Despite challenges in the global economy, organisations continue to rely on top-quality graduate hires to maintain capability and feed a long-term talent pool. So they're likely to appreciate a recent piece of research that investigates how potential applicants are influenced by the information they find about an organisation.
Yasmina Jaidi and colleagues contacted 221 masters students at a French business school on two occasions, six months apart. At the first contact, just after a jobs fair, the participants were each asked to identify three organisations that they were currently considering applying to, and how they felt about their prospects for each. They also recounted how much exposure they had to the organisation via a range of information sources, and their current level of intention to pursue a job there. Then at graduation the 141 students who remained in the study were asked what behaviours they actually exhibited in pursuing these three jobs.
In terms of the information sources, the study found that organisations benefited from investment in recruitment advertising and cultivating a good word-of-mouth reputation: both of these increased participants' intention to apply to that organisation, relative to less advertising or bad word-of-mouth. However, having an on-campus presence, often seen as a powerful way to expose the company and brand to a potential workforce, actually showed a negative relationship with intention to pursue a job at the organisation, suggesting that this mechanism can have perverse deterrent effects.
When it came to publicity, neither good nor bad news influenced intentions to apply, but when it came to actually buckling down and doing it, participants put in somewhat less effort when they had heard bad news. A similar effect was found with jobs that the students felt they had little leverage in acquiring: they were undaunted in their intentions to apply but their actual actions trailed off. These findings remind us that an individual's intentions do not always translate into behaviour.
The authors note that recruiting organizations “should be careful with their on-campus activities as to avoid negative reactions among job-seeking students” - for example, “when a company is very present on-campus it may evoke a feeling of distrust and lowered credibility”. In addition, they stress the need to “be aware of the fact that investments made in recruitment communication can be neutralized by negative publicity or word of mouth”.
Jaidi, Y., Van Hooft, E., & Arends, L. (2011). Recruiting Highly Educated Graduates: A Study on the Relationship Between Recruitment Information Sources, the Theory of Planned Behavior, and Actual Job Pursuit Human Performance, 24 (2), 135-157 DOI: 10.1080/08959285.2011.554468