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Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

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Journal of Business Venturing

Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer


attractiveness and the moderating role of applicants'
entrepreneurial behaviors
Kilian J. Moser a,b,, Andranik Tumasjan b, Isabell M. Welpe b
a
Center for Digital Technology & Management, Technical University of Munich, Arcisstr. 21, 80333 Munich, Germany
b
Technical University of Munich, Chair of Strategy and Organization, Arcisstr. 21, 80333 Munich, Germany

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Operating under high levels of uncertainty and limited public recognition, one of the most sig-
Received 12 January 2016 nicant challenges for new ventures is attracting qualied employees. Building on the concept
Received in revised form 30 April 2017 of legitimate distinctiveness, our study investigates how recruitment-related heterogeneous
Accepted 10 May 2017
and homogeneous entrepreneurial identity claims inuence applicants' judgments of new ven-
Available online xxxx
tures' employer attractiveness. We combine anticipatory psychological contract theory and le-
gitimacy theory to build theory about the way applicants evaluate new venture employer
Keywords: attractiveness. Using a metric conjoint experiment, we study 9,824 employer attractiveness
Recruitment
judgments made by 307 job seekers. Our multi-level approach also yields cross-level interac-
New ventures
tion effects of job applicants' innovative behavior, which offer novel insights into which new
Organizational attractiveness
Anticipatory psychological contract venture employment dimensions specically attract entrepreneurially-minded potential em-
Legitimacy ployees. We derive implications for new venture recruitment theory and offer practical impli-
Legitimate distinctiveness cations for startup stafng.
2017 Published by Elsevier Inc.

1. Executive summary

Recruiting employees and building human capital poses a major challenge for new ventures, especially in their nascent stages.
Notably, a crucial knowledge gap in the entrepreneurship literature concerns our understanding what makes new ventures attrac-
tive as employers from the applicants' perspective. We propose that to be perceived as attractive employers, new ventures need
to make two types of recruitment-related identity claims, namely heterogeneous and homogeneous identity claims (Navis and
Glynn, 2011). On the one hand, new ventures need to make heterogeneous identity claims to promote their attractive and distinct
employment attributes distinguishing them from other new ventures competing for the same talent pool. Startups may differen-
tiate their employment offering in terms of transactional (e.g., monetary or other tangible attributes), relational (e.g., characteris-
tics of the employer-employee relationship, such as social support by management or colleagues), and ideological (e.g., a rm's
vision or mission) attributes. On the other hand, startups also need to make homogeneous identity claims that position them
as trustworthy, credible, and reliable employers. These claims comprise legitimacy signals of both the new venture's founder(s)
(e.g., education, previous work or founder experience) and the new venture itself (e.g., endorsements such as awards or reputable
investors). Moreover, regarding the target group of potential employees, we argue that for new ventures entrepreneurially-

Corresponding author at: Technical University of Munich, Chair of Strategy and Organization, Arcisstr. 21, 80333 Munich, Germany.
E-mail addresses: moser@cdtm.de (K.J. Moser), andranik.tumasjan@tum.de (A. Tumasjan), welpe@tum.de (I.M. Welpe).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
0883-9026/ 2017 Published by Elsevier Inc.

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
2 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

minded applicants should be especially attractive and vice versa, based on the notion of person-organization t. Therefore, we also
analyze differences in the judgments of entrepreneurially-minded vs. less entrepreneurially-minded individuals.
We study 9,824 employer attractiveness judgments made by 307 job-seekers. In our study, we rst investigate the ranking of
potential applicants' preferences for heterogeneous and homogeneous attributes of new ventures' employment offering. Based on
person-organization t, we also study how potential employees' preferences for these employer attributes are inuenced by their
entrepreneurial behaviors (i.e., innovative, proactive, and risk-taking behavior) and thereby determine which offerings are espe-
cially attractive depending on those three entrepreneurial behaviors.
Our ndings demonstrate that new ventures need to balance distinct employment offerings (heterogeneous claims) with foun-
der and startup legitimacy (homogeneous claims) to attract potential employees. In comparing the relative importance of these
claims, our study nds that distinctiveness claims have more inuence on new ventures' employer attractiveness as compared
to legitimacy claims. Second, we show that potential employees' entrepreneurial behaviors (especially innovative behavior) inu-
ence how they perceive the attractiveness of new ventures' employer attributes. In particular, for highly innovative individuals,
we found that ideological attributes and founder legitimacy are more important, whereas transactional attributes are less impor-
tant than for less innovative individuals. However, we found no such inuence of the other two entrepreneurial behaviors (i.e.,
proactive and risk-taking behavior) when analyzing our job seeker sample as a whole.
Therefore, we conducted post-hoc analyses which revealed that additional individual background variables are required to bet-
ter understand the inuence of entrepreneurial behaviors on employer attractiveness judgments. Specically, our analyses show
that individuals' prior career experience (i.e., work experience and general interest in startup employment) interacts with their
levels of entrepreneurial behavior and the employment offerings in inuencing individuals' judgments. We found that, among
employees with higher work experience, more proactive individuals value relational attributes and founder legitimacy more
than less proactive individuals. Moreover, among employees with lower work experience, more innovative individuals value
transactional attributes less than less innovative individuals, while more risk-taking individuals value relational attributes more
than less risk-taking individuals. Additional post-hoc analyses similarly reveal that proactive and risk-taking behaviors have a
more positive inuence on the perception of new ventures' relational employment offerings mostly for potential applicants
with high levels of interest in startup employment. These results imply that individuals' prior career experiences such as
their work experience and their exposure to startup-related contexts inuence their attractiveness judgments and thus needs
to be additionally considered when studying employment attractiveness from a person-organization t perspective. Finally, we
found that in the new venture recruitment context, legitimacy signals seem to be somewhat less important than in other contexts
where prior entrepreneurship research has shown the importance of startup legitimacy for new ventures' success. Instead,
startups are well-advised to focus on building a distinct employment offering prole in terms of transactional, relational, and ideo-
logical attributes that markedly differentiates them from their competitors in the labor market.

2. Introduction

At a time of unparalleled technological development, it is the human resources that paradoxically spell success or failure for all rms,
and especially entrepreneurial ones
[(Katz et al., 2000, p. 7).]

New ventures face several competitive disadvantages because they operate under higher levels of uncertainty, suffer from lim-
ited public recognition and legitimacy, and are characterized by low organizational awareness (Aldrich and Auster, 1986; Leung et
al., 2006; Stinchcombe, 1965). Consequently, even though having talented employees is one of the most important success factors
for early stage startups, new ventures especially in their seed stage face difculties recruiting qualied personnel (Greer et al.,
2016; Mayson and Barrett, 2006). In fact, in a recent study of 758 US-based startup executives, 89% of participating rms consid-
ered nding qualied employees challenging (SVB, 2013). Although we know quite well why and under what conditions indi-
viduals decide to become entrepreneurs (e.g., Parasuraman et al., 1996; Schjoedt and Shaver, 2007; Souitaris et al., 2007;
Wilson et al., 2007), our knowledge about attracting employees to new ventures is very limited (Cardon and Stevens, 2004;
Greer et al., 2016) with a few notable exceptions. For example, in their conceptual article, Williamson et al. (2002) propose
that to attract qualied employees, small rms should capitalize on both their distinct and attractive employment offering (e.g.,
at hierarchies or high task variety) to stand out among potential competitors. A study by Tumasjan et al. (2011) similarly
nds that to attract new talent, new ventures require a unique set of startup-specic employer attributes, such as an informal
team climate, increased responsibility/empowerment, exible work practices, and a focus on personal development. These studies
demonstrate how specic elements of new ventures' employment offering may be used to position them as attractive, trustwor-
thy employers. Nonetheless, they do not provide a comprehensive theoretical framework for studying applicant attraction in new
ventures. Furthermore, these studies shed no light on the issue of how new ventures can increase person organization (PO) t
(Kristof-Brown et al., 2005) and accumulate specic human capital (Hayton, 2003) to compensate for their liabilities of newness
and smallness (Aldrich and Auster, 1986).
Thus, our research addresses new ventures' organizational attractiveness (OA) from two perspectives, namely rst, what kind
of new venture employment offering leads to high OA, and second, how can new ventures' increase their PO t with potential
applicants. Fist, our research addresses new ventures' challenge of balancing both distinct (i.e., standing out/appearing different

