Underemployment of college graduates: is doing anything better than doing nothing?

Last registered on June 28, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Underemployment of college graduates: is doing anything better than doing nothing?
Initial registration date
June 27, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 28, 2023, 4:59 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


Primary Investigator

University of Clermont Auvergne and University of Burundi

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Across low-income countries, limited prospects for high-skill employment and poverty push numerous college graduates into jobs which do not require a college degree. These types of experiences may be advantageous or detracting for the new graduates. In order to examine this issue, we conducted a field experiment in Burundi which elicited preferences of employers with respect to low-skill job experience of
recent college graduates. The experimental design also allowed us to analyze gender discrimination in hiring. The experiment was supplemented with an employers’ survey that aimed to investigate the underlying mechanisms at play. Results indicate that mentioning a low-skill experience on a resume increases the hiring interest of employers on average. Furthermore, the empirical evidence points to the stochastic dominance of a job search strategy that incorporates the signaling of low-skill experience in comparison to presenting a resume devoid of any experience at all. We do not find evidence of gender discrimination at the initial stage of the hiring process. Interviews with
employers suggest that they perceive people with low-skill experience as persevering, hardworking and disciplined rather than persons facing financial difficulties or less competent compared to their classmates. Based on the study’s results, recent graduates should be advised to consider taking up low-skill jobs while waiting for opportunities matching their qualifications, and to signal such experiences to potential employers.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Ndayikeza, Michel. 2023. "Underemployment of college graduates: is doing anything better than doing nothing?." AEA RCT Registry. June 28. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.11687-1.0
Sponsors & Partners


Experimental Details


We started with a group of real resumes of students who were one month from finishing their bachelor studies at the University of Burundi, in the faculty of economics and management. By using graduates’ actual CVs, we obtained a variety of formats and other idiosyncrasies that reflect the material that hiring managers typically review. These resumes were modified such that the period since graduation corresponded to one year and they do not mention any post graduation experience. Starting from this pool of CVs, we created a new set of resumes which was similar to the first one, except with the addition of low-skill experience. We used data on the types of low-skill jobs past graduates have done after graduation in the previous year to generate types of low-skill jobs that we randomly populated the resumes with. We similarly modified the resumes with respect to gender. Therefore, half of the resumes sent out for evaluation by different employers were CVs of individuals with low-skill experience and the other half appeared as CVs of persons without low-skill experience, holding constant all other characteristics. Likewise, half of the resumes sent for evaluation were CVs of females and the other half appeared as CVs of males.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Employers' hiring interest
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We adopted an IRR strategy for our audit study following Kessler et al (2019). However, instead of us engaging directly with employers, a human resource company we partnered with, Infinity Group (IG), sent them resumes for evaluation. Prior to evaluating the CVs, IG informed the employers that their evaluations would be used to send them workers in the future that correspond to preferences they have indicated.
A total of 800 CVs were sent to 40 employers for evaluation. Each employer was given 20 randomly selected resumes to evaluate. We stratified the sampling such that each employer receives 10 CVs with low-skill experience, 10 CVs without low-skill experience, 10 CVs of males and 10 CVs of females. We targeted employers who are among the largest in the country and who had either hired a worker through IG or employed a worker who has a contract with IG. This list of employers includes Brarudi, an affiliate of Heineken International, multinational banks and international NGOs.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer, with Stata.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials