Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Employment Recruiters’ Differentiation of Candidate Characteristics: Does Study Abroad Make a Difference?

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

C. Carney Strange (Committee Chair)


With the need for college graduates to be competitive in a global economy, it is both critical and timely to gain insight into what employers want and what might characterize a successful candidate who is prepared for the current job market. This study investigated recruiters' selection of candidates for employment, with an eye toward whether the experience of study abroad advantages them in the process of being evaluated for positions in business, education, or government/non-profit/social service organizations.

This dissertation employed an analogue design in which study abroad length and location, along with internship experience, were rotated systematically through a series of profiles, evoking recruiter-generated ratings and rankings for each pseudo-candidate as to the likelihood of being invited for a subsequent interview. Independent variables included candidate profile factors and characteristics related to recruiter gender, study abroad experience, position level, and organizational type. Quantitative data were examined through frequencies, chi-squares, and two-way analyses of variance for effects of the independent variables on candidate evaluations submitted. Additionally, recruiters' comments about factors influencing their decisions were solicited and categorized for thematic patterns and insights.

Among the findings were two principal outcomes. First, candidate profiles featuring study abroad experiences, in addition to relevant internships, were rated and ranked the highest among peers in recruiters' evaluations, with preference being given to long-term, Western experiences. Second, however, some variation in these evaluations was related to differences in the study abroad experience itself, as well as recruiter characteristics. Overall, the effect of study abroad on recruiters' evaluations of candidates was simply one part of a complex of other considerations.

Students have a number of options for increasing their marketability to potential employers, among them - pursuing an opportunity for study abroad. However, results of the present study suggest that such an experience has only an additive rather than compensatory effect, when considered in light of other criteria, such as relevant internship experience. Nevertheless, completion of an international encounter is clearly an important factor in a candidate's evaluation, but only one among others of equal if not higher value in determining who is selected eventually for a subsequent interview.