Really enjoyed this FDB piece on nepo babies, but I saw this comment on the post from a reader that I think I have to say: I disagree with!
In HR recently, there's been a lot of work toward debiasing hiring processes - analysis and work that desperately needed to be done. And it is undeniably true that "who you know" is often more important than any particular skills or experience you have, esp in elite careers
But I think people get carried away with the critique, to the degree that they lose sight of what they're even trying to correct for. Having a strong network is useful to getting into many careers, and I think it's a mistake to view "networks" as oppositional to "merit"
People like to do things with other people who they trust and whose work they're familiar with. "Who you know" isn't just who your mommy or daddy are - it's literally everyone you've ever worked with, who have seen your work firsthand, in a way that a resume can never communicate
Not only do I think it's silly and pointless to even *try* to remove all network factors from hiring, I also just don't see the benefit! Why would someone hire an unknown if they could hire someone that they *know* can do the job well?
To me, the key to fixing this problem - to the degree that it is a problem - is to increase training, skill & network-building opportunities. REAL network building opportunities - times when people can see how you work, and truly understand your skills and potential
There's been a proliferation for decades of "networking opportunities" where a bunch of strangers get together and have cocktails for an hour or two. That's not networking. At least, it's not useful for junior-career people. But that's what people think "networking" is
Obviously, lots of nepotism is very bad and very anti-meritocratic - people hiring their kids because they want their kids to succeed, not because they think the kid is among the best candidates for the job. And that leads to worse outcomes, not just for the work but for everyone
I think it's reasonable to require people to recuse themselves from hiring processes that involve their friends or family. But if a friend is up for a job at my company I would think it absurd if no one *asked* me about them, even if I was excluded from the decision process
I think there's also an aspect here that troubles me - that HR as a profession now assumes hiring would be better if every role and every person were reduced to a set of quantifiable and clearly-defined skill buckets, with no information outside of those buckets being considered
It's hard for me to see how hiring like that would either create better hiring results OR create fairer outcomes for people who don't get a fair shake in hiring now. I don't think the solution for diversity & inclusion is to decline to see people as full and unique human beings
... especially given that so many of these barriers come well before the hiring process. If you come from a disadvantaged background that prevents you from going to college, are you more competitive in a purely meritocratic hiring process? No, of course not
My crankiest HR belief is that ~80% of any person's success in any given job is idiosyncratic to that person in that org. There are lots of non-merit (or, more accurately, areas where the measurement of merit is difficult) reasons why someone will thrive or not at a given job
... and I think it does no one any favors to pretend otherwise, especially people who face systemic barriers to success. I don't know what the perfect hiring process looks like. But I don't think it ignores information about candidate skills and experience that come networks
A final note on a too-long thread: I also feel like the bit about people "cutting in line" is weird, especially for creative professions. Waiting in line and paying your dues is not meritocratic. A person with 2 months of experience might well be better than someone with 2 years.

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