Comment: Why the job you’re applying for may not be the one you get

Some changes, such as the elimination and transfer of jobs, can have positive consequences, such as more stable jobs and incumbents who remain in organizations. It can allow organizations to learn, create a better organizational structure, and even take on new work.

This finding is consistent with previous research that has found that changes in job descriptions can allow organizations to adapt to a variety of situations by developing structures and strategies that fit the circumstances.

However, we observed that most of the other types of job changes in our study resulted in negative consequences, such as job instability, prolonged dispute over employment territory, and incumbent exit and termination of employment.

For example, the candidate mentioned above who was offered a job different from the one he had applied for ended up in conflict with the sales manager, and his job never progressed to the sales job at complete cycle that had been promised to him when he was hired. He left in less than a year and his position has not been filled.

This finding is consistent with previous research that found that job switching around individual job holders can lead to bias, favoritism, low morale, and undesirable and unpredictable power struggles.


The dynamic nature of job descriptions has the potential to produce inequities in the hiring process, as not all job applicants understand that jobs can change between posting and hiring.

Those who understand will have a distinct advantage over those who don’t, because they know how to apply for jobs even when their preferences and qualifications don’t match the job posting. This knowledge can align with individual demographics.

This can be particularly harmful for women and members of other underrepresented groups who are less comfortable applying for jobs where they do not match the listed qualifications. Previous evidence has shown that women tend to apply for jobs they are already well qualified for while men apply for jobs they aspire to be qualified for.

Women may also be less likely than men to apply for jobs in the expectation that jobs will evolve according to their skills and preferences. If more women are aware of the results of our study, this could translate into more applications for jobs that seem outside their area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise.

Lisa Cohen is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at McGill University. Sara Mahabadi is an assistant professor at the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta. This comment first appeared on The Conversation.

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