Go with Your Gut: Emotions and Stratification in Hiring
In the following paper, I present labor market stratification as an emotional process fundamentally rooted in micro-social interaction. Drawing from Randall Collins’ theory of interaction ritual, I provide a case study of hiring in elite professional service firms to analyze how evaluators’ emotional responses to candidates affect hiring outcomes and inequalities. This analysis represents the first empirical application of Collins’ intriguing but heretofore untested theoretical propositions about the role of emotion in social stratification. After demonstrating how feelings of excitement and emotional energy (Collins 1990) generated in interaction serve as crucial mechanisms of candidate selection, I then extend Collins’ work by proposing a theoretical model of emotional energy development in job interviews. In this model, I highlight the mechanisms and characteristics that tend to produce, sustain, or inhibit emotional energy in interaction as well as parse out the particular phases of an interaction where energy gains and losses are most consequential for influencing hiring outcomes and inequalities. I conclude by discussing the implications of my findings for both interaction ritual theory and recent work in cultural sociology, economic sociology, and social stratification.
Lauren A. Rivera is an Assistant Professor of Management & Organizations and Sociology (by courtesy) at Northwestern University. Her research, which resides at the cusp of cultural sociology, social psychology, and social stratification, investigates how micro-level processes of interpersonal evaluation relate to broader inequalities in real-life, organizational settings. Her research has been published in American Sociological Review, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, and Qualitative Sociology. Lauren received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University in 2009. Prior to her academic career, she worked as a management consultant.