Snobbery at elite accounting firms about accents, mannerisms and background hamper the chances of talented working class applicants, according to a recent government study.
The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commision, which conducted the study, reported “that up to seventy percent of job offers have been made to graduates educated at a selective state or fee paying school in a single cohort. This compares to four percent and seven percent of the population as a whole”.
No leading accountancy firms release social mobility data, so this information was gained exclusively from firm case studies. According to the study, as university education has become more widespread, employers have turned their attention to other characteristics like personal style, accent and mannerisms, and adaptability.
The report’s conclusions did raise some significant criticisms among the AccountingWEB community, however. For some members, the preference of independently schooled employees was a matter of practicality.
“I can see that certain firms would want presentation and communication of employees to be up to scratch from day 1,” wrote Alan Davies. “Individuals who know how to act and dress accordingly without guidance are more likely to come from homes where they have the appropriate examples i.e. professional parents & good schools/university.”
Others also defended an employee’s alma mater being part of the rationale when hiring. “[I] have always considered that some universities are better than others in genuine ways,” said NHGlos “So I feel it’s perfectly understandable that being a graduate from one university as opposed to another may work in your favour”.
David Gordon lamented the injection of politically correct values into recruitment and employment. “It is just a pity that it has become politically incorrect to tell someone they need to spend time learning to speak clearly, correctly, and to the point,” he wrote.
Other members outright denied the reality portrayed in the study. “From my experience in the Big Four, this is rubbish,” wrote Harrison88. “I never experienced any resistance to recruiting people or favouring them based on background.”
Where do you fall on this issue? A real barrier or a completely untrue?