In today's Chinese job market, employers are inundated with applications and believe the best way to weed them out is to choose those whose bachelor degrees were from prestigious universities, and discounting where they got their master or doctorate degrees, even if they are from famous post-secondary institutions.
A China Youth Daily survey regarding the relationship between where job seekers got their first degrees and employment results was conducted last week. Some 7,331 people in total completed the questionnaires, including 95 percent young people.
Among the job seekers surveyed, 69.9 percent thought it is irrational for prospective employers to put more weight on applicants' first degrees, rather than their highest degrees during the recruitment process.
Despite being a postgraduate at prestigious Tsinghua University, Li Fei experienced this kind of prejudice during his job hunt last year. He started to prepare for the postgraduate entrance exam right after entering a "third-class" college to realize his dream of studying at a top university. But he could not escape the truth that he did not get his first degree from Tsinghua University.
He smiled bitterly and said, "During every interview, the recruiters from every company reminded me that the college I got my first degree from isn't good enough, which resulted in me not getting the job."
The majority of the survey applicants echoed Li's opinion. Of the total, 71.5 percent of them believe employers, especially those from well-known enterprises, pay more attention on where candidates got their first degrees.
Gao Yuhang, a department director of Beijing Talent Service Center said, "The universities where applicants got their first degrees are a big concern for employers. Although they are not allowed to list this particular criterion, they will definitely focus on this area in the recruitment process. This is a 'hidden rule'. Moreover, those big enterprises put applicants' first degree in an important position, while medium and small companies pay more attention on candidates' experiences and capabilities."
The survey also asked about the reason for the importance of the first degree. More than half of the participants believe enterprises have more requirements because there are too many job hunters these days.
In 2007, the number of undergraduate recruitment in China reached 5.67 million, with 420,000 postgraduates entering the work force this year.
Gan Pai is the human resources director of a large IT company. She says she receives thousands of resumes for one position. "We really don't have time to read them all. So we add more requirements to these candidates. It's not a perfect method but we have to reduce recruitment costs."
She added, "We respect every applicant. But we do believe the four-year university education is very important to graduates. A postgraduate with a first degree at a top university is different from those who come from an ordinary university. Employees in some enterprises even get their starting salaries based on the reputations of their universities."
But graduates are frustrated with this recruiting method.
"I admit my professor was not as good as his counterpart at a prestigious university. But I spent a lot of time on preparing for the postgraduate entrance exam and was accepted to a top college. Why can't I have a chance to have a good job?" asked Zhang Jingjing, a postgraduate at Renmin University, who got her first degree from a university in northern China's Hebei Province.
"Those employers didn't even glance at my resume simply because I did not graduate from a top university. If I had known this before, I would not have taken the postgraduate entrance exam. It's useless for me to get a good job in the future," she said with a frown.
Despite admitting first degrees play an important role in first round of the recruitment process of her company, Gan said those without a top-university degree should not lose their confidence.
"When we interview an applicant, we only evaluate his capabilities. The graduate should not shift responsibility for not being hired by a company to the so-called first-degree prejudice."
(China Daily July 25, 2007)