When you read resumes, what mental shortcuts do you take? If you want to hire smart people, do you look for the reputation of their college? If you want people who are highly skilled and professional, do you look for the reputation of their current employers? And how much weight do you give to the pedigree of a candidate’s educational institution or previous employers?
Everyone knows that a degree from Harvard does not guarantee intelligence. But it does mean that you met the institution’s famously high standards just to get in.
Similarly, working as a consultant with McKinsey & Co. means that you passed the intense scrutiny of that company's hiring process — even if the occasional bad apple snuck past its quality control. McKinsey's perceived higher standards make elite organizations tempting to use as a hiring shortcut. You think to yourself, “Well, people with that background must be better than average.”