There are certain university honors and validations that you’d put on your resume without thinking twice. If you graduated summa cum laude, for example, you’d be wise to showcase the achievement in a prominent place on your CV. But what about Beta Gamma Sigma, an international honor society for business school programs?
Why all the questions?
Questions concerning Beta Gamma Sigma pop up for a number of reasons. To be eligible, you must be in the top 10% of your class at your business program for undergrad and top 20% for post-grad. But you need to make the decision to join yourself, and it’s not free. The organization charges a one-time $75 lifetime membership fee. Some students say email invitations with a price tag made them weary.
The other, perhaps bigger issue is that Beta Gamma Sigma is generally not as well-known as its liberal arts equivalent, Phi Beta Kappa, and universities with business programs need to establish a chapter. Not all have. More than 600 AACSB-accredited schools have chapters, though plenty of big names aren’t on the list, including Harvard, Princeton and Stanford, for example. Other feeders to Wall Street like the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Texas and IE Business School have established a Beta Gamma Sigma chapter.
Bluntly, many have never heard of Beta Gamma Sigma, despite it being established around 100 years ago. This includes students as well as those in a hiring capacity. Chatter on industry message boards suggest at least a few believe it’s a fraternity. An informal poll of Wall Street recruiters found that most knew of the honors society, but not all.
Beta Gamma Sigma is directly correlated with your grades, and “my clients just look at a candidate’s GPA and the quality of the university,” said one New York-based financial services headhunter.
Why you should (probably) still join
Another recruiter gave a very succinct reason for joining Beta Gamma Sigma if invited: Why not? “If it costs $1k, I could see the argument. But it only [$75],” he said. “If an interviewer isn’t aware of it, they’ll either skip past it or ask, which gives you a chance to touch on your grades without bringing them up yourself.” That said, he doesn’t believe membership in the honor society should be part of your “elevator pitch” during interviews.
An accountant who joined Phi Beta Kappa said he was encouraged to accept the invitation because it gave him something to put on his resume well before graduation. Students are eligible to receive invitations from their university beginning second semester of sophomore year. “I only had a few bullet points (on my resume); it gave me one more.” For this reason, those who are looking to find an internship may find it most useful.
Of course, there is always a best-case scenario: a hiring manager is also a Phi Beta Kappa member, takes part in alumni groups and sees the honor as a big reason to elevate your candidacy. Another important point is that only the top 10% of a class is invited, which could alleviate concerns over a university’s penchant for grade inflation.
The general consensus from people in financial services is that there isn’t any real reason not to move forward with a Phi Beta Kappa, as long as you can cover the $75. It’s clearly not as useful if you already have a job lined up, said the second recruiter, but he felt it was still worth moving forward with, especially if you are an undergrad who may look to get an MBA down the line. “Admissions officers [at business schools] should know the significance” of Phi Beta Kappa, he said.
Membership also comes with a list of extra benefits, including discounts on business publications and clothing stores that specialize in professional attire, among others.
Beecher Tuttle – Read more on efinancialcareers.com