Overcoming the liability of smallness by recruiting through networks in China: a guanxi-based social capital perspective

Ko, Wai Wai and Liu, Gordon (2017). Overcoming the liability of smallness by recruiting through networks in China: a guanxi-based social capital perspective. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 28(11) pp. 1499–1526.

URL: http://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2015.1128467

Abstract

We investigate the role of guanxi in Chinese entrepreneurial firms’ recruitment practices in attempting to overcome the liability of smallness. Combining insights from the social capital and guanxi literature, we theorize the guanxi-based social capital perspective and use it to analysis 96 in-depth interviews with multiple members (entrepreneurs, senior managers and factory workers) from 15 die-casting entrepreneurial firms in Guangdong province, China. We find that the use of guanxi in recruitment practice can overcome the liability of smallness because it makes the hiring process more convenient, improves firms’ attractiveness to jobseekers and enhances the person-organizational fit between new hires and firms. We discuss how Chinese entrepreneurs and their senior managers use guanxi strategically to achieve these advantages. On the other hand, our findings suggest that jobseekers can also use guanxi to increase their options, improve their bargaining power and distract firms’ attention away from hiring the most appropriate candidate for the job in order to undermine the effectiveness of Chinese entrepreneurial firms’ recruitment procedures. We explore the implications of these findings for academic research and managerial practice.

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