Hiring on taste: revealing the hidden power of cultural capital within occupational recruitment procedures


Occupational differences form the bedrock of our social stratification system, yet standard indicators such as education level, skill credentials or job experience do not fully explain job allocation processes. Simultaneously, mobility research shows that there remains a stable and unexplained link between social class origin and occupational destination. Hence, many tacit mechanism and hidden criteria are involved in the process of occupational selection.
Cultural capital constitutes a key yet elusive resource people often rely on when obtaining social positions. Acquired tastes, discourses and interactional skills are also expected to be vital assets within the labour market. However, the notion of cultural capital remains a black box as we have hardly any understanding of how it is actually deployed during practices of social selection.
This project is one of the first to open this black box by examining the role of cultural capital within hiring processes. This requires a radical turn towards investigating the praxis of social selection by focusing not only on what people say but also on what they do. Job interviews are crucial gatekeeping encounters and by in-depth examination of hiring processes, we can get new insights in how cultural capital actually obtains its value during face-to-face interaction.
To tackle this, the project has an innovative and comparative research design. The objective is to compare the importance of cultural capital within two middle-level employment sectors, including the private technical-economic field and the public social-cultural field. In order to do so the programme entails: (1) an inductive exploration of the field through focus groups with recruiters and a study of manuals and trainings for human research professionals, (2) comparative multimodal analysis of video-taped job interviews as to get detailed insight into selection practices, and (3) an examination of evaluation protocols by participant observation and in-depth interviews with recruiters.





Dr. K.A.V. de Keere

Verbonden aan

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Maatschappij- en Gedragswetenschappen, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)


Dr. K.A.V. de Keere, Dr. K.A.V. de Keere


01/01/2018 tot 30/09/2021