Job History, Work Attitude, and Employability

University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 210

61 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2015 Last revised: 6 Apr 2016

See all articles by Alain Cohn

Alain Cohn

University of Michigan

Michel André Maréchal

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Frédéric Schneider

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School

Roberto A. Weber

University of Zurich - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: April 5, 2016

Abstract

We study whether employment history can provide information about a worker’s non-cognitive skills - in particular, about “work attitude,” or the ability to work well and cooperatively with others. We conjecture that, holding all else equal, a worker’s frequent job changes can indicate poorer work attitude, and that this information is transmitted in labor markets through employment histories. We provide support for this hypothesis across three studies that employ complementary lab, field, and survey experiments. First, a laboratory labor market, in which the only valuable characteristic of workers is their reliability in cooperating with an employer’s effort requests, demonstrates that prior employment information allows employers to screen for such reliability and allows high-reliability workers to obtain better employment outcomes. Second, we conduct a field experiment that varies the frequency of job changes in fictitious job applicants’ resumes. Those applicants with fewer job changes receive substantially more callbacks from prospective employers. Finally, a survey experiment with human resource professionals confirms that the resume manipulations in the field study create different perceptions of work attitude and that these account for the callback differences. Our work highlights the potential importance of job history as a signal of worker characteristics, and points to a cost for workers of frequent job changes.

Keywords: Employability; Work Attitude; Job Mobility

JEL Classification: C90, C93, J01, E24

Suggested Citation

Cohn, Alain and Maréchal, Michel André and Schneider, Frédéric and Weber, Roberto A., Job History, Work Attitude, and Employability (April 5, 2016). University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 210. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2689528 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2689528

Alain Cohn (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

105 S State St
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Michel André Maréchal

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

Frédéric Schneider

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School ( email )

Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom

Roberto A. Weber

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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