Shared cultural interests leads to hiring at elite firms

A new sociological study argues having the right cultural interests or pursuing certain cultural activities can lead to getting a job at elite firms:

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…

As a result, evaluators described their own and others’ firms as having distinct personalities related to employees’ extracurricular interests and social styles. Companies ranged from “sporty” and “scrappy” to “egghead” and “country club.” One outfit even specialized in hiring people with drab personalities.

Top-ranked firms uniformly favored applicants who cited upper–middle class leisure pursuits such as rock climbing, playing the cello or enjoying film noir.

Picking employees from the same cultural basket may have pluses and minuses, Rivera adds. Hiring people with common traits and interests may create a cohesive work force. But shunning prospective employees with different life histories could also make firms susceptible to reaching decisions quickly without evaluating alternative ideas.

This challenges the American ideal of meritocracy where hard work should lead to a job. While the study suggests these cultural interests don’t matter as much when organizations are hiring for more technical jobs, it does matter for white-collar and upper-class jobs. This could also challenge the role of college courses: how many college classes are about developing a “scrappy” or “country club” approach to life? In contrast, the experience outside the classroom at some colleges (plus the applicants’ earlier life history) might contribute quite a bit to learning about and then developing these cultural skills.

It would also be interesting to look more at the personalities involved in hiring and branding that companies develop. Marketing today often involves selling a brand and image more so than focusing on the particulars of a product. Is this branding simply about marketing or does it bleed through the culture of the entire organization?

The legal future: climate-change litigation?

Perhaps climate-change litigation is where lots of money is to be made in the coming decades:

In the past three years, the number of climate-related lawsuits has ballooned, filling the void of political efforts in tackling greenhouse-gas emissions.

Eyeing the money-spinning potential, some major commercial law firms now place climate-change litigation in their Internet shop window…

But legal experts sound a note of caution, warning that this is a new and mist-shrouded area of justice.

Many obstacles lie ahead before a Western court awards a cent in climate damages and even more before the award is upheld on appeal…

Lawsuits in the United States related directly or indirectly almost tripled in 2010 over 2009, reaching 132 filings after 48 a year earlier, according to a Deutsche Bank report.

Elsewhere in the world, the total of lawsuits is far lower than in the US, but nearly doubled between 2008 and 2010, when 32 cases were filed, according to a tally compiled by AFP from specialist sites.

Sounds like it will take some time and some important rulings before this field comes into greater focus.

Two questions:

1. How much money could be at stake in these sorts of lawsuits?

2. Does this mean this will be the subject of the next John Grisham novel?