Employers versus Colleges

Economics professor and blogger Bryan Caplan asks the following question:

Colleges care about applicants’ extracurricular activities. Employers don’t. What’s going on? I’m tempted to just repeat my adage that, “Non-profits are crazy,” but even non-profit employers don’t seem very concerned about how you spend your spare time.


Economics professor and blogger Tyler Cowen “takes the bait”, and puts forward a theory: colleges want to pick people who are good prospects for future donations.

My theory is that both professors ought to get out more.

I started a software company that hires many university graduates. We care about extracurricular activities. I was a hiring partner at a large management consulting firm. We cared about extracurricular activities. My first job out of school was at AT&T Laboratories. They asked me about extracurricular activities at many points in the interviewing process

But have the companies where I worked been bizarre outliers? CareerBuilder does an annual survey of several thousand hiring managers and HR professionals who say that prior experience is “one of the most important factors they look for in applications from recent college graduates.” In the survey, employers reported that the following activities qualify as pertinent work experience for recent college graduates to include on their resumes:

• Internships
• Part-time jobs in another area or field
Volunteer work
Involvement in school organizations
• Class work
Involvement in managing activities for sororities and fraternities
Participation in sports