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business school research

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The Globe's roundup of research from business schools.

All employers want to attract the best possible job applicants. The trouble is they may be going about it all wrong.

Most job ads tend to emphasize attributes and skills that an organization is seeking in an applicant. That's to be expected because employers and recruiters want to avoid being inundated with applications from people who aren't qualified for the position, says Joseph Schmidt, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan's Edwards School of Business.

But a study co-authored by Dr. Schmidt shows that employers could attract a better-quality pool of applicants if they also were to emphasize what the organization can provide to a prospective candidate – things such as autonomy, responsibility, the opportunity to use a variety of skills, and other features that ultimately lead to higher job satisfaction.

In the study, the researchers changed the wording of 56 real online job ads posted by a large Canadian engineering firm. The ads emphasized either characteristics that the employer was seeking in a candidate (what the authors call "demands-abilities fit") or features about the job that the employer could offer a candidate ("needs-supplies fit"). They measured the number of times an ad was viewed, the number of applications it generated and the quality of the applicants.

The results, based on 991 résumés, showed that the ads emphasizing "needs-supplies fit" generated more applications and elicited responses from more highly qualified job seekers. In fact, the proportion of the highest rated applicants in this category was almost three times that of the demands-abilities fit category.

"It certainly has important practical implications if you're recruiting a lot of people each year," says Dr. Schmidt. "If you get 10 or 15 more higher quality applicants than you would have otherwise, that could have important effects on the performance of the organization," he says. What's more, the changes are a small, easy and inexpensive way to improve the recruitment process.

"The moral of the story is don't forget to tell applicants truthfully what the job will offer them," he says. The study will be published in a forthcoming print issue of the Journal of Business and Psychology. It was previously published online. Dr. Schmidt's co-authors were Derek Chapman, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary, and David Jones, a business professor at the University of Vermont.

How to put an end to costly cellphone overage fees

Most of us, at one time or another, have been hit with an eye-popping cellphone bill at the end of the month. But, lucky for us, many cellphone carriers now issue alerts that warn us when we are about to go over our allotted minutes or texts. But do they really help?

A study co-authored by Matthew Osborne, a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga and U of T's Rotman School of Management, tracked the monthly phone bills of a group of U.S. cellphone users from August of 2002, to July of 2004, to predict the effects of so-called bill-shock warnings. These refer to the alerts companies issue when customers approach or exceed their voice, text and data limits.

The study tracked only voice data, not text or roaming. The authors found that users tended to underestimate how much they use their phones and chose plans with low monthly limits, thus incurring high overage fees.

"Part of the reason that people have bill shock is because they don't have a good sense of how much they are going to use [their phone] and it's hard for them to track their usage," says Dr. Osborne. Over time, users in the study switched to more expensive plans. Fixed prices went up and overage fees dropped, a trend that continues to this day, he says. But, companies adjusted their prices and maintained their profits.

To be sure, the cellphone market has changed since the data was collected, Dr. Osborne cautions. People have probably become savvier at predicting how much time they spend talking on their phones or how many texts they send. But data, he says, "could be an even bigger problem," since it's hard to estimate how many megabytes of data you use by sharing a photo or downloading a video.

The best course of action isn't for consumers to necessarily opt for the most expensive plan. Neither should they rely on the alerts to help them keep their cellphone costs under control. Rather, they should track their usage and pay close attention to their monthly bills, he advises. "Consumers can save a lot of money if they are able to correctly predict how much on average they are going to use," he says.

The paper was published in the January issue of the American Economic Review. Dr. Osborne's co-author was Michael Grubb, an economics professor at Boston College

Was top-model show killed by its friends or foes?

At its peak America's Next Top Model, the reality TV show in which a group of young women competed to be the next supermodel, was pulling in millions of viewers and was syndicated in more than 100 countries. Perhaps it was inevitable that it would eventually flame out like so many of the contestants on the show.

A study by Marie-Agnès Parmentier, a marketing professor at HEC Montréal, and Eileen Fischer, marketing professor at York University's Schulich School of Business, explores the role and influence that the show's most dedicated viewers played in its demise. The show premiered in 2003 and ended in 2014.

The decline in viewership "cannot be attributed merely to [viewer] fatigue," the authors write. By following and analyzing discussions on social media and online discussion boards, as well as media coverage of the show and its promotional materials, the authors identified practices that the show's most ardent fans engaged in that contributed to and accelerated its end.

These included rejecting new elements, such as new types of contestants or new judges, or, by producing fan art and other materials that were intended to undermine the show's success. By making their views of these changes widely known, they were able to influence less-engaged viewers. "Ironically, fans may contribute to the destabilization of a brand even as they are trying to help prevent this," the authors write. The article was published in the February issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Rosanna Tamburri can reached at