College is regarded as the great equalizer. People with four-year degrees expect to reap the rewards of their education. This paper examines the pivotal transition from college to the labor market. How do candidates fare when they reveal to prospective employers that they are “first-gen”? Based on the literature, one may advance two competing predictions. One perspective predicts the possibility of a first-gen advantage. This view predicts that revealing one’s first-gen status can help applicants, by making them seem motivated, committed, responsible, and hardworking. It also makes for a compelling narrative; many Americans love stories of “bootstrapped” success. In contrast, a competing perspective predicts the possibility of a first-generation disadvantage. According to this view, there are forces that block decision makers from recognizing the strengths of first-gen students. We tested these two perspectives with an audit study (n = 1,783) and four follow-up studies (n = 4,920). The results supported the first-gen disadvantage hypothesis. Even in the mainstream labor market, first-gen students were evaluated less favorably. We traced this bias to the impact of one possible mechanism: deficit thinking. Despite overcoming hardships, first-gen students were often viewed through the lens of deficits. As a consequence, they were often denied opportunities to gain entry into organizations. Importantly, we found that a mindset shift can help ameliorate the problem. When we nudged decision makers to adopt a strengths-based lens, they became more receptive to hiring first-gen applicants. This work extends knowledge on the mechanisms that drive social class gaps in hiring. It also invites a reassessment of how to study social class in organizations. Deficit models dominate the study of social class. However, as we demonstrated, focusing on deficits can exacerbate inequality. It is important to consider people’s experiences and humanity holistically.