Motivated Reasoning During Recruitment

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Abstract

This research shows how job postings can lead job candidates to see themselves as particularly deserving of hiring and high salary. We propose that these entitlement beliefs entail both personal motivations to see oneself as deserving and the ability to justify those motivated judgments. Accordingly, we predict that people feel more deserving when qualifications for a job are vague and thus amenable to motivated reasoning, whereby people use information selectively to reach a desired conclusion. We tested this hypothesis with a 2-phase experiment (N = 892) using materials drawn from real online job postings. In the first phase of the experiment, participants believed themselves to be more deserving of hiring and deserving of higher pay after reading postings composed of vaguer types of qualifications. In the second phase, yoked observers believed that participants were less entitled overall, but did not selectively discount endorsement of vaguer qualifications, suggesting they were unaware of this effect. A follow-up preregistered experiment (N = 905) using postings with mixed qualification types replicated the effect of including more vague qualifications on participants’ entitlement beliefs. Entitlement beliefs are widely seen as problematic for recruitment and retention, and these results suggest that reducing the inclusion of vague qualifications in job postings would dampen the emergence of these beliefs in applicants, albeit at the cost of decreasing application rates and lowering applicants’ confidence.

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