Places of employment play an important role in people’s construction of their social identity. With increasing competitive pressure in the job market, employers are more and more turning to marketing methodology in order to improve their recruitment positioning. Vice versa, job-seekers are expected to provide impressive track records of past performances to be considered by the most attractive employers. This combination of businesses fighting the “war for talent” more fiercely and job-seekers needing to generate a valuable track record provides the foundation for a growing role of prestige in employment. However, this phenomenon’s theory, mechanisms, and consequences are understudied: while there is a sizeable body of extant research on status, there has been very little research on both the nature and the consequences of individuals’ preference for prestigious employers.

This study addresses this research gap by providing two preparatory and four consequential contributions: first, as a preparation, I present a cross-discipline literature review on prior insight on status to arrive at key contributions, scholars, and definitions of key terms in this extensive field. Second, focusing the literature review on the field of application, I highlight key contributions on status in the employment setting. On that basis, I outline the research gap in greater detail. As the first consequential contribution, I build upon insight from consumer behaviour by Vigneron and Johnson (1999) to provide a rigorously theorised, conceptualised, and operationalised measurement construct which I evaluate and contextualise in terms of its nomological network. Second, I follow the first vein of the nomological network to investigate both prestige and value-based person-organisation fit in their effect on organisational attractiveness. Third, I follow the second vein of the nomological network to investigate the effect of regulatory focus on confidence in group decision making. Finally, I provide a discussion in which I integrate, contextualise, and operationalise my findings.

This study finds that individuals’ preference for prestigious employers can be aptly described in terms of five factors: perfectionism, hedonism, association, uniqueness, and conspicuousness. The construct predicts self-enhancement work-oriented values, correlates in its individual part with regulatory focus and in its social part with social comparison orientation. In direct comparison, the satisfaction of prestige preference is found to have a substantially stronger effect on employer attractiveness than value-based PO fit – with both being significant predictors. Furthermore, the related regulatory focus on promotion predicts overconfidence in decision making.

Overall, these contributions illustrate the theory, measurement, and consequences of prestigious employer preference – the core construct of a phenomenon akin to Veblen’s conspicuous consumption, but in an employment context: conspicuous employment.