Dillahunt grant to improve digital employment tools for the underserved

UMSI assistant professor Tawanna Dillahunt has received a $499,729 grant from the National Science Foundation to help improve digital employment tools for underserved job seekers.

Tawanna Dillahunt

Her study, “Designing Next Generation Digital Employment and Recruitment Intervention Tools: Identifying Technical Features to Support Underserved Job Seekers in the U.S.,” will apply the Theory of Planned Behavior as a perspective for evaluating digital employment applications. The research results will expand the theory to include digital barriers faced by underserved job seekers and stakeholders, such as managers and staff, at job centers who support them.

Employers in non-technical sectors also are increasingly using online recruitment and interviewing tools. This rapid growth of information and communication technologies has created a “digital recruitment divide that works to the detriment of these underserved job seekers,” Dillahunt noted.

“Organizations save money by automating their employment practices. This is a win for the organization, but this solution excludes those with limited technology access, low digital literacy, and those who have limited confidence in the use of technology,” she said.

The use of social media only compounds the problem, she added.

Previous research by Dillahunt, who is also an assistant professor in the College of Engineering, has focused on digital recruiting obstacles and external factors faced by underserved job seekers. These include job seekers’ inability to identify needed job skills, develop good resumes, obtain additional job skills and learn effective job interviewing techniques.

The current study will build on these findings. “We will be using well-known human-computer interaction methods to build three alternative digital employment and recruitment applications,” Dillahunt said. “This will help us to evaluate their impact on job search attitudes, or social support and self-efficacy. These are all factors that could help people obtain employment."

By isolating research gaps in digital recruitment tools, the study “will ultimately lead to better digital employment and recruitment software,” Dillahunt said.

Dillahunt is recruiting students for this project during fall semester.

Posted August 21, 2017