One-Sided Dating? What Job Applicants Want to Know About the Employer Before Signing Up for a Professional Relationship

Guider & Rapporter Emelie Dahl

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In recruitment processes, employers use a range of different tools to gain a deep understanding of the job applicants. Despite employment being a mutual relationship between the employer and the employee, job applicants rarely get the chance to know the employer in depth during the recruitment process.

This article provides insights into what factors job seekers tend to find important when choosing an employer as well as some tools that can help job applicants get to know the employer better during the recruitment process.

Key Points:

  • Job applicants often lack visibility into crucial aspects of the organisation, hindering their ability to assess job fit.
  • While salary is important, job seekers also value factors such as training and development opportunities, and leadership quality when choosing an employer.
  • Strategies to increase information symmetry in the recruitment process include providing realistic expectations and offering reverse reference checking.

The Asymmetric Recruitment Process🔍

Employers typically utilise various recruitment tools to gather comprehensive information about job applicants. This includes aptitude tests, personality inventories, interviews, cover letters, resumes, and reference checks. These tools allow employers to make informed hiring decisions. However, on the other side of the equation, while job applicants may have access to job descriptions and the possibility to ask a few questions during the interview, they often have limited visibility into crucial aspects of the organisation.

This information gap can pose challenges for job seekers as they navigate the job market and evaluate potential employment opportunities. Without sufficient insight into the employer, job applicants may struggle to assess whether they should accept a job offer.

It Is Not All About the Money 💰

For most people, the main purpose of working is to earn a salary in order to meet personal needs.1 Therefore, the information about the monetary compensation that is usually disclosed during the recruitment process is of course of value to the job applicant. However, salary is not the only reason people go to work.

For the individual, work can provide a sense of identity, purpose, and meaning in life.2 Studies have shown that people are willing to accept lower salaries for more meaningful work.3 When choosing an employer, in addition to compensation and benefits, recent surveys4,5 show that people tend to value:

1. Training and Development

Having an employer that allows you to develop your skills through training is something that is on many people’s wish lists.

2. Flexibility

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers adapted to remote work and they expect to be able to continue working from home.

3. Leadership

For many people, having a manager who demonstrates clear and committed leadership is more important than salary and benefits. Not agreeing with the views of the organisation’s leadership can be a dealbreaker for job applicants.

How to Increase Symmetry in the Recruitment Process🫱🏽‍🫲🏼 

There are various methods that employers can use to provide clear information about what awaits job applicants in addition to compensation and benefits:

1. Provide Realistic Expectations

To maximise the attractiveness of a job position, many employers tend to portray a purely positive image of the job and the organisation. This often results in the job applicants having unrealistically high expectations which are then subsequently unmet upon employment.6

Studies have shown that providing job applicants with a more realistic view of the job (i.e., presenting both the positive and negative aspects of the job and the organisation) as well as informing the job applicants about the high likelihood of developing unrealistic expectations can reduce voluntary turnover and increase role clarity.7,8

2. Offer Reverse Reference Checking

Many employers are familiar with the concept of reference checking (i.e., contacting previous employers of a job applicant to verify employment information and learn more about the job applicant’s skills).

In reverse reference checking, the job applicant gets to ask questions to employees of the organisation to which the applicant has applied for a job. Instead of solely relying on how the employer talks about the job and the organisational culture, the applicant can retrieve information from those actually working there in order to gain better insights into leadership styles, development opportunities, etcetera.

Preliminary results from studies conducted by Refapp indicate that reverse reference checking can help job applicants gain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their future managers. Reverse reference checking also seems to speed up the onboarding process since the new hire has a more realistic picture of what to expect.

The Mutual Benefits of a Happy Relationship🧡

Increasing the symmetry in the recruitment process and allowing job applicants to make more informed decisions is beneficial for the employer as well. Individuals who find they are not a good fit with their job or organisation are more likely to become unhappy and leave.9

Like any healthy relationship, mutual prosperity can benefit both parties. Employees who feel they are a good fit in their job, who find the job meaningful, and who are happy at work tend to be more productive and more willing to put in more hours – even if not compensated.10,11

Thus, increasing the symmetry in the recruitment process and allowing both the employer and the employee to get to know each other properly and make well-informed decisions can turn out to be a win–win situation.

Hope you found the content interesting! For more Recruiting Lab Notes and other interesting guides and reports, visit our blog 👋🏼 

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1 Chi, H., Yeh, H., & Guo, T. (2018). Salary or job interest? How salary and job interest moderates the willingness to apply for a job. Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, 10(1), 64-78.

2 Rosso, B. D., Dekas, K. H., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review. Research in Organizational Behavior, 30, 91-127.

3 Hu, J., & Hirsh, J. B. (2017). Accepting lower salaries for meaningful work. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.

4 Randstad. (2024). Workmonitor.

5 TNG. (2023). Talent Insights 2023: Jobbsökarnas krav på en arbetsmarknad i förändring.

6 E. Baur, J., Ronald Buckley, M., Bagdasarov, Z., & S. Dharmasiri, A. (2014). A historical approach to realistic job previews: An exploration into their origins, evolution, and recommendations for the future. Journal of Management History, 20(2), 200-223.

7 Earnest, D. R., Allen, D. G., & Landis, R. S. (2011). Mechanisms linking realistic job previews with turnover: A meta‐analytic path analysis. Personnel Psychology, 64(4), 865-897.

8 Buckley, M. R., Mobbs, T. A., Mendoza, J. L., Novicevic, M. M., Carraher, S. M., & Beu, D. S. (2002). Implementing realistic job previews and expectation-lowering procedures: A field experiment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 61(2), 263-278.

9 Breaugh, J. A., & Starke, M. (2000). Research on employee recruitment: So many studies, so many remaining questions. Journal of Management, 26(3), 405-434.

10 Charles-Leija, H., Castro, C. G., Toledo, M., & Ballesteros-Valdés, R. (2023). Meaningful work, happiness at work, and turnover intentions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(4).

11 Kolodinsky, R. W., Ritchie, W. J., & Kuna, W. A. (2018). Meaningful engagement: Impacts of a ‘calling’ work orientation and perceived leadership support. Journal of Management & Organization, 24(3), 406-423.