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Does taking a low level ‘interim’ job reduce an older woman’s employment prospects?

by on November 4, 2015

How do employers respond to equally qualified job applicants who vary in age and have been unemployed for different lengths of time? As reported here on the US News website, the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US has carried out a simulation study using fake CVs to examine the relationship between age, length of time unemployed, whether they hold a low level “interim” job and the rate of callback from potential employers. I’m not sure that getting a ‘callback’ from a potential employer is quite in the same league as actually getting a job but, as the saying goes, it’s a necessary but insufficient requirement for achieiving employment. The researchers focused on three age groups: 35 to 37, 40 to 42 and 55 to 58.

Using these factors as a kind of proxy for ‘applicant quality’, the study reported results as follows:

  • there was no relationship between callback rates and the duration of unemployment;
  • women workers age 50 and older are significantly less likely to receive a callback; and
  • taking an interim job significantly reduces the likelihood of receiving a callback.

Perhaps the key finding here is that those who took low level jobs for which they were overqualified were less likely to get a callback than those who didn’t have a job at all.

The study only looked at older women workers so we don’t know how these factors would play out with older male workers in similar positions. The justification for this was that the researchers targeted organizations advertising white-collar office openings for positions like executive assistant, receptionist, secretary and office associate. Because these jobs are disproportionately occupied by female employees, all the fake CVs sent out were in a woman’s name. The full study is behind a paywall but the link to the abstract is here.

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