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 3

from established conventions) and legitimate (i.e., tting in/appearing similar to established conventions) appearances to be
perceived as attractive, trustworthy employers. Especially in their early stages, new ventures suffer from limited resources and
often lack the knowledge required to craft an elaborate recruitment strategy (Cardon and Tarique, 2008). Accordingly, new ven-
tures are compelled to invest their limited resources wisely, forcing them to make trade-offs between fostering their distinctive-
ness vs. legitimacy as startup employer. We argue that this balancing act resembles that associated with new ventures' efforts to
appear attractive to potential investors, a challenge that has been summarized as achieving legitimate distinctiveness in a recent
theory on investor judgments (Navis and Glynn, 2011). We thus draw on Navis and Glynn's (2011) distinction of heterogeneous
and homogeneous entrepreneurial identity claims to develop and test theory about new venture applicant attraction. When
recruiting talent for new ventures, heterogeneous identity claims are supposed to differentiate the rm's employment offering as
being more attractive than that of other ventures competing for members of the same talent pool. Job seekers evaluate new ven-
tures' employment offerings as part the psychological contract formation, meaning the formation of beliefs about the anticipated
contractual obligations between a new venture as employer and the job seeker (Ryan, 2012). If new ventures highlight favorable,
distinct aspects, their employment offering may be perceived as both distinct from competing new ventures as well as attractive
to potential employees (De Vos et al., 2003; Lievens et al., 2007). In this vein, we argue that new ventures can make recruitment-
related heterogeneous identity claims based on attributes of the anticipatory psychological contract (APC, i.e., the psychological con-
tractual basis on which applicants evaluate potential employers) (Ryan, 2012; Thompson and Bunderson, 2003). Although psycho-
logical contract theory is a well-established theoretical framework for investigating obligations in the employer-employee
relationship (Rousseau, 1990), scholars have recently called for studies investigating psychological contracts already in the appli-
cant attraction phase of recruitment (Rousseau, 2001; Ryan, 2012). In line with Edwards (2010), we argue that perceptions of the
image of new ventures' heterogeneous identity claims are best evaluated through a comprehensive, well-established framework
such as APC theory (De Hauw and De Vos, 2010; Ryan, 2012; Thompson and Bunderson, 2003). In this vein, we present one of the
rst studies developing and testing theory about recruitment-related heterogeneous identity claims based on the APC framework.
In line with Navis and Glynn (2011), we further argue that startups require recruitment-related homogeneous identity claims to
position themselves as both legitimate and distinct, thereby attracting potential applicants. Thus, in our research, we draw on le-
gitimacy theory (e.g., Bitektine, 2011) as a means of making homogeneous identity claims and respond to previous calls to inves-
tigate the legitimacy signals of new ventures' founders and the company itself (Williamson et al., 2002).
A second focus of our research is on understanding how new ventures can attract talents that are particularly valuable for
startups, namely, entrepreneurially-minded employees. Previous research indicates that successful ventures overcome limitations
impeding access to external resources such as external nancing by making better use of their internal resources such as human
capital (Wiklund and Shepherd, 2005). Based on PO t theory (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005), we argue that entrepreneurially-mind-
ed employees should have a higher PO t with startups and thus exhibit higher productivity, job satisfaction and interest in con-
tributing to the startup's success (de Jong et al., 2015). Therefore, we study whether focusing new ventures' employer image on
attributes that are especially appealing to potential employees with a high proactive, innovative, and risk-taking behavior (three
core entrepreneurial behaviors) can help new ventures to achieve a higher PO t (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005) and build up stra-
tegic human capital (Barney and Wright, 1998).
We contribute to the understanding of how new ventures can position themselves as legitimate and distinct employers and
which dimensions they may highlight in particular to attract highly entrepreneurial employees. Using Navis and Glynn's (2011)
legitimate distinctiveness conceptualization as a guiding theoretical framework, we make three primary contributions. First, we
contribute theory and empirical evidence on recruitment in the context of new ventures. Specically, we draw on APC theory
from human resources management research (Ryan, 2012) to theorize about employment attributes and applicant attraction in
new ventures. We juxtapose APC theory (Ryan, 2012) and legitimacy research (Bitektine, 2011; Williamson, 2000) to investigate
various dimensions of new ventures' employment offerings and derive a ranking of their importance as predictors of startup OA.
We thereby provide novel insights into how new ventures can position themselves as attractive employers based on heteroge-
neous and homogeneous identity claims (Navis and Glynn, 2011).
Second, we introduce theory about the effect of innovative behavior, proactive behavior and risk-taking (de Jong et al., 2015)
and test their relative importance for attracting entrepreneurially-minded employees. We present one of the rst studies combin-
ing research on entrepreneurial behaviors with APC theory and legitimacy research in the context of new venture recruitment
(e.g., Bowen et al., 1991; Greer et al., 2016; Lee et al., 2011; Tumasjan et al., 2011; Zhao and Seibert, 2006). We illustrate how
PO t theory can help new ventures to attract entrepreneurially-minded employees (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005) and thereby
strengthen new ventures' strategic human capital to enhance their competitive advantage and contribute to rm success (Oh
et al., 2015).
Third, given that we conceptualize a rm's employment offering based on the dimensions of the APC, we also contribute back
to the HRM literature. Specically, we present APC theory as an alternative to the well-known instrumental-symbolic framework
(Lievens and Highhouse, 2003; Lievens and Slaughter, 2016) for studying the antecedents of organizational attractiveness. Thus,
we both advance the use of APC theory in HRM research in general and demonstrate its use in understanding new venture re-
cruitment in particular.

3. Theory and hypotheses

In a landmark paper on recruitment in new ventures, Williamson (2000) postulated that engaging in strategic isomorphism
[i.e., legitimation], in addition to promoting organizational differences to job applicants, [new ventures] will have higher levels of

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
4 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

recruitment success than if they had only adopted a strategy of differentiation (Williamson, 2000, p. 33). Building on this ratio-
nale, we argue that new ventures have to simultaneously balance offers of both distinct (i.e., different from competing startups)
and legitimate (i.e., credible and trustworthy) employment offerings to attract new employees. This balancing act resembles new
ventures' attempts to appear attractive to potential investors, a challenge termed legitimate distinctiveness by Navis and Glynn
(2011). In their conceptual article on startups' attractiveness to investors, Navis and Glynn (2011) propose that founders make
two types of entrepreneurial identity claims to achieve legitimate distinctiveness and to attract investors, namely, heterogeneous
and homogeneous claims.
Transferring this conceptualization to recruitment, we argue that new ventures have to make similar recruitment-related
entrepreneurial identity claims to be perceived as attractive employers. Accordingly, both heterogeneous identity claims
(i.e., appearing distinct/different from other comparable entities) and homogenous identity claims (i.e., appearing legiti-
mate/similar to other comparable entities) have to coexist for a rm to be perceived as legitimate and distinct employer
(Navis and Glynn, 2011). Based on these two perspectives, we combine anticipatory psychological contract theory (APC;
Ryan, 2012; see also Rousseau, 1990) and research on new ventures' legitimacy (Bitektine, 2011; Williamson et al., 2002) to
understand how new ventures attract potential employees. We illustrate the nature of our theoretical model in Fig. 1. In the
following section, we provide a brief overview of our model before describing our theorizing and hypotheses in detail (see
Section 2.1).
Heterogeneous identity claims. When attracting talent to new ventures, a prominent way to overcome liabilities of newness
and smallness is to promote a rm's distinct employment attributes (Theurer et al., 2016; Williamson et al., 2002). We argue
that new ventures make recruitment-related heterogeneous identity claims to promote their distinct employment attributes.
This way, they can demonstrate how and to what extent their employment offering is distinct from that of other new ventures
competing for members of the same talent pool. For example, potential employees may perceive that two startups exhibit
similar salaries as well as comparable non-monetary incentives such as free food and drinks. Yet, one startup promotes a
more attractive company culture than its rival and thus appears more appealing to potential employees. Research indeed
demonstrates that job seekers use a variety of employment attributes to develop an image of different employment options
(Lievens and Slaughter, 2016; Uggerslev et al., 2012). A theoretical framework capturing potential employees' perceptions
of rms' employment offering in their entirety is the APC. Theorizing on the nature of the elements of rms' employment of-
fering, APC theory proposes that applicants base their job decisions primarily on three types of employer attributes, namely,
attributes of a transactional (i.e., specic and usually monetary exchanges, e.g., remuneration), relational (i.e., socioemotional
exchanges, e.g., perceived team support) and ideological (i.e., commitment to a valued cause, e.g., new ventures' strategic
vision) nature (Ryan, 2012; Thompson and Bunderson, 2003). Nonetheless, heterogeneous identity claims alone are insuf-
cient to be perceived as an attractive startup employer and, so we argue, need to be accompanied by homogeneous identity
claims (Williamson, 2000).
Homogeneous identity claims. In line with Navis and Glynn (2011), we conclude that new ventures must make homogeneous
identity claims in addition to heterogeneous identity claims to be perceived as legitimate, attractive employers. For example, if
two startups are both perceived as equally visionary and innovative (i.e., featuring high levels of ideological attributes), potential
employees are likely to prefer the startup with stronger homogeneous identity claims, such as founders with extensive work ex-
perience or endorsements through reputable investors (i.e., higher levels of legitimacy). In this vein, for example, Virgin Atlantic's
identity (also as employer and especially in its startup phase), was not dened just by its business as an airline and travel com-
pany, but also by its well-known serial entrepreneur and founder, Sir Richard Branson (Navis and Glynn, 2011). In agreement
with Navis and Glynn (2011), we argue that new ventures make homogeneous identity claims at both the individual level
pertaining to the founder, and the company level to describe the attributes at the core of their identities. Accordingly, we focus
our analysis on both founder legitimacy and startup legitimacy.

Level 2: Entrepreneurial behaviors


Entrepreneurial
Innovative behavior Proactive behavior Risk taking behavior
behaviors

Level 1: Employer attributes

Transactional attributes
Heterogeneous
(APC)

Relational attributes
Employer
attractiveness
Ideological attributes
Homogeneous
(Legitimacy)

Founder legitimacy

Startup legitimacy

Fig. 1. Conceptual model depicting entrepreneurial behaviors as moderators of the inuence of the anticipatory psychological contract (APC) and legitimacy on OA.

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 5

Entrepreneurial behavior. Knowing how new ventures attract potential employees is just as important as understanding the cir-
cumstances under which potential employees are attracted to them. In this vein, entrepreneurship scholars have recently called
for studies investigating the moderating entrepreneurial behaviors rooted in individuals' personality (Holland and Shepherd,
2013). Based on the central tenets of the person-organization (PO) t literature namely, that OA depends on applicants' indi-
vidual characteristics (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005) we consequently develop and test theory about how potential employees
judge OA based on their individual entrepreneurial behaviors, namely, their innovative behavior, proactive behavior, and risk-tak-
ing (de Jong et al., 2015). New ventures have an inherent interest in recruiting entrepreneurially-minded employees because
according to PO t theory (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005) the latter t well with new ventures' employment offering. For example,
PO t literature has shown that employees who t well with the recruiting organization exhibit higher levels of organizational
identication, productivity, co-worker and supervisor satisfaction, and job satisfaction as well as lower turnover rates (Kristof-
Brown et al., 2005; Oh et al., 2015). Furthermore, higher PO t (i.e., value congruence on an organizational level) has also been
shown to increase rms' strategic human capital (Oh et al., 2015). From this perspective, attracting employees with strong entre-
preneurial behaviors provides a way to develop new venture specic strategic human capital resources (Ployhart et al., 2014). In
this regard, individuals' innovative behavior, their level of proactive behavior, and their risk-taking behavior have been found to
be dening entrepreneurial behaviors (de Jong et al., 2015). Thus, reecting central tenets of the PO t and human capital liter-
ature, the inuence of the employer attributes (i.e., attributes of the APC and signals of legitimacy) on new ventures' OA is hy-
pothesized to be moderated by individuals' innovative behavior, proactive behavior and risk-taking.
Below, we rst introduce theory on the importance of APC attributes as well as legitimacy signals for new venture OA. We
then theorize in detail about the inuence of potential employees' entrepreneurial behaviors (i.e., innovative, proactive, and
risk-taking behavior; de Jong et al., 2015) on their attractiveness judgments.

