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Does Emphasizing Different Types of Person–Environment Fit in Online Job Ads Influence Application Behavior and Applicant Quality? Evidence from a Field Experiment

Abstract

Purpose

Grounded in person–environment fit theory, this field experiment was designed to test the effects of job advertisements emphasizing information about demands–abilities (D–A) or needs–supplies (N–S) fit on the size and quality of the applicant pool. The wording used in 56 actual job ads was manipulated to emphasize D–A or N–S fit, and data were collected about application behavior and applicant quality based on ratings of the resumes submitted by 991 applicants. Other study hypotheses were tested using survey data collected from a subsample (n = 91).

Findings

Job ads emphasizing N–S fit, rather than D–A fit, elicited more applications (relative to job ad views) and a higher quality applicant pool. Analyses of survey data provided support for mediated and moderated effects that provide insight into how and for whom N–S fit information in job ads is ultimately linked to greater attraction.

Implications

The findings indicate that recruiting organizations can craft job ads to emphasize specific types of fit and favorably affect applicants’ perceived fit, attraction, and application behavior, as well as the quality of the applicant pool.

Originality/value

This study is one of only a few field experiments containing manipulations of the content of job ads in the recruitment literature. The distinction between two important fit constructs that have received surprisingly little empirical attention in recruitment contexts was found to have effects on application behavior and applicant quality—two critically important, yet rarely examined outcomes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We thank two anonymous reviewers for this observation.

  2. 2.

    The manipulation check item was worded such that lower scores reflected perceptions of a greater amount of D–A fit information in the job ads, and higher scores reflected a greater amount of N–S fit information. Thus, it was expected that the perceived amount of N–S information in the ads would correlate positively with perceived N–S fit, which it did (see Table 2). However, we expected that the amount of N–S information in the ads would correlate negatively with perceived D–A fit, yet there was a positive relationship (see Table 2), albeit a smaller one than with perceived N–S fit. Table 2 also shows that the two fit constructs are not orthogonal and high perceptions of fit in one domain will likely lead to higher perceptions of fit in the other area. These results suggest, there is a general fit factor underlying the domains of D–A and N–S fit. However, the D–A and N–S fit perception variables related to applicant attraction to different degrees (see Table 2) and to the fit information variable as discussed above, suggesting that these constructs capture unique aspects of fit and should be measured separately as suggested by the factor analytic results reported herein.

  3. 3.

    An anonymous reviewer suggested that we test the interaction between the manipulated fit emphasis and perceived marketability on applicant quality to examine a tacit assumption for Hypothesis 2. This interaction was not significant (β = .08, p = .654), which may be partially attributable to reduced statistical power resulting from testing an interaction with a binary fit emphasis manipulation in a relatively small subsample. As reported in the text, we conducted supplemental analysis using position type as a proxy for perceived marketability, which allowed us to take advantage of the greater statistical power afforded by the use of the full sample.

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Correspondence to Joseph A. Schmidt.

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Schmidt, J.A., Chapman, D.S. & Jones, D.A. Does Emphasizing Different Types of Person–Environment Fit in Online Job Ads Influence Application Behavior and Applicant Quality? Evidence from a Field Experiment. J Bus Psychol 30, 267–282 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-014-9353-x

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Keywords

  • Recruitment
  • Internet
  • Job advertisement
  • Person–environment fit
  • Person–job fit