In the Midst of Hiring: Pathways of Anticipated and Accidental Job Evolution During Hiring

Published: 14 November 2022

Authors: Lisa E. Cohen and Sara Mahabadi

Publication: Organization Science
Volume 33, Issue 5, September-October 2022, Pages 1938-1963


In this paper, we examine the evolution of jobs in the midst of the hiring process: how jobs change between the decision to bring in someone to do a body of work and hiring someone. We analyze data from interviews, observations, and documents about start-up hiring and find that, during hiring, tasks are added and removed from jobs; jobs are abandoned, replaced, and moved; and hiring processes are relaunched. We describe two pathways that this evolution takes: the pathway of anticipated evolution, shaped by the unknown nature of the jobs being filled, and the pathway of accidental evolution, shaped by unanticipated factors surrounding jobs. Although the pathways lead to many of the same immediate consequences, there are differences in the longer-term consequences. Across the pathways, many jobs continue to evolve. On the pathway of anticipated evolution, many job incumbents leave within a year and are not replaced. On the pathway of accidental evolution, the longer-term consequences for job incumbents, structures, and organizations range from stability in structures and incumbents to ongoing conflict and incumbent departure. Not surprisingly, most evolving jobs are new to their organizations, but contrary to common conceptions, job evolution is not the product of managers who lack experience or use lax hiring practices. Our observations provide evidence of the emergent nature of jobs, hiring, and organizations.

Back to top