Network referrals and self-presentation in the high-tech labor market

Campero, S and Kacperczyk, O (2023) Network referrals and self-presentation in the high-tech labor market. Organization Science. ISSN 1047-7039 (In Press) OPEN ACCESS


The practice of recruiting job candidates sourced through social contacts (i.e., referrals) is pervasive in the labor market. One reason employers prefer to recruit through referrals is that these candidates often present resumes that are perceived to be a better fit for the role. While existing research attributes this pattern to how individuals who make referrals (i.e., referrers) select individuals to refer, we propose a new mechanism: differences in self-presentation. We argue that referral ties increase the candidates’ propensity to engage in self-presentation work, motivating and assisting candidates in presenting their backgrounds to convey fit. We examine this claim by utilizing unique data from an applicant tracking system containing job applications to positions at U.S.-based high-tech firms between 2008 and 2012. A candidate-fixed effects specification reveals that when a candidate applies to a firm via a referral, they tend to showcase a rendition of their career history that better matches the target job than when they pursue positions without such ties. Several mechanism checks, combined with supplementary survey evidence, further indicate that the presence of referral ties to the target firm is associated with greater motivation to engage in self-presentation work as well as the provision of different forms of assistance in that work.

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Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2023 09:38
Date of first compliant deposit: 11 Oct 2023
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2023 09:38
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