Just DM Me (Politely): Direct Messaging, Politeness, and Hiring Outcomes in Online Labor Markets

43 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2018 Last revised: 2 Nov 2020

See all articles by Yili Hong

Yili Hong

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Jing Peng

University of Connecticut - Department of Operations & Information Management

Gordon Burtch

Boston University - Questrom School of Business

Ni Huang

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Date Written: November 1, 2020

Abstract

This study examines the role of text-based direct messaging systems in online labor markets, which provide a communication channel between workers and employers, adding a personal touch to the exchange of online labor. We propose the effect of workers’ use of the direct messaging system on employers’ hiring decisions and conceptualize the information role of direct messaging. To empirically evaluate the information role of the direct messaging system, we leverage data on the direct messaging activities between workers and employers across more than 470,000 job applications on a leading online labor market. We report evidence that direct messaging with a prospective employer increases a worker’s probability of being hired by 8.9%. However, the degree to which workers benefit from direct messaging is heterogeneous, and the effect amplifies for workers approaching employers from a position of disadvantage (lacking tenure or fit with the job) and attenuates as more workers attempt to message the same prospective employer. The effects also depend on message content. In particular, we find that the benefits of direct messaging for workers depend a great deal on the politeness of the workers, and this ‘politeness effect’ depends on several contextual factors. The beneficial effects are amplified for lower-status workers (i.e., workers lacking tenure and job fit), and workers who share a common language with the employer. At the same time, the beneficial effects weaken in the presence of typographical errors. These findings provide important insights into when and what to message to achieve favorable hiring outcomes in online employment settings.

Keywords: direct messaging system, information value, politeness, online labor market, hiring outcome

Suggested Citation

Hong, Yili and Peng, Jing and Burtch, Gordon and Huang, Ni, Just DM Me (Politely): Direct Messaging, Politeness, and Hiring Outcomes in Online Labor Markets (November 1, 2020). Information Systems Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3151289 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3151289

Yili Hong (Contact Author)

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States

Jing Peng

University of Connecticut - Department of Operations & Information Management ( email )

368 Fairfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-2041
United States

Gordon Burtch

Boston University - Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Ni Huang

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States

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