Hiring Through Referrals in a Labor Market with Adverse Selection

Aurelie Dariel, Arno Riedl, Simon Siegenthaler

Research output: Working paper / PreprintWorking paper

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Information asymmetries can prevent markets from operating efficiently. An important example is the labor market, where employers face uncertainty about the productivity of job candidates. We examine theoretically and with laboratory experiments three key questions related to hiring via referrals when employees have private information about their productivity. First, do firms use employee referrals when there are social ties between a current employee and a future employee? Second, does the existence of social ties and hiring through employee referrals indeed alleviate adverse selection relative to when social ties do not exist? Third, does the existence of social ties have spill-over effects on wages and hiring in competitive labor markets? The answers to all three questions are affirmative. However, despite the identified positive effect of employment referrals, hiring decisions fall short of the (second-best) efficient outcome. We identify risk aversion as a potential reason for this.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherMaastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2019

Publication series

SeriesGSBE Research Memoranda

JEL classifications

  • c92 - Design of Experiments: Laboratory, Group Behavior
  • d82 - "Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design"
  • d85 - Network Formation and Analysis: Theory
  • e20 - Macroeconomics: Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment: General (includes Measurement and Data)


  • adverse selection
  • labor market
  • employee referrals
  • social networks


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