How Many Levels?

Some firms teach students how to apply to MBA schools:

Graham Richmond, founder of Clear Admit, helped one client get into Wharton by persuading her to scrap her essay about an energy deal she worked on and focus on something else: shooting guns. The Texas-based private-equity firm she worked at was a male-dominated environment where the senior executives liked to talk business at the shooting range. So the Asian American learned to fit in by joining them for target shooting.

“I was all about getting her to understand who’s reading the file,” Richmond said. “The people reading the file are more like your high school English teacher than the colleague sitting next to you at an investment bank,” he said; they’re more interested in getting a good sense of who you are than your business experience. (more)

This seems a vivid example of learning to signal. You may recall a month ago I said school need not be simple learning nor simple signaling; it could be learning how to signal:

People in business signal to each other all the time. In fact, most of the on-the-job business learning that employees do after college, such as how to dress well, how to give presentations, how to write memos, how to talk with clients, etc. might be skills that are mainly useful to signal innate features to bosses, co-workers, clients, etc. So employers might pay more for students with prestigious degrees because such degrees show an ability to learn how to later send good business signals. (more)

So we could have firms helping applicants learn to signal to MBA schools, schools that teach students how to signal well to businesses that such students will be good at learning on the job how to signal to bosses, co-workers, clients, etc. How many levels of signaling are there anyway?!

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  • billb

    There’s precisely no evidence in that first article that this change in her essay had anything to do wither her getting in. Presumably Clear Admit and similar services tout higher admit rates than the general populous, but perhaps people who are go-getter enough to sign up for services like Clear Admit are the kind of people that are more likely get admitted to MBA in the first place.

  • Mario Furtado

    I’m not sure what the breakdown between the two disciplines (signaling and producing) should be, but you have to have some competence in both skill sets to truly advance in any career.

    Intuitively, I tend to think that signaling is more important. Especially since you can outsource the other skill set; but you always have to be your own strongest advocate.

  • Wouldn’t more layers make the signalling less effective, and the but the theory of signalling says people only rely on them because they are effective?

  • signal

    One funny thing is when you have junior business people well-educated to receive signals, but without life experience, so you can game them by signalling good qualities and deliver ambiguity instead of good service.

  • Buck Farmer

    Schools…and jobs presumably also teach us how to more finely discriminate signals from noise.

  • Neal

    It’s turtles all the way down.

  • mjgeddes

    >How many levels of signaling are there anyway?!

    27 exactly.

  • Ben

    If you assume that signaling is an important part of human interaction, it should follow that there are an enormous number of “levels” of signaling, which is to say, signaling is observable in most types of human interaction.

    I’m confused – it seems like you’re expressing incredulity (“?!”) at the logical conclusion of a theory you cite quite often.

  • axa

    long time ago there were schools for spouses, where you learnt how to behave and send “good signals”, adultery after marriage (optional)

  • arch1

    Not sure, but if I had to guess: Seven, plus or minus two.

  • Aron

    I hope that you realize Robin that, give or take, you are most interested in appearing like you are someone worth listening to.

  • Mario Furtado

    Good one Aron… So Robin, what exactly are you signaling? =)