Join Us

Open positions are listed on the agency's Career page. Look for the listings under "Consumer & Business Insights". 

For information on our internships that are offered three times a year, scroll down the same page. When applying for an internship, indicate that you would like to be assigned to Origin.


Contents

Who We Are
What Researchers Do
Who We Are Looking For
What It's Like To Work Here
Quality of Life
How To Prepare
The Application Process
The Interview
Homework Assignments


Who We Are

Origin is a consumer research group at Hill Holliday,  a storied advertising agency headquartered in Boston that serves such clients as Dunkin’ Donuts, Bank of America, Chili’s, (RED), LG, TJ Maxx, and many others.

We study what people want, how people make choices, and how advertising and other factors influence the choices people make. There’s a lot of interesting body of knowledge that goes into it, from economics and sociology to semiotics and evolutionary psychology. The work requires a broad set of skills that have to do with gathering, analyzing, and interpreting many different kinds of data.

We spend a lot of time developing and validating our own research methodology, such as protocols for evaluating advertising effectiveness (aka copy-testing). It involves measuring the impact of advertising exposure on brand-related memories, approach/avoidance, and choice preferences. 


What Researchers Do

Our entire team consists of researchers with a broad range of skills and with backgrounds in psychology and social studies.  What we collectively do falls into three buckets:

  • Designing and building research tools:
    • Development of psychometric scales, survey methods
    • Experimental design
    • Custom question types for SurveyGizmo in JavaScript
    • Mechanical Turk tasks in HTML / CSS
    • Network analysis and visualization in Gephi
    • Data visualizations, either using web libraries or tools such as Tableau
    • Data collection and analysis scripts (web scrapers, API requests) in Python or R
    • Automation of research tasks using third-party plug-in tools and APIs (such as meaningcloud.com)
  • Planning and executing studies:
    • Work with internal and external clients on understanding their business needs. Understand what data needs to be collected, and how to go about collecting it. Design a research strategy.
    • Write proposals, design and oversee methodology for data collection and analysis, price out options, line up suppliers.
    • Collect data either by designing and programing surveys, experiments, and interview protocols, or by building our own tools to harvest data from online sources.
    • Perform rigorous statistical analysis of the results.
  • Presenting the results:
    • Separate the important from the merely interesting
    • Put the findings in the proper business context
    • Make the findings accessible and attractive to broader audiences
    • Present the findings to others

Who We Are Looking For

Usually, when we are recruiting a new colleague, we are looking to upgrade our team with a set of skills that we don't have and that will take us too long to learn. The job description you are replying to will list the specific skill gaps we seek to fill.  

Generally, the technical skills we are looking to have in the group are:

  • Solid-to-advanced statistics skills: from t-tests and regressions to hierarchical Bayes, latent-class analysis, and Monte Carlo simulations.
  • Fluency with SPSS, SAS, or R
  • Extracting and processing data with Python and relevant libraries (Matplotlib, Pandas, Flask, Jango), or similar.
  • Making things work with JavaScript and JS libraries (D3), HTML and CSS
  • Knowing how to build a simple web app
  • Knowing how to analyze choice experiments (maxdiff, conjoint, discrete-choice, etc) using Sawtooth or similar software
  • Writing VB macros for Excel
  • Writing SQL queries
  • Familiarity with network analysis principles and tools (primarily Gephi)
  • Experience conducting independent lab research.  Basic familiarity with key neuroscience principles.
  • Fluency with implicit research methodologies (see millisecond.com)

 

Skills that all researchers have:

  • Being good at explaining complex things in plain English; confident and clear public speaking
  • Disciplined self-directed learning. Being able to pick up new technologies quickly and on your own by reading books and watching video tutorials.
  • Awareness of key business principles, interest in consumer and popular culture.

 

Not required but very helpful: a background in experimental quantitative social sciences, cognitive psychology, experimental behavioral economics, or neuro-economics with a focus on choice-making, emotions, motivations, and memory.


What It's Like To Work Here

All positions come with a great amount of autonomy; there will be problems to solve, and you will chart the course to their solution. You will often be working on several projects at once, usually for clients in completely different industries.

You will work on a broad range of projects. One day, you could be analyzing demographics of the population who live within the two-hour radius from a theme park. The next day, you could be writing an experiment that evaluates people’s affective responses to a brand. We don’t expect that your past experience has prepared you for every single problem you will be asked to solve here, but we count on your self-guided learning to close the skill gap over time.

Within your domain, will be the expert with the final word on a range of matters. This endows the position with a great deal of both autonomy and responsibility.

If you thrive in structured environments where every step is clearly proscribed, you will not enjoy your time here.

A typical project can last from two weeks to three months, with occasional outliers on both ends.  All projects naturally have to do with advertising and consumer research. 

