From strangers to partners: The role of information in the development of social exchange relationships between applicants and organizations
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Job applicants and hiring organizations bring a host of goals with them to the staffing process. This can lead to dysfunction as these goals have the potential to conflict on a within-entity basis (e.g. a job applicant has two goals that may conflict) and a between-entity basis (e.g., a job applicant’s goal conflicts with an organization’s goal). However, I draw upon social exchange theory to examine how organizational actions surrounding an especially valuable strategic resource during recruitment—information—might resolve the multiple conflicting goals of both organizations and job applicants. Based on social exchange theory, I argue that organizations can fulfill both their own goals as well as applicant goals by managing their provision of information-based resources (i.e., positive diagnostic information seeking) and costs (i.e., negative diagnostic information seeking) to applicants. In doing so, I theorize that organizations increase applicant levels of felt obligation which acts as a social exchange mechanism that drives applicant reciprocation of information-based resources back to the hiring organization. I identify four likely forms of applicant information-based reciprocation: the establishment of self-imposed decision deadlines and the minimization of these deadlines, more positive word of mouth, less negative word of mouth, and less applicant faking. I test this theory utilizing a multi-method approach with an experiment and a field study. Results provide little support for the proposed hypotheses. These results are discussed in light of limitations, implications, and future research directions.