Bryan Caplan  

Normality Signaling: A Test Case

Blue Laws... Gas Price Conspiracy?...

My student Howard Wu passed along an interesting anecdote on signaling that you're normal. True story:

In my company once we received a resume sent along with a dress shoe. And the cover letter says: "now that I have a foot already in the door, can I have the interview?" .. this guy sure spends a lot of time on polishing (no pun intended) his resume! And he sure is not lazy .. but we didn't give him the interview -- for one thing, that is really a bizarre way of sending a resume; secondly, he probably has a little too much time on his hand!

On the one hand, this applicant sounds like an interesting guy. On the other hand, he is unusually likely to be weird, and weird people are on average hard to work with. I'm not surprised that the shoe-strategy failed. Are you?

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COMMENTS (10 to date)
Sebastian writes:

Maybe for a creative position in some ad agency can be fine, for anything else i think that is not the right strategy.
At least he catch the atention of the recruiter "efficient but not effective"

Jason Ligon writes:

I wouldn't expect courting a prospective employer with desperate gimmicks to be any more effective than courting that blonde in the club with desperate gimmicks. Not that I've tried it or anything. I'm just saying ...

Randy writes:


I don't know about your work place, but nearly everyone I have ever worked with is a bit weird in one way or another once you get to know them (yes, including me).

It is interesting that acting normal is a plus during the interview. Perhaps its not so much a matter of weirdeness/non-weirdness, as it is a matter of knowing how to act in a formal setting.

Jim Erlandson writes:

Interviewing at Microsoft

You know those life sized celebrity cardboard cutouts that adorn the occasional geek office? I decided to build a cardboard cutout of me and send it along with my resume as the “model Microsoft employee.” ... Of course, I still spent a lot of time polishing my resume ... [I received] a personal note from the Vice President of Human Resources ... to say that in all of his years at Microsoft, he had never seen a resume quite like mine ...

I never heard anything else from Microsoft about that resume, and it didn’t end up getting me a job (surprise, surprise).

Microsoft receives about 6,000 resumes per day.

nick ronalds writes:

Actually, I don't think the guy is likely to be weird. He just read somewhere that you need to stand out to get your resume noticed, and was willing to take a gamble. If his resume was good, the shoe gambit should give him the benefit of the doubt. Most people I've talked to who have responded to a resume solicitation talk about the feeling of sending their resumes into a black hole (most elicit no response whatever). Can blame a guy for trying to get noticed, and doing so with humor at that?

Lawrance George Lux writes:

I saw a resume once which basically said the guy could not do most of what was wanted, but he would do almost anything he co-Workers would not. lgl

Bernard Yomtov writes:

I think Randy is correct. Acting normal in the interview doesn't mean you are normal, it just means you know how to act normal when needed. This is valuable information. All very well to wear jeans and t-shirt when working in the back. But you should have enough brains to put on a suit when you have to meet with customers or the like.

Andy writes:

I think that he should have not have gotten the job due to lack of originality. I have heard the shoe story before. See, for example

The first time you hear about the shoe resume, it's clever and funny. The second time is pathetic.

Chuck writes:

It's a good strategy if you're "objectively" underqualified, aka a longshot. you can make up in guts what you lack in experience.

Timothy writes:

I had some success with a cover letter whose first paragraph was my explanation of why I hated cover letters. Unfortunately, I could never work out the travel for an interview in NY. Oh well.

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