When Job Ads Turn You Down: How Requirements in Job Ads May Stop Instead of Attract Highly Qualified Women
Qualification-based targeted recruitment strategies aim to increase the number of qualified applicants from certain social groups, such as women. Typically, such strategies assume that individuals are more likely to apply for a job when they possess the requirements needed for that job. However, how job seekers react to requirements in job ads is not often considered and is explored in the present study. In two experimental studies with Belgian university students we investigated whether person requirements about which women have negative meta-stereotypes (like the trait of emotionality) and the way such requirements are formulated in job ads (i.e., using trait-like adjectives, “You are calm/not nervous,” or behavior-like verbs, “You remain calm in stressful situations”) affected women’s job attraction and decision to apply. A repeated measures ANOVA showed that job attraction was lower if women held negative meta-stereotypes about required personality traits in job ads (Study 1; 218 women; M age = 23.44 years, range = 21–42; 97% ethnic majorities). Moreover, qualified women applied to a lesser extent if a negatively meta-stereotyped trait was worded in a trait-like way than when it was worded in a behavior-like way (Study 2; n = 183; M age = 23.68 years, range = 21–44; 58% women; 97% ethnic majorities). A practical implication is that recruiters should be sensitive to how they formulate job ads if they wish to attract a highly qualified and gender-diverse applicant pool.
KeywordsGender Job advertisement Job attraction Application decision Targeted recruitment
The authors acknowledge Naomi Mike for her help in collecting the data.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animals Rights
The research involves human participants. The study was carried out in accordance with the guidelines of the ‘General Ethical Protocol for Scientific Research at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences’ of the Ethical Commission of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, which is the relevant university institutional review board that considers ethical aspects. APA ethical standards were followed in the conduct of the study.
In accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, participants provided informed consent prior to their participation. Only when individuals gave their informed consent, the questionnaire was presented.
- Ashton, M. C., Lee, K., Perugini, M., Szarota, P., de Vries, R. E., Di Blas, L., … De Raad, B. (2004). A six-factor structure of personality-descriptive adjectives: Solutions from psycholexical studies in seven languages. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 356–366. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Autin, F., Branscombe, N. R., & Croizet, J. (2013). Creating, closing, and reversing the gender gap in test performance: How selection policies trigger social identity threat or safety among women and men. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 38, 327–339. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684313510485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Barber, A. E. (1998). Recruiting employees: Individual and organizational perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Behling, O., Labovitz, G., & Gainer, M. (1968). College recruiting: A theoretical basis. The Personnel Journal, 47, 13–19.Google Scholar
- De Corte, W. (2011). An integrated decision-aid for shaping recruitment and selection decisions. Paper presented at the EAWOP Small Group Meeting, June 22–24, Athens, Greece.Google Scholar
- de Vries, R. E., Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (2009). De zes belangrijkste persoonlijkheidsdimensies en HEXACO persoonlijkheidsvragenlijst [The six most important personality dimensions and the HEXACO personality inventory]. Gedrag en Organisatie, 22, 232–274.Google Scholar
- Emerson, K. T. U., & Murphy, M. C. (2014). Identity threat at work: How social identity threat and situational cues contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in the workplace. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20, 508–520. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035403.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Civil Service Commission, Department of Labor, & Department of Justice. (1978). Uniform guidelines on employee selection procedures. Retrieved from http://www.uniformguidelines.com/uniformguidelines.html#129.
- European Commission. (2016). Report on equality between women and men in 2015. https://doi.org/10.2838/782115.
- Highhouse, S., & Hoffman, J. R. (2001). Organizational attraction and job choice. International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 16, 37–64.Google Scholar
- Kamans, E., Gordijn, E. H., Oldenhuis, H., & Otten, S. (2009). What I think you see is what you get: Influence of prejudice on assimilation to negative meta-stereotypes among Dutch Moroccan teenagers. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 842–851. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Latu, I. M., Schmid Mast, M., & Stewart, T. L. (2015). Gender biases in (inter)action: The role of interviewers’ and applicants’ implicit and explicit stereotypes in predicting women’s job interview outcomes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39, 539–552. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684315577383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Newman, D. A., Jones, K. S., Fraley, R. C., Lyon, J. S., & Mullaney, K. M. (2013). Why minority recruiting doesn’t often work, and what can be done about it: Applicant qualifications and the 4-group model of targeted recruiting. In K. Y. T. Yu & D. M. Cable (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of recruitment (pp. 492–526). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Owuamalam, C. K., & Zagefka, H. (2014). On the psychological barriers to the workplace: When and why metastereotyping undermines employability beliefs of women and ethnic minorities. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20, 521–528. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037645.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 879–903. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.88.5.879.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Purdie-Vaughns, V., Steele, C. A., Davies, P. G., Ditlmann, R., & Crosby, J. R. (2008). Social identity contingencies: How diversity cues signal threat or safety for African Americans in mainstream institutions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 615–630. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1245b.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Rynes, S. L. (1991). Recruitment, job choice, and post-hire consequences: A call for new research directions. In M. D. Dunnette & L. M. Hough (Eds.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (Vol. 2, 2nd ed., pp. 399–444). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
- Schmidt, J. A., Chapman, D. S., & Jones, D. A. (2015). Does emphasizing different types of person-environment fit in online job ads influence application behavior and applicant quality? Evidence from a field experiment. Journal of Business and Psychology, 30, 267–282. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-014-9353-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Stevens, C. D., & Szmerekovsky, J. G. (2010). Attraction to employment advertisements: Advertisement wording and personality characteristics. Journal of Managerial Issues, 1, 107–126.Google Scholar
- Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 7–24). Chicago: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
- Tippins, N. T. (2010). Adverse impact in employee selection procedures form the perspective of an organizational consultant. In J. L. Outtz (Ed.), Adverse impact. Implications for organizational staffing and high stakes selection (pp. 201–225). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- van Hooft, E. A. J., Born, M. P., Taris, T. W., & Van der Flier, H. (2006). Ethnic and gender differences in applicants’ decision-making processes: An application of the theory of reasoned action. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 14, 156–166. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2389.2006.00341.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Volpone, S. D., Thomas, K. M., Sinisterra, P., & Johnson, L. (2013). Targeted recruiting: Identifying future employees. In K. Y. T. Yu & D. M. Cable (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of recruitment (pp. 492–526). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Vorauer, J. D., Main, K. J., & O’Connell, G. B. (1998). How do individuals expect to be viewed by members of lower status groups? Contents and implications of meta-stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 917–937. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1997.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Vorauer, J. D., Hunter, A., Main, K. J., & Roy, S. A. (2000). Meta-stereotype activation: Evidence from indirect measures for specific evaluation concerns experienced by members of dominant groups in intergroup interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 690–707. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.520.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Walker, H. J., & Hinojosa, A. S. (2013). Recruitment: The role of job advertisements. In K. Y. T. Yu & D. M. Cable (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of recruitment (pp. 269–283). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Walker, H. J., Feild, H. S., Giles, W. F., & Bernerth, J. B. (2008). The interactive effects of job advertisements characteristics and applicant experiences on reactions to recruitment messages. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81, 619–638. https://doi.org/10.1348/096317907X252487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Wessel, J. L., Hagiwara, N., Ryan, A. M., & Kermond, C. M. Y. (2015). Should women applicants “man up” for traditionally masculine fields? Effectiveness of two verbal identity management strategies. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39, 243–255. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684314543265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Zedeck, S. (2010). Adverse impact: History and evolution. In J. L. Outtz (Ed.), Adverse impact: Implications for organizational staffing and high sakes selection (pp. 3–27). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar