Gate-Keeping of the Global Elite Workforce: Hiring Practices of Transnational Corporations in Turkey

Mustafa Yavas, New York University Abu Dhabi

How do the recruitment practices of transnational corporations shape the making of global middle classes? This article examines the selective entry into the global elite workforce from Turkey through employment at transnational corporations. By focusing on the recruitment processes, I study the organizational aspects of middle-class formation and I ask: Who lands the prestigious white-collar jobs at TNCs, who cannot, and why? What are the requirements of and the practiced elimination criteria for such high-salary, high-prestige corporate positions? Covering both the supply & demand side of elite labor markets which are often comprised of Fortune Global 500 companies and their analogs, I triangulate seventy-six semi-structured in-depth interviews with: i) human resources professionals (n=13) who engage in recruitment of fresh graduates, ii) senior undergraduates (n=15) from an elite public university who were on the labor market, and iii) elite business professionals (n=48) who have been on both sides of hiring. Drawing from these interviews, I first construct an ideal type of a desirable white-collar job applicant by explicating the practiced elimination criteria. This analysis demonstrates that personality and “soft skills” rather than technical skills matter more in recruitment. Moreover, a convincing display of global cultural capital—English language skills, quantity and quality of international experience, and a cosmopolitan taste—looms large as a tacit requirement of recruitment at transnational corporations and of the global middle class-ness. Second, I elaborate on a key tension in hiring, “objective” versus “subjective” evaluation of merit and whether a candidate fits with the job, company, and its employees. Such conflicting recruitment mentalities and practices are most crisply represented by the contrasting hiring practices of the HR professionals and the revenue-generating managers. Honing in on the elite professional service firms, I show how such tensions often result in class homophily and reproduction of the elites, and inequality writ large.

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 Presented in Session 160. The Politics of Training and Hiring Practices