Job seekers — especially women — are more likely to apply for positions when a job posting lists how many people have already applied, research shows
Driving up workplace diversity could be this easy.
Simply telling job seekers the number of applicants for a certain position boosts the likelihood that someone will complete an application by 3.5%, according to a new Tufts University study that analyzed data from about 2.3 million LinkedIn users from 235 countries or geographic areas. And women in the study were particularly more likely to apply, per the research published in the INFORMS journal Management Science.
“You can’t hire more women if no women apply,” study author Laura Gee, an assistant professor of economics at Tufts, told Moneyish. “So if you’re trying to encourage more women to apply, this seems to be a way to do that — by giving them more information.”
To ensure that this increase wasn’t being driven by more women applying to jobs that already had a ton of female applicants, Gee said, she also examined whether women who had the intervention were more likely to apply for “masculine” jobs — defined as gigs in which more than 80% of those who started or finished an application were men. She found that they were.
“Women like more information regardless of if they are a woman looking at a nursing job (feminine) or a woman looking at a economist job (masculine),” Gee said.
The study, drawing upon a LinkedIn field experiment conducted in March 2012, randomly assigned users to view job postings that either included or didn’t include a line below the application button noting how many people had “clicked” to start the application. Advertising the number of current applicants made people 1.9% to 3.6% more likely to apply, and 3.5% more likely to finish an application, Gee’s analysis of the anonymized data revealed — translating to a potential 1,500 more started applications a day.
Aside from women, relatively less-experienced job seekers — measured by a person’s number of years of LinkedIn membership — were also more likely to apply. So were people mulling a job posting from a firm that wasn’t well-known, a metric Gee defined by matching names with those on Forbes’ list of the 2,000 biggest public companies.
Also read: These are the best 25 cities for job hunters
It didn’t really matter whether users saw that there were 10 or 100 or 1,000 applicants for a position, Gee said — only that they received the additional information at all. “Women, less-experienced job seekers and people who look at lesser-known firms — all those people benefit more from getting extra information,” she said. And while her data didn’t contain variables for other measures of diversity, Gee said, “you could certainly imagine that there might be differential effects for different ethnicities, races, educational levels, etc.”
This small intervention could be a low-cost way to boost diversity in hiring, Gee said — and, over time, potentially even out gender imbalances at some companies. “It’s sort of a light-touch intervention that most firms, small or large, should probably be able to implement hopefully without too much trouble,” she said. “As long as your company is gathering this information on the back end already, which I imagine most firms are … it should be whatever the cost of changing your website is.”
The benefits of a diverse workplace abound, research shows, and can start with recruitment: About two-thirds of people and 72% of women believe a diverse workplace is an important factor while considering job offers and companies, according to a 2014 Glassdoor survey. Diversity can boost creativity and innovation, studies show, while a 2012 McKinsey report found that firms with diverse executive boards had significantly greater earnings.
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved