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Hi all,

I was having a conversation with another manager about the Signaling effect that Marc talked about in a "Things" email last year (July 15). For those who don't get the email, the concept is that there are some companies that, as Marc puts it, "suggest to others a positive correlation with greater ability." He listed a few examples, Amazon being the first.

I am wondering if anyone here has seen an opposite effect. That is, are there companies that suggest a negative correlation with greater ability, professionalism, or other quality that you look for in an employee? We were specifically talking about people working at some traditional "first" jobs (fast food, retail, etc) and if that signaled something negative to future employers, particularly in fields where knowledge work is prevalent (as opposed to, say, other retail jobs or primarily task-based jobs) which is a large and expanding portion of today's careers.

What do you all think? I'm very interested to get opinions and insights from other professionals on the question.

Thanks!

(P.S. MT staff - I know I quoted Marc and talked about some members-only content. I tried to be relatively circumspect, but if you want me to take down or rewrite any of that info please let me know, as I don't want to step on any Intellectual Property gray areas. Thanks!)

scm2423's picture

I often wondered how people who were employeed at Enron made out after demise.  I would assume that most employees were not aware of the wrong-doings.  Could they put Enron as a past employeer on their resume and not be associated with that scandal?

 

williamelledgepe's picture

If it were a true "anti-signal" I believe the firm would go out of business.  I don't think you can stay in business while sustaining a reputation for poor staff or poor staff development.  scm2423 mentioned Enron who was one of the hottest companies for a while, but never reached the "signaling" status of GE or P&G.  

In my industry we don't have anything like a Google, GE, or P&G; but we have found there are a couple small/regional firms that tend to hire well.  Those firms are good at hiring entry level staff, but poor at keeping them past the 10 year mark.  People leaving those firms who have ~10 years experience tend to get multiple offers quickly.  It is too small a sample size to be statistically significant, but there are enough data points to perk our attention when we see those resumes.  

There are firms that have a reputation for making "strange" hires.  When we see resumes from individuals at those firms, we tend to evaluate them more skeptically, but we still evaluate them on the mertis of the individual, not the firm.

In the world of "anti-signaling" maybe rivalries come into play.  Do Ford executives hire career Chevy managers?  Or vice versa?  Even in those cases, I imagine you would hire based on the individual's accomplishments and skills.  

timrutter's picture

I've worked for 17 years in the construction industry and we have the signalling effect with certain companies but funnily enough, not with projects. I've worked on a couple of multi-billion dollar howlers that I thought I'd need to list in 6 point font on my resume due to this (I was there, there was shouting, can we move on please) but it's never been an issue.

Weirdly, the big success headline projects do actually have the reverse effect and solicit positive interest!

Tim