Direct Messaging and Hiring Outcomes in Online Labor Markets
44 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2018 Last revised: 31 Oct 2019
Date Written: March 28, 2018
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
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