Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (PhD)

Degree Level





Jennifer Kish-Gephart

Committee Member

Anne O'Leary-Kelly

Second Committee Member

Jason Ridge


Affect and Emotions;Organizational Selection;Social Class;Social Class Inequality;Socioeconomic Status


Securing employment is critical to accessing labor market rewards such as a steady income, benefits, and advancement opportunities. However, an individual's social class—corresponding with their economic, social, and cultural capital—may advantage or disadvantage them in gaining employment. Indeed, it is well-evidenced that the lower social class experiences labor market disadvantage, and management scholars point to organizational selection processes as one lever of such inequality. Still, the role of class salient interactions—same- and cross-class interactions between an interviewer and interviewee— and, specifically, the role of the employer remains an open question. Understanding how class salient interactions impact selection is critical, not only because social class influences interpersonal exchanges but because employers control access to employment. Accordingly, this study adopts a Bourdieusian lens to investigate the following question: what is the effect of class salient interactions on employers’ selection decisions? Employers strive to make rational decisions. Yet, evidence suggests something as simple as an affective "spark" impacts hiring recommendations—such a reliance on "chemistry" or "gut feelings" may systematically advantage certain job candidates. Accordingly, I integrate intergroup emotions theory with class-specific theorizing to suggest that class salient interactions elicit employers’ discrete emotions (i.e., enthusiasm, anxiety, and compassion). Next, I draw on scholarship related to the action tendencies of emotions to argue that employers’ emotional reactions, in turn, impact selection outcomes (i.e., assessments of hireability, salary recommendations, and social rewards). To test the theoretical model, I conduct two studies using an experimental vignette model. The first study uses a sample of full-time employees with hiring experience, and the second study replicates the first study in a sample of human resource professionals, tests an additional moderator, and employs a non-obtrusive measure of emotions (i.e., computer-aided analysis of facial expressions). Together, this study investigates the stratifying role of employers’ emotions in maintaining social class inequality via selection decisions and, ultimately, contributes to research at the nexus of social class, affect in selection decisions, and the maintenance of inequality in organizational selection.