Our current study focuses on job choice decision making strategies used by potential applicants. Specifically, in order to understand how job seekers make decisions, we are investigating what cognitive processes and evaluation techniques are used when making an evaluation in a multi-attribute decision situation (such as a job offer).
We are examining two techniques that are used when making decisions: joint evaluation and separate evaluation. Within those evaluation techniques, applicants have the option to add or average their evaluations of job attributes such as salary, paid time off, and other benefits. When adding, applicants simply weight each option independently and add up the scores to make a decision. On the other hand, if applicants use an averaging technique, they weight each option and use an average to make a decision. In a separate evaluation in which an individual evaluates two or more job offers separately, our prediction is that an averaging technique will be used. In a joint evaluation in which an individual evaluates two or more job offers simultaneously, our prediction is that an adding decision strategy will be used. This is because adding is more cognitively challenging than averaging, which can be done automatically. The implication of using these different strategies is that when evaluating a single job offer, applicants will come up with an overall evaluation by simply averaging perceived values of individual items in a job offer (e.g., salary, benefits, leave, etc.). However, when evaluating multiple offers, they will be able to put those in context and add the perceived values in coming up with an overall evaluation.
We are testing this by presenting the participants with multiple job offers and asking them to evaluate each on a scale of 0-100 in terms of attractiveness. In order to understand which strategy is used, we are creating job options in such a way that two job options are exactly the same with the exception of an additional item in one job. The common items are chosen to be highly attractive (per the target population on the study - college students), which the additional item is moderately attractive. If participants add the perceived desirability of individual items, the job with the additional item should be rated higher. However, if they average the perceived desirability of items, the job with the additional item should be rated lower.
The findings of this study will give companies the opportunity to improve recruitment efforts in competitive job markets, which is critical to the overall strategic success of an organization. Companies with a desire to understand how applicants make decisions when they have multiple options can reap maximum profits from the effort taken to recruit top talent applicants if they can understand how an applicant's decision making process works for determining the best job for them. Understanding how an applicant determines what job is best for them can also help organizations tailor their job postings to recruit a pool of preferred candidates.