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Help Wanted: Must play well with high-powered coworkers

Shared interests can trump job skills for entry-level applicants at elite companies

9:47pm, December 3, 2012

Big-time investment banks, law firms and management consulting companies choose new workers much as they would choose friends or dates, zeroing in on shared leisure activities, life experiences and personality styles, a new study finds.

These elite firms recruit Ivy League students assumed to have basic job skills and then select those who jibe with the organization’s culture and personality, says sociologist Lauren Rivera of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Similarities in hobbies and outside interests have been proposed as keys to acceptance into exclusive groups for more than a century. In the December American Sociological Review, Rivera provides the first systematic look at how this effect influences the hiring process.

Rivera initially wanted to see how the sex and race of both job applicants and interviewers at top professional companies affected who got hired. She soon realized that cultural ties between applicants and interviewers pr

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