Key attributes top companies look for when hiring

Pedigree or Potential: What’s More Important When Hiring for Executive Jobs?

There is a lot of talk in the business world about hiring and retention of great talent, with a particular focus on pedigree or potential. What is more important to an organization when hiring for executive jobs – the educational pedigree of an individual or their potential?

Especially for executive jobs, there are candidates who have both, the pedigree as well as an undying motivation and ability to make things happen. Unfortunately, these types of candidates are rare, and most companies find their way back to the P vs. P argument. Each candidate has to demonstrate an ability to overcome adversity, capability for innovation and success, and the capacity to maintain excellence. But, the question remains: How critical is an educational pedigree for success?

Pedigree or potential? Play the ace in the race for the best senior-level jobs.

Google is a front-runner in this debate. Their declaration is that of one of their key-hiring attributes is ‘intellectual humility’ and a focus on skills more than credentials. So let’s take a critical look at both aspects of the debate: pedigree or potential?

The case for pedigree

It is every student’s dream to get into one of the Ivy League universities around the world. Students are willing to take on crippling financial obligations to get the required pedigree and earn themselves a place in a top company.

But what are the advantages that this educational pedigree brings? A prestigious degree, a proven track record and personal connections to powerful networks. You gain direct entry into companies that create a culture based on the schools the graduates come from. In addition, you also have access to top-cliques within the firm which will help you succeed in your field.

You are marked as a high potential employee without any effort on your part. Organizations buy into your university’s brand and attribute you with superior cognitive, cultural, and moral qualities.

Hiring people who are trained to think alike using similar information and strategies help you build a culture of synergy. But the question to ask is – how good is this for encouraging creativity and innovation?

Case for potential

Research states that high-level candidates should be assessed based on their potential, not their pedigree. Potential has been defined as the ability to adapt and grow in increasingly complex roles and environments. The question is not whether people have the right skills, but rather whether they have the potential to learn new ones.

A Gallup survey reiterates the importance of potential in today’s corporate world. US business leaders ranked the level of importance four distinct factors for hiring. These were: the amount of knowledge, applied skills, college major, and from which university the candidate received their college degree. Only 9% thought it was important which university the candidate had studied at. 84% percent of business leaders said the amount of knowledge a candidate has in a particular field was “very important,” followed by 79% who said applied skills were very important.

At the end of the day, no matter how much pedigree serves as a key influencer, it’s an individual’s potential that will truly impact their career success.


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