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For love or money? Gender differences in how one approaches getting a job

February 23, 201512:00 pm1:30 pm


Extant supply-side labor market theories conclude that women and men apply to different jobs but are unable to explain gender differences in how they may behave when applying to the same job. We correct this discrepancy by considering gendered approaches to the hiring process. We propose that applicants can emphasize either the relational or the transactional aspects of the job and that this affects whether they are hired. Relational job seekers focus on developing a social connection with their employer. In contrast, transactional job seekers focus on quantitative and mechanical aspects of the job. We expect women to be more relational and men to be more transactional and that this behavior will contribute to differences in hiring outcomes. Specifically, we contend that being relational suggest that one is more committed to the job at hand and therefore should increases the chances of being hired – holding constant competence. We examine behaviors in an online contract labor market for graphic designers, Elance.com where we find that women are more likely to be hired than men by about 4.1%. Quantitative linguistic analysis on the unstructured text of job proposals reveals that women (men) adopt more relational (transactional) language in their applications. These different approaches affect a job seeker’s likelihood of being hired and attenuate the gender gap we identified. Attenuation suggests that how one approaches the hiring process matters and that gender is correlated with a particular style of engagement.