Canine Corner

The human-animal bond

The Ultimate Incentive: Take This Job and Win a Puppy

A company is now using the human-dog bond to attract high demand specialists.

dog pet bond human job computer gift puppy cat rover.com porad engineer
The affection that people have for dogs is well accepted and it forms the basis of Dog Assisted psychotherapy programs. However, now that powerful emotional bond to dogs is being used in a novel way—namely to recruit knowledgeable engineers in the field of information technology who are in high demand on the job market. This innovative recruiting strategy was introduced by Scott Porad who leads product development at Rover.com, a Seattle startup company that helps people find pet sitters for their dogs. 

 For people in startup companies the problems associated with finding and hiring computer specialists is quite substantial. These information technology wizards are relatively scarce and in high demand for many different types of companies, however they are absolutely vital to a startup company which is beginning from the ground floor and needs to make a good impression from the moment that they launch their enterprise online. A job recruiter for a startup enterprise will find that they simply can't raid other companies for the personnel that are needed. While many program and website developers are working at big companies like Microsoft or Amazon, they are usually unwilling to leave their secure jobs in order to join a new company even for large salary increases. The problem is that by their very nature new startup companies do not have a proven track record, and there is always the possibility that the new company may quickly fail.

 People doing the recruiting for these specialists have tried everything to attract the people that they need, including traditional job postings, contingency recruiters, and aggressive networking. More recently companies have resorted to sensational giveaways that they refer to as "referral bounties" and which are offered to the people who find the development personnel as well as the individual actually being hired. For example the startup companies SEOmoz and EnergySavvy offered bonuses of over $10,000 to any person who referred a candidate that got hired. More recently, EnergySavvy upped the ante and offered a new car as a bonus. Such offers do help, but when looking for a number of new professionals for a company, the costs certainly do add up.

 So Porad reasoned that a better approach might be one that capitalized on the human canine bond, promising affection rather than cash for people to join the company. Furthermore such an approach seemed likely to attract people who were sociable, friendly, and caring, rather than those who were out to milk the system for all of the money and benefits that they could garner. So Rover began a 30 day campaign offering a free puppy to anyone referring a candidate which Rover.com eventually hires (and of course self referrals work as well). In addition Porad is throwing in a full year of free pet sitting for those times when these workers are away from home.

 Technically speaking, Rover won't exactly give you a puppy; rather they are actually awarding $1000 toward the purchase of a new dog. That means if you are more interested in the money than the dog, you do have the option to just take the $1000, view it as if it were a normal cash referral bonus, and use it for whatever else you want. However, the company really does want you to use that money to get yourself a new four-legged companion. It seems to be part of the philosophy underlying the entire offer. In an interview Porad made this quite clear when he said "I'd really prefer if a winner got a dog, assuming they can care for it appropriately. Cash is fleeting, but a dog is forever."

 From such comments it becomes quite clear that this is an organization that values, or at least recognizes and is willing to use, the strong emotional effects associated with the human dog bond to attract the attention of the valuable professionals that they wish to hire. This is not a global advocacy of the value of all pets since there does seem to be a bit of species snobbery in their campaign. The final paragraph of their offering includes a line which reads "If you don't want a dog, you could get a cat, but we don't advise it because cats are snooty."

 Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Born to Bark; Do Dogs Dream? The Modern Dog; Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History; How Dogs Think; How To Speak Dog; Why We Love the Dogs We Do; What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs; Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies; Sleep Thieves; The Left-hander Syndrome

 Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

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