Intelligence vs Nepotism

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by Traci K and BrightMove Applicant Tracking and Recruiting Software

Citing the adage “you are who you know”, Professor Yoav Ganzach, a Tel Aviv University researcher for their Recanati School of Management, states that this business theory or “conventional wisdom” does not win out over intelligence. “Your future success is up to you,” says Prof. Ganzach, in his article Mom Was Right: It’s What You Know, Not Who You Know.

“When intelligence and socio-economic background (SEB) are pitted directly against one another, intelligence is a more accurate predictor of future career success, he asserts. Although those from a wealthy family tended to start higher on the office totem pole with better entry-level wages, Prof. Ganzach’s research discovered a direct correlation between intelligence and an upward wage trajectory, defined as the rate at which an employee was rewarded with salary raises.”

With his finding published in the journal, Intelligence, Prof. Ganzach warns against relying on nepotism for job placements. “Your family can help you launch your career and you do get an advantage, but it doesn’t help you progress. And once you start working, you can go wherever your abilities take you.”

Data was analyzed from a pool of 12,868 US Citizens between the years of 1979 and 2004 through a series of interviews throughout each year. Promotions, earnings and other data were tracked and compiled by the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. From this data, to gain more accuracy as to the comparison of the intelligence and SEB factors, Prof. Ganzach excluded participants with post-secondary education.

Over a period of 25 years, Prof. Ganzach feels he was able to “obtain an accurate picture of the influence of each factor on [the] economic success” of participants throughout the start to mid-points in their careers. Watching the rate at which they advanced throughout the years, data reflected that while salaries and wages earned at the beginning of the participants’ careers were affected by both intelligence and SEB, when it came to wage increases over the years, as well as overall career advancement, intelligence showed more influence than SEB.

Study limitations given by Prof. Ganzach include the inability to account for a certain number of variables that could also affect outcomes used to measure success; “…personality, social skills, and the ability to work well in a group — all factors that influence advancement. Future research might also look at different measures of success, such as occupational success or job satisfaction, and explore whether these results also apply to employees with different education levels, such as university graduates.”

Including the unaccounted-for variables will not change the point: It pays to be smart. It takes more than being a hard worker to move up the food chain; you have to make yourself a company resource. Those who also work hard to attain knowledge, whether through perseverance and gaining organizational knowledge or through education (or both) are more likely to see more doors open in their future.

Traci K. is an HR professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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