Relational structure of competition in the executive labor market

Coh, Marko (2011) Relational structure of competition in the executive labor market. Doctoral thesis, University of London: London Business School. OPEN ACCESS


This thesis investigates when labor market participants pursue opportunities introduced to them by their labor market contacts. The thesis goes beyond the view of relationships in the labor market as a pathway to resources such as timely information about a vacancy or support in a new place of work, that in turn stimulate labor market participants to act on the opportunities. I argue that interactions also serve as a vehicle for transmission of non-resource flows, whose nature is conditioned by the roles that labor market participants and their contacts play in them. The thesis shows that the content of ties that emerge through time shapes which contact-channelled opportunities are pursued. The empirical context of the thesis is the executive labor market, where executives and search firms interchangeably act as labor market participants and their contacts. I combine detailed statistical analyses of a unique dataset containing a history of interactions and search assignments at a global executive search firm with interviews among search consultants, candidates for executive-level jobs, and search firm clients. Executives represent an ideal population for a study of the role of tie content in the labor market as their position in the organizational hierarchies means they can, in their interactions with search consultants, play very different roles of candidates, clients, sources and general informants. This thesis contains three separate studies that examine the progress of candidates for executive-level jobs to interviews and offers for vacancies mediated by the search firm. All the studies share a focus on the role of differences in the content of ties between executives and the search firm. The first study shows that prior ties built through interactions in which the search consultants played a boundary-spanning role facilitate the executives' willingness to subsequently participate in the recruitment process, while the ties in which the search consultants performed pure brokerage roles don't. The second study shows that the content of candidate ties, specifically who rejected whom in prior searches, differentially affects female vs. male progress through the hiring pipeline. The third study demonstrates that the differences in tie content affect not only when labor market participants act on the information about opportunities, but that they also have identifiable economic implications. The findings contribute to the sociological literature on labor markets by showing that the content of ties between labor market participants and their contacts developed through time shapes the outcomes in the labor market, and that when contacts present the participants with opportunities the latter may act on the basis of the content of the past non-resource flows in their interactions, rather than on the merit of the opportunity. The findings also contribute to the brokerage literature by demonstrating that when brokered parties and the brokerage organization have a past history of interactions, the brokered parties' past point of contact with the broker shapes the probability of participation in subsequent brokered market exchanges. Finally, the findings contribute to the literature on strategic human resource management by unpacking how the mobility of highly paid talent is set in motion, and in particular what role labor market intermediaries such as executive search firms play in it.

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Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subject Areas: Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2022 16:32
Date of first compliant deposit: 10 Feb 2022
Subjects: Labour supply
Executive recruitment
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2022 17:07

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