3.1. Heterogeneous identity claims as part of the anticipatory psychological contract

Recruitment-related heterogeneous identity claims differentiate a rm's employment offering as being more attractive than
that of other new ventures. In this regard, APC theory is useful because it holistically captures a rm's employment offering in
a coherent framework (Ryan, 2012). APC theory suggests that new ventures can make heterogeneous identity claims by promot-
ing transactional (specic and usually monetary exchanges), relational (socioemotional exchanges) and ideological (commitment
to a valued cause) attributes that are different from competing rms (Ryan, 2012; Thompson and Bunderson, 2003). Following,
we describe each of the three components of the APC as used in our theoretical framework (see Fig. 1).
Transactional attributes include specic monetary and non-monetary aspects of the APC. Transactional attributes are compara-
ble to instrumental benets (Edwards, 2010), which describe rms' employment offering in terms of objective, tangible, and fac-
tual attributes (Lievens and Highhouse, 2003). From a new venture perspective, monetary inducements may include for example
salary, bonus payments, or (health) insurance (Uggerslev et al., 2012). Non-monetary inducements in new ventures may include
exible working hours, free drinks, sports classes, day-care support for children, and alike (HBR, 2015). Existing research in this
eld supports the importance of promoting such attributes as a strategy to increase OA (e.g., Lievens and Highhouse, 2003). In line
with these ndings, we expect that potential employees will nd new ventures with higher levels of transactional attributes more
attractive.
Relational attributes of the APC describe the socioemotional exchange between job seekers and a recruiting rm. Thus, relation-
al attributes include, for example, the perceived company culture and innovation climate, levels of managerial or team support as
well as opportunities for feedback, informal learning, and creative thinking (Ryan, 2012). New ventures frequently offer ideal con-
ditions for fostering a relational climate of communal sharing, which can be characterized by shared competencies and mutual
support (Blatt, 2009; Mossholder et al., 2011). For example, new ventures are usually characterized by less focus on hierarchies
and broader responsibilities assigned to individual employees (Cardon and Stevens, 2004). Furthermore, given their young age
and informal management practices, new ventures are frequently characterized by job autonomy and task variety (Baron,
2003). The fact that the work environment is less formal and individual employees are often more empowered to contribute to
the organization's success is an important reason why potential employees may prefer startups as employers (Cardon and
Stevens, 2004). However, relational attributes may differ greatly between new ventures. Whereas some startup companies pur-
posely ensure a supportive and creative work environment and implement a company culture that is designed to attract top tal-
ent right from its inception, others realize the importance of attractive relational employer attributes either much later or never
(Barringer et al., 2005). In summary, the presence of relational attributes promising conditions that promote positive
socioemotional exchanges (e.g., a feeling of shared responsibility for rm success and a feeling of empowerment) increase startup
OA. In line with these ndings, we expect that potential employees will nd new ventures with higher levels of relational attri-
butes more attractive.
Ideological attributes play an important role in motivating employees beyond providing monetary compensation to complete
tasks. They represent a rm's commitment to a valued, cause-driven vision or mission (Ryan, 2012; Thompson and Bunderson,
2003). In practice, rms formulate a company vision or mission to steer their organizational efforts toward joint goals
(Barringer et al., 2005). A general notion in research as well as in the public perception is that visionary new ventures are an im-
portant source of innovation (e.g., Shan et al., 1994). New ventures' commitment to a vision and their relentless pursuit of their
mission are connected to the image of a startup's ability to create novel products or services and to generate revenue by applying
new business models (e.g., Baum et al., 1998; Rosenbusch et al., 2011). Developing a strong company vision and maintaining an
innovative image are benecial for companies because doing so has been shown to increase both OA and applicants' job pursuit

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
6 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

intentions (e.g., Slaughter et al., 2004; Walker et al., 2011). In line with these ndings, we expect that potential employees will
nd new ventures with higher levels of ideological attributes more attractive.

3.2. Homogeneous identity claims as part of new venture legitimacy

Homogenous identity claims may entail signals of legitimacy signaling potential employees that both the new venture's foun-
der(s) (i.e., claims on the individual level) as well as the company itself (i.e., claims on the rm level) are able to fulll their role
as a trustworthy, credible, and reliable employer. In line with Navis and Glynn (2011), we argue that new ventures are evaluated
based on legitimacy signals both from their founder(s) (i.e., signaling founder legitimacy) and the company itself (i.e., signaling
startup legitimacy).
Founder legitimacy is a homogeneous employer attributes transmitted by new ventures' founders through signals of their com-
petence such as previous education (e.g., at prestigious university) or professional experience (e.g., work experience at renowned
companies) (Barringer et al., 2005). A startup's founders are clearly vital to a new venture's success. For example, when em-
ployees at the renowned venture capital rm First Round analyzed their startup investment's performance over a ten-year period,
they found that companies with at least one founder who attended an Ivy League school performed about 220% better than other
teams (Marion, 2016). Especially because like other stakeholders potential employees usually have little information about
the new venture (Navis and Glynn, 2011; van Werven et al., 2015), founders receive special attention when potential employees
form legitimacy judgments. Previous research suggests that startups' OA depends on the acceptance and desirability of the foun-
ders as potential employers (Aldrich and Fiol, 1994; Scott, 1995; Williamson, 2000). Because the founders' ability to establish le-
gitimacy for their startup and to acquire the necessary resources ultimately determines the credibility of homogeneous identity
claims and thus the startup's survival (van Werven et al., 2015), founder legitimacy inuences the attractiveness of a startup as
a potential employer. In line with these ndings, we expect that potential employees will nd new ventures with higher levels
of founder legitimacy more attractive.
Startup legitimacy is another an important homogeneous employer attribute for signaling OA (Williamson, 2000). Like other
stakeholders, startup employees do not know whether their employer will be successful in the future (Aldrich and Auster,
1986; Navis and Glynn, 2011). Consequently, emphasizing employer attributes that signal potential rm success is an impor-
tant argumentation strategy to convince potential employees of a new ventures' legitimacy (van Werven et al., 2015;
Williamson, 2000). Startup legitimacy may be signaled by endorsements. For instance, endorsements by trusted institutions
or sources such as support from government programs, venture capital or business angel nancing, startup competition
awards, or a reputable advisory board may increase startup legitimacy (Bitektine, 2011; Navis and Glynn, 2011; Zimmerman
and Zeitz, 2002). Such endorsements by trusted institutions or sources such as support from government programs, venture
capital or business angel nancing, startup competition awards, or a reputable advisory board increase startup legitimacy
(Bitektine, 2011; Navis and Glynn, 2011; Zimmerman and Zeitz, 2002). Endorsements send positive signals to potential em-
ployees indicating positive future development, whereas the absence of endorsements may be interpreted as a potentially neg-
ative signal (Flynn, 1993; Stinchcombe, 1965; berbacher, 2014). If startups feature high levels of startup legitimacy and thus
strong homogenous identity claims, potential employees perceive them to be attractive as employers (Williamson et al., 2002).
In line with these ndings, we expect that potential employees will nd new ventures with higher levels of startup legitimacy
more attractive.
Responding to calls in the literature to study effect sizes beyond levels of signicance (Bosco et al., 2015), we study the relative
importance of recruitment-related identity claims. Based on extant ndings (for a review, see Lievens and Slaughter, 2016;
Uggerslev et al., 2012), we expect that transactional (i.e., tangible) employer attributes will play a more important role than ideo-
logical (i.e., intangible) ones. In their meta-analysis, Uggerslev et al. (2012) nd that transactional employer attributes such as
compensation and benets, which are very proximal to job seekers' decision making, are more important in predicting the attrac-
tiveness of rms as employers than ideological employer attributes. In their conceptual review, Lievens and Slaughter (2016) con-
rm the importance of transactional employer attributes, but stress the role of ideological (i.e., intangible) employer attributes as
means of differentiation from competition.

3.3. The inuence of entrepreneurial behaviors on attractiveness judgments

In this paper, we aim at explaining heterogeneity in potential employees' OA judgments by examining the inuence of their
entrepreneurial behaviors. Specically, to understand how new ventures can attract entrepreneurially-minded employees, we
turn to PO t theory (Chatman, 1989; Kristof-Brown et al., 2005). Specically, we investigate how three entrepreneurial behaviors
that have been described as dening elements of individuals' entrepreneurial orientation (i.e., being entrepreneurially-minded)
(de Jong et al., 2015), inuence the importance of both heterogeneous (i.e., APC) and homogeneous (i.e., legitimacy) claims for
new venture OA.

3.3.1. The inuence of entrepreneurial behaviors on the importance of heterogeneous claims


In new ventures, individuals' entrepreneurial behaviors play an important role in overcoming barriers to company suc-
cess. Extant research has shown that successful ventures with limited access to external resources such as external nanc-
ing tap into internal resources (i.e., their employees) to ensure rm survival and growth (Wiklund and Shepherd, 2005).
Thus, recruiting entrepreneurially-minded individuals who engage in high levels of innovative, proactive, and risk-taking

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erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 7

behavior can be an important strategic advantage. Consequently, it is important to understand how levels of potential em-
ployees' entrepreneurial behaviors inuence their judgment of new ventures' recruitment-related heterogeneous identity
claims.
Transactional attributes. We argue that for entrepreneurially-minded individuals, recruitment-related heterogeneous identity
claims based on transactional attributes of new ventures' APC are less important for their perception of new ventures' attractive-
ness as employer than for individuals with low levels of entrepreneurial behaviors for the following reasons.
First, innovative behavior at work depends on the context that employees encounter there (Scott and Bruce, 1994; Tang et al.,
2015). Evidence suggests that a strong focus on monetary incentives to work creatively, meaning to engage in innovative behav-
ior, actually impairs engagement in the desired behavior (Bonner and Sprinkle, 2002). In particular, although rms have to offer
fair work exchange relationships (described by the APC's transactional attributes) to compensate employees' work efforts, trans-
actional attributes seem to be less important for increasing employees' innovative behavior than relational or ideological attributes
(Janssen, 2004). From this perspective, we argue that individuals with high levels of innovative behavior will care less about new
ventures' transactional employer attributes.
Second, we argue that new ventures' transactional attributes will play a minor role in the attractiveness judgments of highly
proactive potential employees. Psychological capital research shows that individuals who exhibit higher levels of proactive behav-
ior are characterized by higher levels of personal well-being and generally require less (nancial) comfort than individuals
exhibiting lower levels of proactive behavior (e.g., Avey et al., 2011). As a consequence, the entrepreneurial performance of highly
proactive employees depends less on new ventures' transactional attributes (Crant, 1996). We therefore hypothesize that for such
individuals, transactional attributes of the new venture APC will be less important.
Third, according to APC theory, perceived trust is an essential prerequisite for successful hiring (Ryan, 2012). As a consequence,
applicants' risk-taking behavior determines whether they accept possible breaches of the APC upon hiring (Coyle-Shapiro and
Shore, 2007; Rousseau, 1990). Research has studied the effects of psychological contract breaches on psychological safety, an im-
portant prerequisite of a trustworthy employee-employer relationship (Erkutlu and Chafra, 2016). Accordingly, for potential em-
ployees who tend to engage in risk-taking behavior, psychological safety is less important than it is for risk-averse potential
employees. As a consequence, we assume that potential employees who engage in high levels of risk-taking behavior will nd
transactional attributes less important in evaluating the attractiveness of a startup as an employer than potential employees
with less willingness to take risk. Overall, we thus propose:

Hypothesis 1. The effect of transactional attributes on organizational attractiveness will be moderated by potential employees' in-
novative (a), proactive (b), and risk-taking (c) behavior such that under high levels of potential employees' innovative, proactive,
and risk-taking behavior, the importance of transactional attributes will be lower.

