Whom Do Employers Want? The Role of Recent Employment and Unemployment Status and Age


We use a resume audit study to better understand the role of employment and unemployment histories in affecting callbacks to job applications. We focus on how the effect of career history varies by age, partly in an attempt to reconcile disparate findings in prior studies. While we cannot reconcile earlier findings on the effect of unemployment duration, the findings solidify an emerging consensus on the role of age and employment on callback. First, among applicants across a broad age range, we find that applicants with 52 weeks of unemployment have a lower callback rate than do applicants with shorter unemployment spells. However, regardless of an applicant's age, there is no relationship between spell length and callback among applicants with shorter spells. Second, we find a hump-shaped relationship between age and callback, with both younger and older applicants having a lower probability of callback relative to prime-aged applicants. Finally, we find that those applicants who are employed at the time of application have a lower callback rate than do unemployed applicants, regardless of whether the interim job is of lower or comparable quality relative to the
applied-for job. This may reflect a perception among employers that it is harder or more expensive to attract an applicant who is currently employed.

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Working Papers