Direct Messaging and Hiring Outcomes in Online Labor Markets

44 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2018 Last revised: 31 Oct 2019

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

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Ni Huang

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

Date Written: March 28, 2018

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 Freelancer.com. We show causal 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 effects attenuate 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 on i) information volume (message length), ii) communication quality (typographical errors), and iii) impression management strategies (expressed competence or politeness, which are analogous to self-promotion and ingratiation), with the last factor being further moderated by the degree of competition a worker faces for a particular job. 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, online labor market, hiring outcome

Suggested Citation

Hong, Yili and Peng, Jing and Burtch, Gordon and Huang, Ni, Direct Messaging and Hiring Outcomes in Online Labor Markets (March 28, 2018). University of Connecticut School of Business Research Paper No. 18-14, 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

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Ni Huang

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

Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States

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