Relational attributes. Because of new ventures' young age and informal management practices, their relational attributes are
often characterized by job autonomy and task variety (Baron, 2003). We argue that these relational characteristics are important
aspects for the attractiveness judgments of entrepreneurially-minded potential employees. The relational attributes of new ven-
tures' APCs are thus more important to entrepreneurially-minded individuals for perceiving new ventures as attractive employers
than they are for individuals with less pronounced entrepreneurial behaviors for the following reasons.
First, extant research has shown that individuals engage in innovative behavior under working conditions that allow for auton-
omy in decision making and offer task-variety (de Jong et al., 2015). As a consequence, new ventures present suitable work con-
ditions for potential employees to engage in the innovative behavior they desire. Further, research has stressed the importance of
having a work climate (i.e., relational attributes) that supports innovative behavior through for example managerial or team sup-
port (Oechslein and Tumasjan, 2012; Scott and Bruce, 1994). Thus, new ventures that feature high levels of relational attributes
indicating the presence of such a supportive climate should appear more attractive to potential employees with high innovative
behavior.
Second, highly proactive individuals particularly value work environments that provide them with autonomy and control
over their tasks (e.g., DiLiello and Houghton, 2006; Strobel et al., 2017). DiLiello and Houghton (2006) demonstrated that if
individuals are given autonomy and control and are able to exercise self-leadership, they will consider themselves to have
more innovation and creativity potential than individuals who have weak self-leadership (DiLiello and Houghton, 2006, p.
319). Furthermore, work settings that allow for high levels of proactive behavior among employees have been suggested to
increase employee motivation and performance, thus making the organization more attractive to employees (D'Intino et al.,
2007; Hackman and Oldham, 1976). We infer from this that a startup may thus be more attractive to potential employees
with a strong rather than weak need for control and mastery, meaning to individuals with high levels of proactive behavior,
if individuals and teams have elevated levels of responsibility for the rm's success. Based on trait activation theory (Tett and
Burnett, 2003), we argue that job applicants with high vs. low levels of proactive behavior will value rms that support em-
ployees practicing creativity and support their individual contributions to the rm's success. Such rms will enjoy a more in-
novative, success-driven image and will consequently appeal more to applicants with high levels of proactive behavior than
those with low levels.
Third, we argue that potential employees who tend to take risks will be more attracted to work settings in which supervisors
and colleagues encourage entrepreneurial risk-taking, because employees can make best use of their risk-taking disposition under
such conditions (Kristof, 1996). Thus, recruitment-related heterogeneous identity claims based on relational attributes will appeal
to risk-taking individuals if these claims promote a risk-taking work atmosphere. For example, a culture of encouraging failure

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erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
8 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

that is common in new ventures (Singh et al., 2015), will be more attractive to potential employees who tend to take risks than to
those who do not. Overall, we thus propose:

Hypothesis 2. The effect of relational attributes on organizational attractiveness will be moderated by potential employees' innova-
tive (a), proactive (b), and risk-taking (c) behavior such that under high levels of potential employees' innovative, proactive, and
risk-taking behavior, the importance of relational attributes will be higher.

Ideological attributes. New ventures' ideological attributes pertain to the clear communication and relentless pursuit of a vision
or mission, a strong innovation agenda, and support for new ideas (Pearce and Ensley, 2004; Wiklund and Shepherd, 2003). We
argue that for entrepreneurially-minded individuals, the ideological attributes of new ventures' APCs are more important to their
perception of new ventures' attractiveness as an employer than they are for individuals with low levels of entrepreneurial behav-
iors for the following reasons.
First, ideological attributes should be more important to individuals exhibiting high levels of innovative behavior because if a
rm's vision and mission are clearly communicated and shared, then they have been shown to positively inuence the level of
employees' innovative behavior (Pearce and Ensley, 2004). Further, managerial support for innovation has been shown to be im-
portant to highly innovative individuals (Scott and Bruce, 1994). Thus, if some new ventures feature ideological attributes that are
indicative of a climate supporting innovation, then potential employees with high levels of innovative behavior should nd these
ventures more attractive than those that do not.
Second, in a recent meta-analysis by Rauch and Frese (2007), proactivity ranks rst among the traits of individuals interested
in an entrepreneurial career. Proactive employees favor an innovative, success-driven work environment because it allows them
to fully express their natural proactivity (Kantner, 1988). For example, startups are known to facilitate nding both sponsorship
for new ideas and supporters to quickly implement them. Studies further show a strong link between employee proactivity and
both rm innovativeness and rm success (e.g., Crant, 2000; Seibert et al., 2001). Research on trait activation theory demonstrates
that employees look for job contexts in which they can benet most from their trait-based disposition (e.g., Tett and Burnett,
2003). Based on these considerations, we infer that a startup with an innovative vision will appeal more to highly proactive can-
didates than one without an innovative vision, because such candidates will see an opportunity to better use their proactive
disposition.
Third, successful new ventures often pursue a risky, ambitious cause (Duchesneau and Gartner, 1990). Research has shown
that new ventures are more successful in the long term if top management and employees both share visions (Ensley et al.,
2003). A dening attribute of entrepreneurs is their belief in positive future outcomes (based on their rm's vision) and a relent-
less pursuit of the rm's vision despite its high risk (Baum et al., 1998). We argue that the pursuit of uncertain, yet ambitious
outcomes attracts potential employees who tend to engage in risk-taking behavior as it does entrepreneurs themselves. Overall,
we thus propose:

Hypothesis 3. The effect of ideological attributes on organizational attractiveness will be moderated by potential employees' inno-
vative (a), proactive (b), and risk-taking (c) behavior such that under high levels of potential employees' innovative, proactive, and
risk-taking behavior, the importance of ideological attributes will be higher.

3.3.2. The inuence of entrepreneurial behaviors on the importance of homogeneous claims


Homogeneous identity claims align a new venture with industry norms and expectations (Navis and Glynn, 2011). In line with
Navis and Glynn (2011), we argue that new ventures make homogeneous identity claims to be perceived as resembling the typ-
ical startup prototype. Founders' actions as well as companies' achievements are ultimately a function of the founders' and em-
ployees' entrepreneurial behaviors (Williamson et al., 2002). For example, if new ventures and their founders are recognized as
successful innovators, meaning as fullling the expectations of the prototypical startup, these signals of legitimacy are likely to
originate from the innovative behavior of the rm's employees. We argue that entrepreneurially-minded applicants use such le-
gitimacy signals to make inferences about the company's employees (and potential colleagues) and their assumed entrepreneurial
behavior levels. As a consequence, new ventures with high levels of founder and startup legitimacy signal higher levels of entre-
preneurial orientation and thus from a PO t perspective (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005) should seem more attractive to entre-
preneurially-minded individuals for the following reasons.
First, legitimacy signals indicate whether new ventures' founder(s) and the company itself will fulll expectations based on the
prototypical startup concerning, for example, its innovation capabilities (Williamson et al., 2002). Extant research has shown that
high levels of new venture legitimacy can indicate new venture's innovativeness and ability to launch successful products (Yuan
and Woodman, 2010). In line with the nding that innovative behavior also requires skilled leaders (Scott and Bruce, 1994), we
argue that individuals wo tend to engage in innovative behavior will assign greater importance to new ventures' levels of founder
and startup legitimacy (as signals of their innovation capabilities) than do individuals who tend not to engage in innovative
behavior.
Second, proactive behavior has been shown to be an important prerequisite for acquiring legitimacy in new ventures
(Zimmerman and Zeitz, 2002). Highly proactive employees, like proactive founders, are able to identify future needs and wants
in the marketplace and thereby contribute to the success (and legitimacy) of the new venture themselves (Wiklund and
Shepherd, 2003). For example, new ventures' proactive behavior has been shown to be important for building legitimacy and

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 9

ensuring new venture growth (Zimmerman and Zeitz, 2002). Highly proactive individuals will thus nd a new venture more at-
tractive if it features high levels of founder and startup legitimacy, because potential employees can assume that their proactive
behavior is likely to be appreciated at the startup, and they can best use their trait-based disposition.
Third, in many entrepreneurship studies, individuals' risk-taking plays a central role in the entrepreneurial process and as a
consequence is a behavior expected from the prototypical startup company (de Jong et al., 2015; Gartner, 1985). If a new ven-
ture conforms to expected market standards (i.e., features high levels of founder and startup legitimacy), potential employees can
infer that this startup features a culture that embraces risk-taking and an environment in which high risk individuals are valued.
Overall, we thus propose:

Hypothesis 4. The effect of founder legitimacy on organizational attractiveness will be moderated by potential employees' innova-
tive (a), proactive (b), and risk-taking (c) behavior such that under high levels of potential employees' innovative, proactive, and
risk-taking-behavior, the importance of founder legitimacy will be higher.

Hypothesis 5. The effect of startup legitimacy on organizational attractiveness will be moderated by potential employees' innovative
(a), proactive (b), and risk-taking (c) behavior such that under high levels of potential employees' innovative, proactive, and risk-
taking behavior, the importance of startup legitimacy will be higher.

