Applicant Attitudes across the Recruitment Process: Time is of the Essence



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While extant research on recruiting has highlighted a number of applicant attitudes that predict future attitudes and decisions, questions regarding how attitudes develop over time and differentially predict applicant job choice have received scant attention. To address this currently impoverished research area, this study utilizes three prominent recruitment frameworks (signaling theory, fit, and image) to theoretically and empirically examine how applicant attitudes towards possible future employers develop over the course of the recruitment process. Also, this study explores the possible divergent patterns of development of these applicant attitudes by examining taking a job offer and passing on a job offer as two separate decision-making processes. Finally, this study investigates the pattern of relationships between proximal predictors of job choice (organizational attraction and acceptance intentions) and applicant decisions to take or pass on a job offer.

Participants in this study were 178 undergraduates seeking internships during a five-month recruitment period. Applicant attitudes about organizational image, fit, attraction, acceptance intentions as well as recruiter trustworthiness and timeliness of a consistent set of firms were assessed eight times over the five-month period. Results of this study indicate that recruiting, from an applicant perspective, is a dynamic decision-making process where applicants gather and assimilate information in distinct patterns prior to making job choice decisions. Specifically, across six applicant attitudes that have previously been shown to predict recruiting outcomes such as job choice, applicant attitudes toward the organization they take an offer from increase, and at a faster rate, over time relative to organizations whose offers they pass. These attitudes significantly differ between offers that are ultimately taken and passed on as early as the start of the recruitment process (i.e. image) or as late as slightly more than three weeks (i.e. fit) into a five-month recruitment process.