Sex Roles

, Volume 79, Issue 7–8, pp 464–475 | Cite as

When Job Ads Turn You Down: How Requirements in Job Ads May Stop Instead of Attract Highly Qualified Women

  • Lien WilleEmail author
  • Eva Derous
Original Article


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.


Gender 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.

Informed Consent

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.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Personnel Management, Work and Organizational PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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