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Do you pass ‘posh’ test for elite job?

Top accountancy firms are systematically excluding bright working-class applicants from their workforce, says the latest report from the Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission.

August 2015

These elite firms still prefer privileged, ‘polished’ candidates, claims the commission, and backs this up by saying some 70% of job offers in 2014 went to graduates who had been educated at a selective or fee-paying school.
Commission chairman Alan Milburn, a former Labour Cabinet minister, claimed young working-class people are being locked out of top jobs. He went on to stress: “Elite firms seem to require applicants to pass a poshness test to gain entry. Inevitably, that ends up excluding youngsters who have the right sort of grades and abilities but whose parents do not have the right sort of bank balances.”
Milburn’s views were backed up by Mark Boleat, the policy chairman of the City of London Corporation. He said that firms were “hiring in their own image” and so “wasting the talent of a generation”. He also agreed that top companies were hiring too many privately educated Oxbridge graduates with the right accents.
However, he praised PwC’s recent decision to disregard candidates’ A-level grades. PwC admitted that using just A-level results disadvantaged able candidates from poorer backgrounds because grades invariably reflected schooling and background as well as intelligence.
The social mobility report explained that despite attempts to improve inclusion in recent years, the elite firms yearly intakes are still dominated by people from privileged social backgrounds. The research even suggests that to break into top jobs state school candidates will need higher qualifications than their privately educated peers. This is because they don’t pass most firm’s ‘polish’ test. When looking for ‘talent’ the firms admit defining these according to a number of factors, including strong communication skills, experiences of travelling, confidence and ‘polish’ – which participants in the research agreed can be mapped to middle-class status and socialisation.
Interestingly, former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy has suggested that many senior professionals know they would not have been hired by their own organisations because they did not go to one of the “right universities”. Some did not go to university at all.
ACCA CEO Helen Brand said that it was clear that despite an improvement in the past few years more needed to be done in terms of access to the professions and recruitment processes. She stressed: “ACCA believes that social background should be viewed with the same scrutiny as gender diversity and we think this recent research only stands as a further reason to appoint a minister with direct responsibility for social mobility.”

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