Job Search Methods, Job Search Outcomes, and Job Satisfaction of College Graduates: A Comparison of Race and Sex

By Mau, Wei-Cheng; Kopischke, Amie | Journal of Employment Counseling, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Job Search Methods, Job Search Outcomes, and Job Satisfaction of College Graduates: A Comparison of Race and Sex


Mau, Wei-Cheng, Kopischke, Amie, Journal of Employment Counseling


A nationally representative sample of college graduates (N = 11,152) were surveyed regarding their job-seeking behaviors and outcomes. Race and sex differences among the job search strategies used, number of job interviews, number of job offers, annual salary, and job satisfaction were examined. Results indicated significant race and sex differences in job search methods used. There were significant differences in underemployment and job satisfaction as a function of race, and in underemployment and annual salary as a function of sex. There were no significant differences in number of job interviews or job offers regardless of race or sex.

Job-seeking behaviors have been considered an important part of career development and have received increasing attention over the past decades (Huffman & Torres, 2001). Research has indicated that effective job search behavior relates to the number of job offers (Saks & Ashforth, 2000), job satisfaction with the position obtained (Steffy, Shaw, & Noe, 1989; Stumpf & Hartman, 1984), better job fit (Stumpf, Austin, & Hartman, 1984), decreased job withdrawal and turnover (Caldwell & O'Reilly, 1985). Despite the importance to the career development process, very little vocational research has focused on race and sex differences in the job search behaviors and outcomes of college graduates.

The American workforce is becoming diverse. Minorities and women now account for more than 90% of all labor force growth (U.S. Department of Labor, 1998). They continue to face special obstacles in the workplace (McWhirter, 1997; Shaffer, Joplin, Bell, Lau, & Oguz, 2000). Minorities and women are concentrated in a restricted range of occupations, are likely to be unemployed, earn less, and consequently are more likely to live in poverty than are White men (Arbono, 1990). Research has also shown that an individual's initial job placement is critical in determining status and earnings attainment in later career positions (Richards, 1984, Steffy et al., 1989). Given the increasingly competitive job market, diverse workforce, and the consequence of the initial job placement, an understanding of job search behaviors and work experience of the major contributing workforce becomes critical.

The information channel individuals use to locate their first jobs can be roughly classified into two types. The first type is the structured job information market, where positions are listed through want ads and public and private employment agencies. The second is the hidden job information market, where positions are transmitted through informal contacts made by faculty, friends, and relatives and through direct application to employers of interest (Allen & Keaveny, 1980; Bowman, 1987). Various studies have been conducted comparing the use of the two types of information sources (e.g., Mien & Keaveny, 1980; Eby & Buch, 1994; Sagen, Dallam, & Laverty, 1999; Silliker, 1993; also see review by Schwab, Rynes, & Aldag, 1987). Their results generally indicated that networking or the use of informal job information sources was the most common method to find a new position. Informal sources allow individuals to locate jobs that might not be formally advertised and perhaps to talk directly to decision makers instead of individuals in personnel departments. Although networking has been suggested as the most effective job search method, very little is known about whether the strategy is effective or appropriate for minority job seekers. In fact, there is some evidence that job search methods lead to different outcomes for different racial and ethnic groups (Green, Tigges, & Diaz, 1999).

Studies on sex differences in job search strategies (e.g., Drentea, 1998; Harris, Tanner, & Knouse, 1996; Straits, 1998) and the relationship between job search methods and job outcomes (Athey & Hautaluoma, 1994; Barnum, Liden, & DiTomaso, 1995; Huffman & Torres, 2001; Lichtenstein, 1996; Melamed, 1995) have begun to show some patterns. …

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