Examining graduate applicant intentions to apply to an organisation : the theory of planned behaviour in the South African context
Thesis (MComm)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.
The fiercely competitive nature of South Africa’s skilled labour market has necessitated a degree of awareness, from employers and researchers alike, of factors that potentially attract skilled graduates. Drawing on the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991) the present study explored the formation of intentions towards job pursuit activities (i.e., submitting an application form) of the South African graduate. The proposed model of applicant intention that was tested in the present study is based on salient beliefs — an applicant’s attitude towards behaviour, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control — that determine the development and strength of intentions to apply for a job. The study was conducted in two phases using a mixed method approach. The first phase employed a qualitative design on a sample (N = 32) of students in order to elicit salient beliefs associated with applying to a chosen organisation. Next, we conducted interviews, administered open-ended questionnaires and conducted content analysis to identify applicants’ salient behavioural beliefs about applying. The second phase of the study employed a quantitative design to test the hypotheses that behavioural beliefs (attitudinal beliefs, normative beliefs and control beliefs) would influence intention to apply. We administered belief-based measures to a convenience sample (N = 854) of students from a tertiary institution in the Western Cape. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) of the measurement and structural models found that the hypothesised models fit the data reasonably well and significant relationships between perceived behavioural control and intention to apply were confirmed. Latent variable correlation analysis showed that all three behavioural beliefs (attitude towards behaviour, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control) were significantly related to intention to apply, but only normative and control beliefs showed significant path coefficients when all the beliefs were considered jointly in the structural model. Following the confirmatory factor analysis, we further explored socio-demographic group differences in the levels of, and relationship between, behavioural beliefs and intention to apply to an organisation. The results showed that perceived behavioural control had a significant relationship with intention to apply. The study makes three important contributions to the literature. First, TPB can be a useful framework to explain graduate applicant’s intention to apply. Second, the significant role of perceived behavioural control and subjective norm in the formation of graduate applicant intentions was highlighted. Third, the diagnostic utility of the TPB framework for applicant intentions was established. Finally, the results suggest there might be group differences in behavioural beliefs and intention to apply – a finding that calls for more research on graduate applicant decision-making in the South African context.