• The authors wish to thank Karin Ash, Laurie Foitman, Tom Devlin, Mark Savage, Jennifer Prefontaine, and Devon Smith for facilitating access to students during the course of this study. In addition, we thank Diane Rosenthal, Caroline Weber, Janet Bozec, Byron Hoover, Shawn Eccles, and Nabil El Cheik for assistance in interviewing and transcription. Mary Connerley, George Matron, and Debra Levy merit special thanks for their roles in transcribing, coding, and analyzing data. We are also indebted to Karin Ash, Laurie Foitman, Diane Rosenthal, and Caroline Weber for sharing their unique insights into the recruitment process, and to three anonymous reviewers for their contributions to the final manuscript. Finally, we gratefully acknowledge financial support from the U.S. Army Research Institute (Contract SRFC-MDA903-87-K-0001), although the views, opinions, and findings contained in this article are those of the authors and should not be construed as official Department of the Army policy.

and requests for reprints should be addressed to Sara L. Rynes, College of Business Administration, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.


Recent literature reviews have called into question the impact of recruitment activities on applicants’job choices. However, most previous findings have been based on cross-sectional ratings obtained immediately after initial screening interviews, thus raising questions about the degree to which prior conclusions are bound to that particular methodology. In contrast, the present study used longitudinal structured interviews to let job seekers explain, in their own words, how they made critical job search and choice decisions. Interview transcripts revealed that recruitment practices played a variety of roles in job seeker decisions. For example, consistent with signaling theory, subjects interpreted a wide variety of recruitment experiences (recruiter competence, sex composition of interview panels, recruitment delays) as symbolic of broader organizational characteristics. In addition, a number of “contingency” variables emerged that seemed to affect the perceived signaling value of recruitment experiences (e.g., prior knowledge of the company, functional area of the recruiter). Also notable were the strongly negative effects of recruitment delays, particularly among male students with higher grade point averages and greater job search success. Finally, our results suggest that certain applicant reactions may be systematically related to sex, work experience, grade point average, and search success. The article concludes with practical and research implications.