work and call that a posh test. In fact it is a skills test,” he said.

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