A Prototype Matching Approach to Understanding the Role of Applicant Gender and Age in the Evaluation of Job Applicants1

Authors

  • Elissa Perry

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elissa Perry, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 504 East Armory Avenue, Champaign, IL 61820–6297.
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  • 1

    I would like to thank Alison Davis-Blake, Carol Kulik, Jerry Ferris, Mark Fichman, Dick Moreland, Greg Oldham, Harry Triandis, and Laurie Weingart for their insightful comments and suggestions on previous drafts of this paper and Phil Cardi for his assistance on this project. I also thank Andrew Baum and two anonymous Journal of Applied Social Psychology reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elissa Perry, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 504 East Armory Avenue, Champaign, IL 61820–6297.

Abstract

This research uses a prototype matching approach to understand how job applicant evaluations are made and the role that applicant gender and age play in these evaluations. It is hypothesized that raters represent information about jobs and jobholders in person-in-job prototypes. Raters evaluate applicants by matching information about applicants to the person-in-job prototype associated with the job for which the applicant is applying. Person-in-job prototypes are comprised of features that are more (i.e., central) or less (i.e., peripheral) strongly associated with the prototype. Three laboratory studies examined several hypotheses derived from a prototype matching approach. Results indicated that applicants who matched on more central features were evaluated more favorably than applicants who matched on fewer central features of person-in-job prototypes. In addition, applicants who matched on age were evaluated more favorably than applicants who did not match on age when age was a central but not a peripheral feature of a person-in-job prototype. However, applicants who matched on gender were not evaluated differently from applicants who did not match on gender when gender was a central or a peripheral feature of a person-in-job prototype. Finally, there was some evidence that raters used applicant gender in a complex manner when evaluating applicants. Implications for theory and research on bias in selection are discussed.

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