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New entrants, Incumbents, and the Search for Knowledge: The Role of Job Title Ambiguity in the U.S. Information and Communication Technology Industry, 2004–2014
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2024, Industrial and Corporate Change, 33(1), pp.172-193
New entrants and incumbent firms rely on new knowledge to innovate and compete in the market. One way to acquire new knowledge is through the recruitment of new employees from competitors, a phenomenon popularly known as “poaching.” Digital labor platforms are widely used by firms for this aim. We argue that job titles represent the first and most visible public source of information about knowledge workers and thus play a key role in navigating the vast spectrum of competencies available in digital platforms. Our analyses of the career trajectories of 11,644 knowledge workers in the United States between 2004 and 2014 suggest that increases in the ambiguity of a job title claimed by an employee are negatively associated with the likelihood of the employee being hired by a new employer. This finding appears stronger in the case of transitions to incumbent firms rather than new entrants. In the concluding section of the paper, we take stock of the various analyses presented and reflect on the potential role of job titles in the strategic management of human capital.
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