4. Data and method

4.1. Research design

To analyze startups' OA from an applicant's perspective, we observe the decision-making process of potential startup em-
ployees as part of a metric conjoint experiment. Conjoint analysis has been widely employed by studies in entrepreneurship, mar-
keting, HRM, and other elds (e.g., Baum and Kabst, 2013; Green and Srinivasan, 1990; Mitchell and Shepherd, 2010; Tumasjan et
al., 2011). Metric conjoint design is used in particular to analyze complex decision-making processes such as those presented in
our study (Mitchell and Shepherd, 2010; Patzelt and Shepherd, 2011). Additionally, in their recent review, Lohrke et al. (2009)
call for greater use of conjoint analysis in entrepreneurship research. Conjoint experiments present participants with a sequence
of decision tasks and ask them to make judgments based on decision proles. Each decision prole consists of a number of dis-
tinct attributes with varying attribute levels such as high vs. low.
In line with prior research, we employed an orthogonal design, which implies that zero correlation exists between conjoint
attributes, and that issues of multicollinearity between attributes are thus excluded by design (Shepherd and Patzelt, 2015). Sim-
ilar to prior studies, each of our ve attributes varied on two levels (high or low), resulting in 32 (25) possible prole combina-
tions. To keep the number of decision tasks feasible, we relied on a fractional design featuring 16 distinct decision proles that
were fully replicated to analyze the participants' test-retest correlation (Louviere, 1988; Shepherd et al., 2013; Shepherd and
Patzelt, 2015). An additional decision prole was presented for practice purposes before the actual decision task was undertaken.
To rule out ordering effects (Chrzan, 1994), we created different versions for both the order of appearance of attributes within
each decision prole (two versions) as well as the order of all decision proles (two versions). The participants were randomly
assigned to one of these four conditions.

4.2. Participant recruitment and sample

Participants were recruited in collaboration with a professional online panel provider. Each was selected from a candidate pool
based on his or her age and gender (i.e., to ensure a representative distribution) and received an email invitation with a link to
our survey. Prior to the start of the survey, the participants categorized themselves as being either active (Are you currently
looking for a job or have you actively searched for a job in the last six months?) or passive (If not currently actively looking
for a job, would you currently consider taking a new job?) job seekers. Individuals who answered both questions negatively
were not invited to complete the survey, ensuring a sample consisting entirely of job seekers. Our sample included 54.72% active
and 45.28% passive job seekers. Overall, 444 individuals from four US metropolitan regions completed our survey.
On average, participants completed the survey in 16 min. Given the length of the questionnaire, we applied recommended
measures to assure the quality of our dataset (Meade and Craig, 2012). First, to test for careless responses, we included one
bogus item in the middle of the survey (Meade and Craig, 2012). Specically, participants were asked to conrm their active par-
ticipation by answering a question with a predetermined point on the Likert scale. A total of 94 participants failed to answer cor-
rectly and were excluded from the sample. Careless response rates such as ours are not uncommon in anonymous internet
surveys, especially in surveys with a length similar to ours (Henker et al., 2015; Johnson, 2005; Meade and Craig, 2012). Second,
we computed correlations between the 16 original decision proles and the 16 replicated versions (e.g., Shepherd et al., 2013). Of
the remaining 350 participants, a total of 87.71% (N = 307) were signicantly reliable in their responses (p b 0.05). Consistent
with similar studies, we excluded participants providing non-reliable answers from our sample (Keats, 1991; Shepherd and
Patzelt, 2015). We ultimately based our analysis on a nal sample of N = 307 participants, who provided a total of 9,824 OA judg-
ments. The nal sample had a mean test-retest correlation of 0.85, which is comparable to that of similar studies using metric
conjoint design (Haynie et al., 2009; Shepherd et al., 2013; Shepherd and Patzelt, 2015). For analysis, we used the mean value

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erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
10 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

of the original and replicated proles. The average age of all participants was 32.76 years; 68.73% were female. Participants' train-
ing background was 52.12% in administrative/management, 18.57% in social sciences, and 29.31% with a technical background. In
our sample, 11.08% were recent graduates with less than two years of work experience, 41.04% were young professionals with
maximum of ve years of work experience, 28.34% were professionals with maximum of ten years of work experience, and
19.54% were senior professionals with more than ten years of work experience. Participants had 8.80 years of work experience
on average. The majority (47.88%) of the participants had a four-year college degree (bachelor's), 28.01% had a master's degree,
9.77% had a professional degree (e.g., JD, MD), 3.91% had a doctoral degree, and the remaining 10.43% had degrees requiring two
years of college or less. Of the participants, 62.87% were white, 22.48% were Asian, 6.84% were Hispanic or Latino/a, 4.24% were
black, 2.61% were multiracial, and three participants had a different racial background.

4.3. Variables and measures

Level 1: Assessment of organizational attractiveness. Each conjoint prole consisted of ve decision attributes in either its high
or low version. Each attribute was explained in detail before the start of the conjoint experiment. Table 1 provides an overview
of all of the attributes and their respective levels used in the proles. We assessed participants' rating of OA in each decision pro-
le based on one item similar to Highhouse et al. (2003): How attractive is this startup as a place of employment for you? An-
swers were assessed on a seven-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = very unattractive to 7 = very attractive.
Level 2: Entrepreneurial behaviors. After the conjoint experiment, we asked each participant an additional set of questions re-
garding their entrepreneurial behaviors.
Innovative behavior. Individuals' innovative behavior was assessed using the scale developed by de Jong and den Hartog
(2010), which consists of six items. Participants are asked to what indicate how often they engage in each of six behaviors in a
work context (1 = never to 5 = always). An example item was In a work context, how often do you make suggestions to improve
current products or services?.
Proactive behavior. We used Bateman and Crant's (1993) measure to assess proactive behavior. The measure consists of 17
items, such as I am great at turning problems into opportunities. Participants are asked to what extent they agree with each of
the statements (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree).
Risk-taking behavior. To assess risk-taking behavior, we relied on a scale developed by Gomez-Mejia and Balkin (2001). It in-
cludes four items, such as I prefer a low risk/high security job with a steady salary over a job that offers high risks and high rewards.
Participants are asked about the extent to which they agree with each of the statements (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly
agree).
Control variables. We control for effects related to participants' demographics as well as their job search behavior. Following
the recommendations in the literature (Spector and Brannick, 2010), we explicate the expected effect of our control variables
on OA. First, we control for participants' age, gender, race and education. Previous studies on job choice decisions have found be-
tween-subject differences based on gender, prior education (0 = less than 4 years of bachelor's education, 1 = 4 years of
bachelor's education or more), and race (e.g., Cable and Judge, 1994; Judge and Bretz, 1992). We also control for the size of
the participants' town of residence (0 = up to 100,000 inhabitants, 1 = above 100,000 inhabitants) to determine whether a
potentially higher exposure to startup culture in larger cities inuences our analysis.

Table 1
Description of the high and low versions of ve employer attributes, as used in the conjoint experiment.

Employer attribute Version Description

Transactional attributes High At this startup, salaries, training possibilities and employee benets are above average.
Low At this startup, salaries, training possibilities and employee benets are below average.
Relational attributes High This startup's care for its employees and its company culture is above average.
It actively ensures a supportive and creative work atmosphere.
Low This startup's care for its employees and its company culture is below average.
It does not actively ensure a supportive and creative work atmosphere.
Ideological attributes High This startup has a clear vision of where the company should go and in which areas the
company should innovate. Its rigor in following its business objectives is above average.
Low This startup does not have a clear vision of where the company should go and in which areas
the company should innovate. Its rigor in following its business objectives is below average.
Founder legitimacy High This startup's founders have been trained in universities and companies with an
above average reputation. They have a track record of being successful innovators.
Low This startup's founders have been trained in universities and companies with a below average
reputation. They do not have a track record of being successful innovators.
Startup legitimacy High This startup's external recognition is above average. It has received awards in business competitions,
has been recognized as innovative company, and has secured signicant external funding.
Low This startup's external recognition is below average. It has not received awards in business competitions,
has not been recognized as innovative company, and has not secured signicant external funding.

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erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 11

Second, we control for whether participants are actively seeking a new job or are passively considering job offers. To assess
whether the participants would consider startups among their employer choices, we adapted the OA scale developed by
Highhouse et al. (2003) to the startup context. The interest in startup jobs scale consisted of ve items. An example item is
For me, a startup would be a good place to work. Participants are asked to what extent they would disagree or agree with the
statement (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). We expect that participants' interest in startup jobs will affect their
OA ratings positively. Last, we postulate that age and thus the number of years a person has been employed full time as well
as their career level will inuence the predictive validity of the proposed attributes. Therefore, we control for participants' career
level and argue that experienced potential employees with more than ve years of work experience can better evaluate their PO
t to rms' employment offering because they are more experienced than their inexperienced counterparts with less than ve
years of work experience. Specically, the career development literature (e.g., Kolvereid and Isaksen, 2006; Sullivan, 1999;
Super, 1980) has shown that employees tend to decide based on more detailed job facets when they grow older. As a conse-
quence, we expect that in contrast to inexperienced employees experienced employees' EO will moderate their perceptions
of the attractiveness of rms' employment offering.

5. Analysis and results

In Table 2, we report the means/frequencies, standard deviations, correlations, and Cronbach's Alpha values for all of the level
two variables. In line with prior studies (e.g., Shepherd and Patzelt, 2015), we used hierarchical linear modeling (HLM)
(Raudenbush and Bryk, 2002) for the analysis to account for potential autocorrelation in our nested data (decisions nested in in-
dividuals). We conducted our analysis in four steps, following the recommendation of Aguinis et al. (2013). Table 3 displays our
results.
First, we computed a null model to test for the nested nature of our data. The null model revealed an ICC of 0.07, which is
slightly lower than that of existing studies using HLM (Aguinis et al., 2013; Raudenbush and Bryk, 2002). Second, we computed
a random intercept xed slope (RIFS) model. This model was signicant (2 = 13,347.13, p b 0.001), with a pseudo R2 of 0.74. All
ve level-one predictors were signicant (p b 0.001). Third, we computed a random intercept random slope (RIRS) model. Again,
the model was signicant (2 = 12,136.36, p b 0.001), with a pseudo R2 of 0.88. Both the RIFS and the RIRS models help to un-
derstand the effects of employer attributes (level one) as well as entrepreneurial behaviors (level two) on OA. We used both
models to test for a direct, signicant effect of our ve employer attributes on OA, namely, transactional attributes, relational at-
tributes, and ideological attributes as well as founder legitimacy and startup legitimacy. Signicant main effects are important to
draw conclusions from potential moderating effects of individuals' entrepreneurial behaviors. We nd strong main effects in both
the RIFS and the RIRS models. Because effect sizes stay the same in the RIFS, the RIRS, and the cross-level model, we only report
the results of the cross-level model in Table 3. Specically, transactional attributes (1.72, p b 0.001), relational attributes (1.27,
p b 0.001), ideological attributes (1.00, p b 0.001) as well as founder legitimacy (0.77, p b 0.001) and startup legitimacy (0.86,
p b 0.001) had a signicant, positive effect on OA.
In response to the current debate calling for an interpretation of effect sizes in addition to testing for statistical signicance
(Bosco et al., 2015), we assessed the relative importance of the ve level-one predictors by calculating 95% condence intervals
based on Z-standardized HLM coefcients. Our analysis indicates that all ve attributes were signicantly distinct, as illustrated
in Fig. 2.

Table 2
Means (M), standard deviations (SD), and correlations of Level 2 variables (Cronbach's Alpha on the diagonal).

Entrepreneurial behaviors M/freq. SD 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 11)

1) Innovative behavior 3.53 0.66 0.77


2) Proactive behavior 3.51 0.61 0.53 0.92
3) Risk-taking behavior 3.00 0.76 0.13 0.23 0.73
Control variables
4) Startup as employment option 3.24 0.94 0.14 0.17 0.36 0.92
5) Gender (0 = male) 68.73% 0.02 0.02 0.11 0.08
6) Race (0 = white, 1 = other) 62.87% 0.09 0.07 0.07 0.07 0.05
7) Age (in years) 32.76 8.25 0.03 0.07 0.03 0.09 0.25 0.20
8) Work experience (in years) 8.79 8.22 0.03 0.06 0.03 0.12 0.32 0.22 0.87
9) Career level (experienced) 47.88% 0.04 0.09 0.03 0.09 0.30 0.21 0.67 0.63
10 Job search behavior (active) 0.03 0.09 0.02 0.17 0.05 0.01 0.16 0.17 0.16
11) Education (N4 years of bachelor 89.57% 0.05 0.00 0.03 0.01 0.18 0.09 0.27 0.32 0.16 0.01
education)
12) Participants' town size 46.25% 0.03 0.02 0.15 0.18 0.04 0.15 0.00 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.04
(N100,000)

Note: Cronbach's Alpha in diagonals.


p b 0.05. p b 0.01.

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erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
12 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

Table 3
Results of the HLM analysis for the full model.

Level 1 Entrepreneurial behaviors Control variables (on slopes)

Innovative Proactive Risk taking Work Startup as


behavior behavior behavior experience empl. option

Coef. SE Coef. SE Coef. SE Coef. SE Coef. SE Coef. SE

Full model (N = 307)


Intercept 3.52 0.03 0.01 0.05 0.06 0.06 0.13 0.05 0.00 0.06 0.24 0.04
Transactional attributes 1.72 0.05 0.23 0.09 0.13 0.10 0.04 0.08 0.12 0.10 0.07 0.06
Relational attributes 1.27 0.03 0.04 0.06 0.01 0.06 0.01 0.05 0.12 0.07 0.12 0.04
Ideological attributes 1.00 0.03 0.13 0.05 0.03 0.10 0.05 0.05 0.09 0.05 0.01 0.03
Founder legitimacy 0.77 0.02 0.07 0.04 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.04 0.05 0.05 0.04 0.03
Startup legitimacy 0.86 0.03 0.03 0.05 0.06 0.05 0.02 0.04 0.02 0.05 0.06 0.03

Additional level 2 control variables on the intercept


Age 0.00 0.01
Gender 0.03 0.07
Race 0.11 0.06
Job search behavior 0.08 0.06
Education 0.02 0.09
Town size 0.17 0.06

Note: Full maximum likelihood estimation. Pseudo R2: 0.88, Variance explained: 0.79.

p b 0.10. p b 0.05. p b 0.01. p b 0.001.

First, transactional attributes (0.86, CI [0.81, 0.91]) were signicantly distinct and larger than the other four predictors. Second,
relational attributes (0.64 CI [0.60, 0.67]) ranked second and had a signicantly smaller effect than transactional attributes but a
signicantly larger effect than ideological attributes (rank three) (0.50 CI [0.48, 0.53]), and startup legitimacy (rank four) (0.43 CI
[0.40, 0.46]), and founder legitimacy (rank ve) (0.39 CI [0.36, 0.41]). Our ndings indicate that potential employees clearly dif-
ferentiate between employer attributes in their decision making.
In line with Aguinis et al. (2013), in a fourth step, we computed a cross-level interactions model to test the moderating effect
of entrepreneurial behaviors on the importance of employer attributes to OA. The model resulted in a pseudo R2 of 0.88. Our re-
sults are illustrated in Table 3. Plots of the cross-level interactions are presented in Fig. 3.
First, we inspected whether innovative behavior (H1a), proactive behavior (H1b), and risk-taking behavior (H1c) moderate
the importance of transactional attributes for new venture OA. Although H1a (0.22, p b 0.05) indicated a signicant interaction,
H1b and c were not supported. The nature of the moderation displayed in Fig. 3 (Panel A) lent support to H1a. Next, we inspected
whether innovative behavior (H2a), proactive behavior (H2b), and risk-taking behavior (H2c) moderate the importance of rela-
tional attributes for new venture OA. H2ac were not supported. Further, we inspected whether innovative behavior (H3a), pro-
active behavior (H3b), and risk-taking behavior (H3c) moderate the importance of ideological attributes for new venture OA.
Whereas H3a (0.13, p b 0.05) indicated a signicant interaction, H3b and c were not supported. The nature of the moderation
displayed in Fig. 3 (Panel B) lent support to H3a. We then inspected whether innovative behavior (H4a), proactive behavior
(H4b), and risk-taking behavior (H4c) moderate the importance of founder legitimacy for new venture OA. Whereas H4a (0.07,
p b 0.10) indicated a signicant interaction, H4b and c were not supported. The nature of the moderation displayed in Fig. 3
(Panel C) lent support to H4a. Last, we inspected whether innovative behavior (H5a), proactive behavior (H5b), and risk-taking
behavior (H5c) moderate the importance of startup legitimacy for new venture OA. H5ac were not supported.

0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70 0.80 0.90 1.00

Transactional attributes

Relational attributes

Ideological attributes

Startup legitimacy

Founder legitimacy

Fig. 2. Z-standardized HLM coefcients of employer attributes including 95% condence intervals. Note: 95% condence intervals centered around z-standardized
HLM coefcients of the cross-level interactions model presented in Table 3.

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 13

Fig. 3. Plots of the three signicant cross-level interactions.

Control variables. We ran the same four analysis steps again with all control variables included to check whether our results
were driven by other predictors. We investigated the effects of three types of control variables: (1) participants' demographics,
(2) their job search behavior, and (3) ordering effects in the conjoint experiment. While the direction and signicance of our hy-
potheses were the same in the model both with and without the control variables, some control variables did indeed inuence
our results (see Table 3). Overall, when control variables were included, participants' risk-taking behavior negatively inuenced
their perception of the attractiveness of a startup job (0.13, p b 0.05).
Participants' demographics. We included participants' age, gender, education, race, and the size of the town where they reside
as control variables on the intercept. Consistent with our expectations, participants from bigger towns found a startup job overall
more attractive (0.17, p b 0.01) than did those from smaller towns. Additionally, white participants were less attracted to startup
jobs than were participants of other racial backgrounds (0.11, p b 0.10).
Participants' job search behavior. We checked whether participants' job seeking behavior (active vs. passive), their general interest
in startup jobs, and their work experience had a direct (i.e., on the intercept) as well as moderating effect on our results. As expected,
participants' general interest in startup jobs inuenced our results, both on the intercept (0.24, p b 0.001) and as moderator of the
importance of relational attributes (0.12, p b 0.01) as well as startup legitimacy (0.06, p b 0.05) for new ventures' OA. In addition, par-
ticipants' work experience moderated the importance of relational attributes (0.12, p b 0.10) as well as that of ideological attributes
(0.09, p b 0.10), indicating that these attributes were less important for the decision making of more experienced participants.
Ordering effects. Finally, we checked whether the attribute order within each conjoint prole or the order of conjoint proles
inuenced our results. We did nd a signicant effect of the prole order on the importance of relational attributes for new ven-
tures' OA (0.22, p b 0.01). As noted by Chrzan (1994), such ordering effects may occur unpredictably. For this reason we random-
ized prole orders during our experiment. Importantly, this ordering effect did not change the direction and signicance of our
hypothesized effects.
Post-hoc analysis. Because our investigation of control variables' inuence on the results of our full model showed a strong ef-
fect of participants' work experience, we investigated their effects post hoc in two steps. First, we divided our sample into two
groups, namely, inexperienced job seekers with less than ve years of work experience and experienced job seekers with ve
years of work experience or more. We base our decision to investigate the effect of work experience on research suggesting

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
14 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

that PO t is a function of individuals' experience with an employer (Chatman, 1989). Accordingly, we argue that individuals' PO t
perceptions will vary directly with work experience because more experienced individuals better understand their job preferences.
This aligns with career development literature (e.g., Kolvereid and Isaksen, 2006; Sullivan, 1999; Super, 1980) showing that em-
ployees tend to base job decisions on more detailed job facets as they grow older. We present the results of our post-hoc analysis
and plots of the ve signicant interactions in Appendix A. The results indicate that experienced job seekers with more pronounced
entrepreneurial behaviors evaluate new ventures' employment offering differently than do their inexperienced counterparts.
Second, we investigated the effect of potential three-way interactions between participants' work experience, their entrepre-
neurial behaviors, and new ventures' employer attributes on new ventures' OA. We found a signicant three-way interaction be-
tween participants' work experience, their innovative behavior, and new ventures' ideological attributes (0.06, p b 0.10).
Interestingly, for experienced job seekers exhibiting low innovative behavior, new ventures' levels of ideological attributes had
no effect on new ventures' OA (see Appendix B). Further, we found signicant three-way interactions between participants'
work experience, their proactive behavior and new ventures' relational attributes (0.09, p b 0.01) as well as new ventures' ideo-
logical attributes respectively (0.06, p b 0.10). We present interaction plots of these interactions in Appendix B. Whereas for
individuals with extensive work experience but low proactive behavior, new ventures' levels of relational attributes had no effect
on employer attractiveness (see Appendix B, Panel A), these individuals preferred new ventures' with high ideological attributes.
We discuss the implications of our post hoc analysis in the Discussion section. We also found two signicant three-way interac-
tions between individuals' general interest in startups as employer, their proactive behavior (0.07, p b 0.05)/their risk-taking
behavior (0.06, p b 0.10), and the importance of relational employer attributes for new venture OA (see Appendix B, Fig. B2).

