Assisting Job Search in Low-Employment Communities: The Effects of a Screening Intervention in Addis Ababa

In African labour markets, successful matches between young job-seekers and firms are often prevented by search costs and informational asymmetries. We would like to expand researchers' understanding of these frictions and of the policy tools available to address them. For this purpose, we are going to evaluate an intervention that facilitates firms' screening of young unemployed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by improving the presentation of their CV and by certifying performance in a number of standard personnel selection tests.

Many economies in sub-Saharan Africa have achieved high and sustained economic growth in the last decade. However, economic expansion has rarely been followed by marked improvements in the labour market outcomes of the poor (ILO, 2012). Active labour market policies are designed to connect these excluded groups to employment opportunities. Policymakers have taken a keen interest in activation policies (World Development Report 2013, African Economic Outlook 2012). In line with this, the Government of Ethiopia has set targets for the development of job seeker assistance services in the coming years.

Young employed individuals taking part in the intervention will be invited to attend, free of charge, a training programme in CV writing. Qualitative fieldwork carried out by our research team reveals that a typical complaint from employers is that young applicants' CVs are difficult to read and fail to convey the key strengths of the candidate. The training will teach candidates how to organise information about their skills and interests in a way that is useful for employers, and will provide personalized feedback on candidates' CVs.

Participants will also take two popular personnel selection tests: a test of general mental ability, and a work sample test. Qualitative fieldwork suggested that these types of tests- as opposed to psychometric tests of personality or soft skills- are those that the employers will find most useful. Furthermore, general mental ability is widely regarded as the most useful psychological construct for personnel selection (Furnham Chamorro-Premuzic 2006), and work sample tests have been shown to have incremental validity in predicting job performance over pure cognitive tests (Roth et al 2005).

Both the CV training and the personnel selection tests will be administered by a local institution that is popular among the city's employers for its testing and training services.

We will study effects on job-seekers' search decisions, employment outcomes, and the quality of matches. We will complement the baseline and endline surveys with high frequency data, collected at fortnightly intervals over the phone. This will allow us to describe the trajectories of individuals, and observe how the search effort, liquidity, expectations and well-being of those who remain unemployed evolve through time.  We will also be able to compare the cost-effectiveness of this intervention to that of a transport voucher intervention that is run in parallel with a similar population.


(Simon Quinn (CSAE, University of Oxford), Simon Franklin (CSAE, University of Oxford), Stefano Caria (CSAE, University of Oxford)