September 5, 2007

Another Recruiting Issue

Filed under: Insights,Signaling — admin @ 6:27 pm

Seth Godin discusses short-sighted recruiting techniques here. One observant commenter recognizes that the typical cover letter, interview, and attention to detail format might actually reveal desirable characteristics in a candidate. Even if those activities were just completely wasteful, this technique might be useful in separating low-ability individuals from high-ability individuals (i.e. screening).

On the other hand (and what I think Seth is driving at), those screening techniques are not very useful anymore. It may have worked back in the day, but now individuals can effortlessly create business networks (LinkedIn), resume profiles (Monster), and, in some cases, simply pay to have a good cover letter/resume written. Those old signals are just simply weak, and we need to look for more appropriate ones.

July 16, 2007

Recruiting Advertisements

Filed under: Portfolio,Signaling — admin @ 5:59 pm

screen_mensa_know-it.jpg screen_mensa_airplane.jpg

“Know-it-all” Recruiting Ad PDF
“Airplane” Recruiting Ad PDF

These are some recruiting advertisements that I designed. They were printed in Mensa magazine as well as in the Detroit News classified section. They were quite successful and have been reprinted many times.

This is probably one of my first attempts to think analytically using economics when designing. They are based on two concepts: signaling and screening. The objective was to induce innovative and creative IT-focused individuals to apply for employment.

You might think that simply saying “Are you innovative? Apply with us.” would suffice as an advertisement. Unfortunately, the recipient cannot tell for certain our commitment to innovation (i.e. an asymmetric information problem). Any company can say they are looking for innovative people (and most probably do). It used to be that simply creating an advertisement was a strong signal. It was costly and is a non-redeployable asset, and a rational organization would not incur such costs if they were not serious. Information technology is changing that landscape, though, and what used to be strong signals are now weak. In other words, anyone can make an advertisement. Signaling now exists in the content of the ad.

To accomplish this we delved into the concerns of innovative individuals. Specifically, they could be at odds with the social system they belong to. They think outside the box and what appears to be unproductive behavior is actually genius at work. They experienced that at school, and realistically could experience that in work as well. By going through this effort to understand what makes innovative individuals, we can credible say that we understand and working for us will be conducive to you.

The second issue is screening. An ad that lacks credibility might create an adverse selection in that truly innovative individuals are not convinced and simply apply to opportunities that appear better. This ad is fair but not exceptional on this issue. I was inspired by one of Google’s ads. It featured a vending machine of items with a puzzle. Simply solve the puzzle and your application is bumped up to the front of the queue. Clever. Those who don’t do well on puzzles will more than likely not apply (which is what Google wants). It’s just quite amazing to think that an ad can be designed such that only the individuals you to want apply. In addition, this lessens the burden of sorting by the Recruiting department.

July 14, 2007

Executive Briefing Invite

Filed under: Portfolio,Signaling — admin @ 1:17 pm

Executive Briefing Invite

This is an invite that I designed. It was sent out by sales people to executives of companies that we believed would be interested in purchasing our products. Executives that responded would be invited to spend a day at our Detroit headquarters discussing challenges and concerns that we potentially could solve. While the invite is aesthetically pleasing and has a unique package, it was designed with some economic principles in mind.

First, the Executive Briefing Program is quite costly, and we only allotted and printed 1000 invites. It was important that our sales force did not send invites to just any contact. If you’ll notice there is stationary that is placed in a pocket on the inside of the invite. This is for a sales person to write (actually by hand) a personal invitation. Without this note the invite is awkward (i.e. there’s nothing in the pocket). In addition, the size of the pocket is too small to print on 8.5×11 paper, fold it, and place it inside. This may seem superfluous, but the added cost to sales people induces them to select prospective customers that are worth the cost of the program.

Secondly, the hand-written note has a dual purpose in that it serves as a signal. Making a nice invite is relatively cheap and easy to mass-produce and send to any company. A hand-written note signals that we could not simply mass-produce the invite and send it to just anyone. To recoup the costs of the program and invite, we have to actually be able to bring value to selected customers. The recipient can see this correlation via the signaling.

Both of these principle worked together to create a very effective program.