6. Discussion

We set out to develop and test theory on startup OA and extended new ventures' challenge of achieving legitimate distinctive-
ness (Navis and Glynn, 2011) to applicant attraction. By combining APC theory (Ryan, 2012; Thompson and Bunderson, 2003) and
legitimacy research, we identied employer attributes that are important for new venture OA (Williamson, 2000). Overall, our
theorized employer attributes exhibited different relative importance in predicting startup OA. Based on PO t theory and
responding to calls in the existing literature (Holland and Shepherd, 2013; Rauch and Frese, 2007), we investigated entrepreneur-
ial behaviors as moderators of the importance of employer attributes to new venture OA. Our cross-level moderation hypotheses
were partially supported and identied innovative behavior as a moderator of the importance of transactional and ideological
attributes as well as founder legitimacy for new venture OA. Whereas proactive behavior and risk-taking showed no two-way
moderating effect, our post-hoc analysis revealed three-way interactions with innovative, proactive, and risk-taking behavior in
line with our PO t hypotheses. Thus, our hypothesized interactions were signicant only when job seekers' work experience
and general interest in startup employment were taken into account by means of three-way interactions.

6.1. Contributions and theoretical implications

Our study makes several contributions to the literature. First, we developed and tested theory on the use of recruitment-related
heterogeneous and homogeneous entrepreneurial identity claims. Our study demonstrates that Navis and Glynn's (2011) framework
of legitimate distinctiveness is applicable not only in an investor-related context but also serves as a meaningful framework to study
new venture OA. Their framework describes a theoretical tension termed legitimate distinctiveness (Navis and Glynn, 2011), which
calls for situational balancing (Deephouse, 1999). Whereas an emphasis on legitimation strategies has been shown to be helpful in
varied situations (e.g., appropriating value from innovation, Rao et al. (2008); situations of survival in the very early stages of new
venture formation, Delmar and Shane (2004)), our study suggests that for addressing recruitment challenges new ventures also
need to emphasize their distinct employer attributes, meaning to focus on heterogeneous identity claims. In light of the resource
scarcity that is characteristic of new ventures (van Werven et al., 2015), a concerted recruitment strategy may help to nd a strategic
balance between conforming to industry expectations and differentiating from competitors (Navis and Glynn, 2011).
Further, we compared the relative importance of recruitment-related heterogeneous and homogeneous identity claims for new
venture OA. Our study identies several interesting patterns complementing and extending extant knowledge. Overall, transac-
tional attributes had the greatest effect on potential employees' ratings of new venture OA. This nding is in line with existing
studies attributing great importance to transactional attributes in the decision making of potential employees (Chapman et al.,
2005; Uggerslev et al., 2012). In explaining new venture OA, research indicates that employees' lack of trust in new ventures
(i.e., liabilities of newness, Tumasjan et al., 2011) may result in the increased importance of more tangible, transactional employer
attributes (Gruber, 2004). Another reason for the high importance of such employer attributes might be that monetary, transac-
tional attributes in particular could be considered hygiene factors. We encourage future studies to evaluate under which circum-
stances new ventures are able to achieve high OA despite an unattractive monetary employment offering or whether monetary
incentives are considered a must have for potential employees. Last, potential employees in our study placed the least impor-
tance on founder and startup legitimacy. This result is surprising because research generally considers signals of legitimacy to
be highly important for being accepted and desirable among potential employees (Navis and Glynn, 2011; Williamson, 2000;
Zimmerman and Zeitz, 2002). Yet our ndings clearly show that heterogeneous employer attributes representing core elements
of the APC receive signicantly more consideration in potential employees' OA evaluations than homogeneous identity claims.
One reason may be that job seekers perceive heterogeneous attributes as more central to the job search decision. Specically,

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 15

transactional, relational, and ideological employer attributes may be more related to the everyday employment situation and as
such receive higher priority in job search decisions than founder and startup legitimacy.
As a second contribution, we investigate entrepreneurial behaviors as moderators of new venture OA and thereby contribute
one of the rst PO t studies in a new venture context. Thereby, we provide theory on the usefulness of employer attributes in
attracting entrepreneurially-minded employees and building new ventures' strategic human capital (Hayton, 2003). Our empirical
results indicate that individuals' innovative behavior moderates the importance of employer attributes for new venture OA. Spe-
cically, innovative potential employees are especially attracted by new ventures' ideological employer attributes as well as foun-
der legitimacy, whereas they consider transactional attributes to be less important. However, our empirical results do not support
the two-way interactions of proactive behavior and risk-taking with the importance of employer attributes for new venture OA.
We see a number of conceptual and methodological reasons for meaningful implications of these non-ndings that will we dis-
cuss in the following (Landis et al., 2014).
At its core, PO t theory suggests that the importance of employer attributes to perceptions of a potential employer's attrac-
tiveness varies with the applicant's personality (e.g., Cardon and Tarique, 2008; Holland and Shepherd, 2013; Turban et al., 2001).
Accordingly, potential employees with high levels of innovative, proactive and risk-taking behavior should be attracted to new
ventures because new ventures' perceived entrepreneurial orientation signaled through their corresponding stereotypical atti-
tudes and behaviors appeals to those with strong entrepreneurial behaviors (Anderson et al., 2015; de Jong et al., 2015).
One reason why we found interactions for innovative behavior (but not for proactive behavior and risk-taking) may be that
startups are stereotypically perceived as highly innovative environments in a broad audience of job seekers and the general pub-
lic: Startups are widely seen as prototypical contexts valuing employees' innovative work. Thus, even with little knowledge about
startup working conditions or a lack of startup-related work experience, job seekers may commonly see new ventures with a
strong vision and competent founders as key nuclei of innovative products and services (e.g., Shan et al., 1994). Consequently,
job seekers are likely to be aware that new ventures might be employers that value employees' innovative behavior, leading to
higher PO t for innovative job seekers.
However, in the general job seeker population, the image of startups valuing employees' proactivity and risk-taking may be
comparatively less pronounced than the stereotypical characteristic of startups as innovative work environments. We argue
that, as a result, we found no two-way moderating effects of proactive behavior and risk-taking when analyzing the overall sam-
ple of job seekers. A straightforward empirical test of this conceptual assumption would be to examine potential moderating ef-
fects of proactive behavior and risk-taking among job seekers with more knowledge about the startup context. Indeed, results
from prior PO t studies suggest that PO t is also inuenced by participants' personal interest in and knowledge about the spe-
cic employment context in question (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005). In fact, our post-hoc analyses of three-way interactions provide
support for this reasoning: The level of interest in being employed at startups moderated the interaction of proactive behavior and
risk-taking with relational employer attributes. Specically, for individuals with high levels of interest in startups as employers
and high levels of proactive behavior and risk-taking, relational employer are more attractive than for individuals with little in-
terest in startups as employers (Appendix B, Fig. B2). We reason that the fact that we nd the hypothesized PO t interactions
only when taking into account individuals' interest in startups as employers may be related to the levels of knowledge about
the possibilities for engaging in proactive behavior and risk-taking in startup employment.
Similarly, we argue that another reason for the non-ndings concerning proactive behavior and risk-taking may be associated
with the inuence of individuals' work experience on the perceived importance of employer attributes for new venture OA. In
particular, job seekers with higher levels of work experience may have more knowledge about different working contexts and
a clearer picture of the working conditions they personally prefer (Chatman, 1989). In line with our hypotheses, our post-hoc
analysis of three-way interactions suggests that proactive behavior does indeed moderate the importance of employer attributes
for new ventures' OA, but only when job seekers' work experience is taken into account (Appendix B, Fig. B1). For instance, Panel
A shows that, among job seekers with high work experience, the importance of relational attributes is higher for highly proactive
job seekers. A similar three-way interaction pattern emerges for individuals' innovative behavior (see Panel C). Conversely, Panel
B shows that ideological attributes are less important for highly proactive job seekers with high work experience. Thus, these nd-
ings suggest that among individuals with high work experience, specic elements of new ventures' employment offering did trig-
ger signals leading to PO t and increased OA for entrepreneurial behaviors. In contrast, it seems that job seekers with lower
levels of work experience generally value ideological attributes to a similar degree as they value other employer attributes. A rea-
son might be that these individuals lack the required work experience to fully envision the importance of different heterogeneous
and homogeneous employer attributes for their personal job decisions.
Regarding the reasons for these non-ndings, we argue that individuals' previous career experiences (i.e., their interest in
startup employment and work experience) inuence the effect of individuals' entrepreneurial behaviors on their perceptions of
new ventures' employment offerings. Career imprinting theory (Higgins, 2005) is useful for explaining our ndings in this regard.
Specically, career imprinting theory posits that individuals' past exposure to career-inuencing contexts shapes their attitudes
toward future employers and their decisions in successive employment contexts (Higgins, 2005; Marquis and Tilcsik, 2013).
We argue that individuals' general interest in startup employment inuences their career-related decisions (i.e., represents a ca-
reer-inuencing context) because individuals' interested in startup employment tend to seek contact with protagonists in startup
eco-systems (e.g., founders, employees, investors), build a network of startup contacts, or seek more information about startups as
employers to make more informed decisions. Thus, the career-related decisions of individuals generally interested in startup em-
ployment will be more nuanced than those of individuals with less interest in startup employment. With regard to our ndings,
career imprinting thus suggests that individuals with high levels of interest in startup employment tend to favor startup

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
16 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

employers with relational attributes because based on previous experience with protagonists in the startup sector these indi-
viduals have learned that such rms appreciate their high levels of proactive and risk-taking behavior. Relatedly, for work expe-
rience, career imprinting increases with work experience that individuals accumulate over time. Thus, with higher levels of work
experience, individuals will be able to more accurately envision what it will be like to work in a startup and whether they will t
with that employment context. With regard to our results, the career imprinting research thus suggests that individuals with high
levels of work experience will favor rms with above average relational and ideological employer attributes because, based on
their previous work experience, these individuals have learned that such rms appreciate their high levels of proactive and inno-
vative behavior. Thus, overall, career imprinting offers a plausible explanation for our post hoc results. Since the rationale for these
results was not hypothesized a priori, our ndings call for future research to theorize and test how career imprinting (e.g., as rep-
resented by prior knowledge about startups, work experience and related background characteristics) inuences PO t percep-
tions to get a more precise understanding of the value of startup employer attributes for different target groups in the labor
market.
Finally, the non-ndings regarding proactive behavior and risk-taking in our study might also be related to the different levels
of abstraction of employer attributes' operationalization vis--vis the measurement of entrepreneurial behaviors in our study.
From a methodological perspective, to achieve appropriate predictive power, the level of abstraction between constructs should
match (Judge and Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012). Thus, using narrow (i.e., specic) behavior denitions as moderators requires
an operationalization of employer attributes at the same level of abstraction raising the empirical question of which construct
specicity is appropriate (Judge and Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012). While proactive behavior and risk-taking both represent behav-
iors based on narrow personality traits, APC theory suggests operationalizing rms' employment offering on a rather abstract
level. Hence, these different levels of abstraction could potentially also explain the non-ndings for proactive behavior and
risk-taking. Accordingly, we argue that a ner-grained operationalization of new ventures' employment offerings may be more
suitable to analyze the moderating role of proactive behavior and risk-taking. Future research should include both general and
specic measures to empirically test for the adequate level of abstraction (Judge and Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012). Research should
also test specic components of transactional, relational, and ideological employer attributes as well as specic attributes of foun-
der and startup legitimacy that might help to understand the variance in potential employees' new venture OA judgments. For
example, new ventures' transactional employment offering may entail very different monetary incentives ranging from a xed sal-
ary and bonuses to equity ownership in the company, which may send different PO t signals.
Overall, our results suggest that new venture recruitment studies will benet from taking into account a richer set of individ-
uals' background characteristics, such as their employment interests and work experience, when examining PO t. In summary,
when taking a closer look and taking into account job seekers' background (as we did in our post-hoc analysis), our results indi-
cate that new ventures may indeed attract individuals with strong entrepreneurial behaviors and are able to build strategic
human capital that aligns with startups' entrepreneurial orientation.
Our third contribution is that by using APC theory to study recruitment-related heterogeneous identity claims, we demonstrat-
ed its usefulness in the context of studying potential employees' perception of new ventures' employment offerings. While pre-
vious OA research has used rm-specic sets of employment attributes based on the instrumental-symbolic framework and
contextualized in large, established rms (Lievens and Slaughter, 2016; Uggerslev et al., 2012), our research building on APC the-
ory offers a more generalizable, novel framework for investigating OA specically in new ventures. We thus contribute to both the
entrepreneurship and general HRM literature by establishing the usefulness of APC theory as framework to study OA in the new
venture context.

6.2. Practical implications

Our study provides startups and entrepreneurs with several recommendations for attracting entrepreneurially oriented em-
ployees. First, our study overall suggests that despite their limited nancial resources, new ventures have need to offer and pro-
mote an attractive set of transactional employer attributes since these attributes most strongly inuenced potential employees'
perceptions of new venture OA. Yet, potential employees' perceptions of new ventures' supportive, caring company culture and
enticing vision also produced higher OA ratings. Since such aspects of rms' employment offering typically cost little and can
be developed internally almost immediately after a rm's inception, we advise startup founders to focus on a strong company cul-
ture and an enticing vision for their rms. Second, startups seek entrepreneurially-minded employees in practice to increase com-
pany performance (Mitchell, 2014). Our study suggests that specically highlighting ideological employer attributes may help to
attract potential employees with a propensity for innovative behavior. Third, our PO t ndings suggest that startups have to
follow different recruitment strategies to attract experienced, senior talents than they follow to attract inexperienced, junior
ones. While entrepreneurially-minded, innovative senior potential employees tend to be more attracted by a rm's vision
and a legitimate, reputable founder team, entrepreneurially-minded, risk-loving junior talents tend to be more attracted
by relational attributes.

6.3. Limitations and future research

We used a conjoint experiment during our study to assess applicants' decision-making policies. Although conjoint analysis
offers many advantages such as reducing social desirability and self-report biases (Lohrke et al., 2009; Shepherd et al., 2013;
Shepherd and Zacharakis, 2003), we also acknowledge its limitations. First, the participants engage in an approximation of

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 17

real decision making during conjoint experiments. Their judgments do not identically reect those applied during actual deci-
sion making. Conjoint experiments nevertheless do offer a veridical reection of actual decision making (e.g., Haynie et al.,
2009) and are therefore appropriate for our setting. Second, despite a fractional design, the participants were still asked to pro-
cess 32 decision proles. For this reason, we applied additional measures such as compiling test-retest correlations to ensure
the quality of our dataset. Furthermore, our study tested a novel combination of employer attribute dimensions that were hy-
pothesized on the basis of both APC theory and legitimacy theory to predict new venture OA. All ve attributes were signicant
predictors of new venture OA. Nevertheless, further manifestations of these employer attribute categories would be worth-
while investigating in future research. Specically, further exploring new ventures' recruitment-related heterogeneous and ho-
mogeneous identity claims from a legitimate distinctiveness viewpoint could provide fruitful new avenues of research to OA
predictors. Thus, we encourage further research to determine the cusp between tting in and standing out strategies for
new venture recruitment. In this regard, we also encourage research to investigate whether founder and startup legitimacy in-
uence each other. For example, founders with backgrounds from prestigious universities (i.e., high founder legitimacy) are on
average more likely to attract more renowned investors (leading to higher company legitimacy) (Marion, 2016). Uncovering
the inuence of founder legitimacy on startup legitimacy and vice versa could be the subject of additional studies. Third,
only a limited number of cross-level hypotheses showed signicant interactions. While we have discussed potential reasons
for these non-ndings at length as part of the discussion, we encourage future PO t research to include potential employees'
background. In addition, whereas our study operationalized employer attributes within broad theoretical categories, future re-
search investigating employer attributes in a ner-grained way is needed to foster our understanding of the individual impor-
tance of concrete attributes (e.g., location, pay or image) for new venture employer attractiveness. In this vein, since new
ventures mostly have limited resources and will therefore need to concentrate on certain employment offering attributes
(rather than offering all attributes that established rms may be able to offer), future research should also aim at examining
whether the presence of certain attributes can compensate for the absence of other attributes in increasing employer
attractiveness.

7. Conclusion

Drawing on the dyad of legitimate distinctiveness, we developed and tested theory that combines APC theory as a means of
making heterogeneous identity claims (i.e., standing out) and legitimacy theory as a means of making homogeneous identity
claims (i.e., ensuring employer legitimacy) in the context of new venture recruitment. Our ndings indicate that heterogeneous
identity claims that resemble a standing out strategy may help new ventures overcome difculties in recruiting qualied em-
ployees. Further, by integrating PO t research, our study showed that individuals' entrepreneurial behavior inuences their pref-
erences of different employment offerings and that the inuence of entrepreneurial behaviors becomes most apparent when
taking into account individuals' prior career experience. We hope that our research stimulates further research on new venture
recruitment and human capital building which is vital to their survival and growth.

Appendix A

Table A1. Results of the HLM analysis for the post-hoc model.

Innovative Proactive Risk taking Fit


Level 1
behavior behavior behavior statistics
Coef. SE Coef. SE Coef. SE Coef. SE
Careerlevel: experienced (N = 147)
Intercept 3.48 *** 0.05 0.02 0.09 0.03 0.09 0.02 0.07
Transactional attributes 1.78 *** 0.08 0.24 0.15 0.23 0.15 0.11 0.12
Relational attributes 1.20 *** 0.05 0.10 0.07 0.15 0.09 0.01 0.06 R = .87
Ideological attributes 0.95 *** 0.04 0.22 *** 0.07 0.09 0.08 0.08 0.06 VE = .79
Founder legitimacy 0.74 *** 0.04 0.10 0.06 0.10 0.07 0.04 0.05
Startup legitimacy 0.86 *** 0.04 0.05 0.07 0.09 0.08 0.05 0.05

Careerlevel: inexperienced (N = 160)


Intercept 3.56 *** 0.05 0.01 0.08 0.18 * 0.09 0.07 0.09
Transactional attributes 1.67 *** 0.06 0.21 0.12 0.02 0.13 0.10 0.09
Relational attributes 1.34 *** 0.05 0.05 0.10 0.14 0.10 0.15 * 0.08 R = .88
Ideological attributes 1.05 *** 0.04 0.04 0.08 0.05 0.09 0.01 0.06 VE = .77
Founder legitimacy 0.79 *** 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.01 0.08 0.04 0.06
Startup legitimacy 0.85 *** 0.04 0.03 0.07 0.05 0.09 0.03 0.06
Note: Full maximum likelihood estimation. R = Pseudo R, VE = Variance explained
p < .10, * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
18 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

In the group of experienced job seekers, the tendency to engage in innovative behavior moderated the importance of ideolog-
ical attributes (0.22, p b 0.001) as well as founder legitimacy (0.10, p b 0.10) for new venture OA. In addition, proactive behavior
moderated the importance of relational attributes for new venture OA (0.15, p b 0.10). Among inexperienced job seekers, we
found that greater proactivity led to overall higher ratings of new venture OA (0.18, p b 0.05). Further, innovative behavior mod-
erated the importance of transactional attributes for new venture OA (0.21, p b 0.10). Risk-taking behavior moderated the im-
portance of relational attributes for new venture OA (0.15, p b 0.05).

A: Proactive behavior relational attributes B: Innovative behavior ideological attributes

C: Innovative behavior founder legitimacy

Fig. A1. Plots of the three signicant cross-level interactions for experienced employees.

A: Innovative behavior transactional attributes B: Risk-taking behavior relational attributes

Fig. A2. Plots of the two signicant cross-level interactions for inexperienced employees.

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 19

Appendix B

A: Proactive behavior work experience


relational attributes

B: Proactive behavior work experience


ideological attributes

C: Innovative behavior work experience


ideological attributes

Fig. B1. Plots of the three signicant three-way interactions for individuals' work experience. Note: ns. = slope of the interaction is not signicant (p N 0.10).

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
20 K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx

A: Proactive behavior startup interest relational attributes

B: Risk-taking behavior startup interest relational attributes

Fig. B2. Plots of the two signicant three-way interactions for individuals' startup interest.

Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001
K.J. Moser et al. / Journal of Business Venturing xxx (2017) xxxxxx 21

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Please cite this article as: Moser, K.J., et al., Small but attractive: Dimensions of new venture employer attractiveness and the mod-
erating role of applicants' entrepreneurial beh..., J. Bus. Venturing (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2017.05.001