Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 331–344 | Cite as

What If the Preferred Applicant Rejects a Job Offer? A Look at Smaller Applicant Pools

  • Steven E. Scullen



This article presents the first theoretical framework for examining how expected new-hire performance is affected in situations where the preferred applicant in a small pool rejects a job offer. It addresses questions such as: What is the expected decrease in performance when a lower ranked (as opposed to the top) candidate in an already small pool is hired? What is the likelihood that a lower ranked candidate in that small pool will perform as well as, or better than, the first choice would have? And under what conditions might it be advantageous, from either a performance or a financial perspective, for the employer to seek additional applicants rather than offer a position to a lower ranked candidate?


Order statistics provide a conceptual framework for answering these questions.


This method estimates expected decreases in performance if a second- or third-ranked candidate, rather than the first choice, is hired. It can also show the likelihood that the top-choice’s job performance would be better than a lower choice candidate’s. The order statistics approach is combined with utility analysis to address the question of when the expected value of generating more applicants might exceed the expected value of hiring a lower ranked candidate.


This article presents the first rigorous framework for understanding the probable impact of offer rejections on expected new-hire quality and for determining what is most likely to be the best response to an offer rejection in the small-pool context.


Personnel selection Small business Order statistics Utility analysis Rejected job offers Applicant pools Small applicant pools Small n hiring 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Business and Public AdministrationDrake UniversityDes MoinesUSA

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