Adina Sterling. Taking the Longer Route: Tryouts and the Search Behavior of Structurally Disadvantaged Job–Seeker

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Taking the Longer Route: Tryouts and the Search Behavior of Structurally Disadvantaged Job–Seeker

For college-educated workers, a common but understudied way individuals attempt to find employment is an internship or tryout—the period of time individuals spend in an organization before longer-term hiring decisions are made—yet few investigations of tryouts and their effects on job search behavior exist. In this project I use a highly detailed data set on about 100,000 applicants to a company termed Sales Co. (a pseudonym) to examine how, relative to direct-hire methods, tryouts impact application behavior. Despite commonly held wisdom that those with advantages pursue these opportunities more, there may be reasons, given an interest in working for an employer, structurally–disadvantaged job-seekers are more likely to seek out employment through tryouts versus direct-hire methods relative to structurally–advantaged workers. I find that given an interest in working for an employer, those that lack a social network tie (positional disadvantage), and women and some racial and ethnic minorities (status-based disadvantage) are more apt to apply to tryouts versus direct-hire methods compared to those with structural advantage. This project sheds light on how pre-hire employment can sharpen our understanding of job search behavior, and advances theory at the intersection of labor markets, organizations, and gender and racial inequality.

Adina D. Sterling is Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.  Professor Sterling graduated with honors from Ohio State University with a BS in chemical engineering in 2002 and graduated with her PhD from Emory in Organization and Management in 2011. She is an economic sociologist who specializes in studying the way firms and labor and product markets interact and the implications of these interactions on the prices firms get for their products, who gets hired and what they get paid, as well as the affects this has on social stratification. For instance, her work has investigated a) how initial networks evolve in organizations b) how hiring practices affect selection and wage decisions and c) how networks and prior employment affect the success of entrepreneurs. Professor Sterling currently has projects investigating how traditional methods of hiring compare to trial employment, or when firms get the opportunity to observe individuals first-hand in organizations, such as internships prior to making hiring decisions. Her work has appeared in journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, Management ScienceOrganization Science, and Industrial Labor Relations Review.