Sometimes, we do self-funded studies that advance our own knowledge in a particular area. Recently, we established that fatigue makes people see their day in colors that are less bright and saturated than people who had a restful sleep. Check out the WORK section for more.

We place a big emphasis on self-guided learning, and you will be encouraged to follow a "syllabus" and upgrade your skills. There's a formal "In" course that introduces new colleagues to the different parts of the agency business. The agency also offers regular courses on useful skills such as public speaking and management.

Origin is not unlike a grad school program. There is a lot of freedom to experiment and go down a rabbit hole, a lot of learning, encouragement to publish, and interesting colleagues with perspectives different from yours.

You will have all the books you need.

You will do things your way.

You will not be bored.


Quality of Life

The question about the quality of life and the work/life balance frequently comes up during out interviews with candidates. Our philosophy is that solid eight hours per day should be enough to get your work done. If it's consistently more than that, we will rebalance the workload or look into ways to make you more efficient by prioritizing and automating things.

There are occasional late nights and weekends spent in the office, but those are not the norm.


How To Prepare

Students sometimes ask us what they can do to prepare for a job like ours. The best researchers are good at:

Understanding the business context. Read books about different brands and companies you like (or hate); Amazon is full of them.

Knowing how advertising works. Read books in the Books section.

Collecting and analyzing data using a broad range of methods. Too many to list here, but the core skills are statistics, questionnaire and experimental design, interviewing and field work. Amazon has excellent books on all these subjects.

Automating boring tasks. Do the entire Python course on Codecademy.com (it's free and short), then do a Data Analyst track on Dataquest.io (it's inexpensive and thorough). Automate The Boring Stuff is a great book to have.


The Application Process

Hiring a new colleague is a big deal for us, and our selection process is very thorough.  The candidates' whose resume indicates they have the skills we need will likely go through these steps with us:

  • A phone chat with a researcher on our group
  • An interview in our office in Boston. You will meet everyone who works at Origin, and some of our internal clients
  • Homework assignment
  • Reference check

The Interview

The interview is both for us to understand whether you can take on the problems that need solving, and for you to understand whether ours are the kinds of problems you want to work on. Broadly, these problems are:

  • How do we decide which ad will be more effective when all we have is rough drafts?
  • How can we tell whether a brand is doing better as a result of recent advertising activity?
  • On what types of consumers will a particular ad have the greatest effect?
  • Why did customers choose this thing over that thing?
  • What affect will exposing people to a stimulus (ad) have on their long-term memory of another stimulus (brand)?

The best way to prepare for the interview is to read up on the agency's clients; the biggest are Bank of America, Dunkin' Donuts, TJX, Chili's, Great Wolf Lodge,  LG (appliances), and John Hancock. Look at their ads on YouTube and their posts on Facebook and Twitter. Try to imagine which of these companies' challenges can be solved with effective advertising, and how. Then try to imagine what kinds of research it will take to create effective advertising for these clients.

One of the best pieces of interviewing advice comes from Ask The Headhunter:

"Start by understanding how your skills can profit a particular business. If you can't explain this to a prospective employer, why should he or she hire you?  Most job hunters project the attitude "I'm looking for a job" rather than "I'm here to do the work you need to have done". This can kill you in an interview. There is a big difference between looking to get a job, and offering to do a job."

Starting a new job is a big decision for you. The interview is the best time for you to ask us questions as well. We also encourage you to talk to our former colleagues about their experiences here; you can easily find them on LinkedIn. Do your due diligence on us.


Homework Assignments

Before we can make someone an offer, we have make sure they have the necessary skills for the job.   To this end, we ask candidates to complete homework assignments. We will not be able to extend an offer to a candidate without seeing an evidence of relevant skills.

These assignments will also give the candidate an idea of the type of work they'd be doing here. We designed the assignments to have fairly straightforward solutions. Solving each problem shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.

You can consult any source you want as long as you are the one doing the work – no outsourcing, please. If something about the problem is not clear, just make reasonable assumptions and move on.

You will own all the work you will have done on the assignments. You are free to list it in our portfolio, show it to others, or put it to a commercial use (good luck!).

Here are some assignments we've given in the past, if you'd like to practice.

 

Your target score is 40 points or better. You can solve any combination of assignments to get to that score. A higher score will give you an advantage over other candidates.

1. Hashtag Extraction. (25pts) Extract hashtags from tweets posted by users who belong to a Twitter list, using Twitter API.

2. JavaScript Experiment (15pts) Using JavaScript, display a letter on the screen, register user's input, measure the response time.

3. Copytest Challenge (20pts) The copytest results are in. Analyze responses from a real-world survey and recommend a course of action.

4. Web of Words. (10 pts) Visualize connections between survey responses.