Adina Sterling

Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business


  • Stanford Graduate School of Business




Stanford Graduate School of Business

Research Statement

Adina D. Sterling investigates the ways organizations attract, manage, and retain high-value human capital in technology and business, the effect this has on the performance of employees and organizations, and the broader impact of these practices on inequality. For example, her work illuminates the ways firms strategically use the networks of employees to address timing issues when recruiting and hiring individuals, and that those hired with a social contact in the firm prior to starting are better integrated into a firm’s network after they join organizations. She currently has a number of projects investigating the tradeoffs between hiring through networks and hiring through trials such as internships, and is finding that the tradeoffs pertain to the performance of individuals, as well as equity-related issues, such as who is hired and what they paid.

Research Interests

  • Economic Sociology
  • Labor Markets
  • Strategic HR
  • Networks and Careers
  • Inequality


Professor Adina D. Sterling graduated with honors from Ohio State University with a BS in chemical engineering in 2002 and graduated with her PhD from Emory in Organization and Management in 2011. She is an economic sociologist who specializes in studying the way firms and labor and product markets interact and the implications of these interactions on the prices firms get for their products, who gets hired and what they get paid, as well as the affects this has on social stratification. For instance, her work has investigated a) how initial networks evolve in organizations b) how hiring practices affect selection and wage decisions and c) how networks and prior employment affect the success of entrepreneurs.

Professor Sterling currently has projects investigating how traditional methods of hiring compare to trial employment, or when firms get the opportunity to observe individuals first-hand in organizations, such as internships prior to making hiring decisions. Her work has appeared in journals such as Management Science, Organization Science, Industrial Labor Relations Review, and the Annals of the Academy of Management. Prior to academia, Professor Sterling worked at Procter and Gamble as a senior engineer on brands such as Pampers and Oil of Olay.


Academic Degrees

  • PhD, Organization and Management, Emory University, 2011
  • BS, Chemical Engineering, The Ohio State University, 2002

Academic Appointments

  • Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business, 2015 - present
  • Assistant Professor of Strategy, Washington University, Olin Business School, 2011-2015

Professional Experience

  • Senior Engineer, Research and Development, Global Baby Care and Beauty Care, Procter and Gamble, 2002 - 2006

Awards and Honors

  • Shanahan Family Faculty Scholar, 2017-2018
  • PhD Faculty Stanford GSB Distinguished Service Award, 2017
  • Clayman BBS Faculty Fellows Program, 2016-2017
  • CRES Research Grant, Washington University, 2014


Degree Courses


OB 636: Economic Sociology of Markets and Organizations

This PhD course provides an overview of economic sociology as it pertains to the behavior of individuals as atomistic agents and collective actors, in the context of markets and organizations. Students will study foundational texts as well as...

STRAMGT 319: Equity by Design: Building Diverse and Inclusive Organizations

This course equips you to create and build equitable organizations. We will discuss the power of inclusion as it relates to the employee and customer experience. We will study effective strategies for building diverse and inclusive companies,...


OB 219: MSx: Organizational Design

This course examines fundamental issues of general management and leadership within an organization. You will learn about setting an organization''s strategic direction, aligning structure to implement strategy, and leading individuals within the...

STRAMGT 207: Strategic Leadership

This course examines fundamental issues of general management and leadership within an organization. You will learn about setting an organization''s strategic direction, aligning structure to implement strategy, and leading individuals within the...

In the Media

Research: Black Employees Are More Likely to Be Promoted When They Were Referred by Another Employee

Harvard Business Review, February 28, 2017

Social Network Effect in Hiring

Strategy+Business, March 21, 2016

Hiring through Your Employees' Social Networks

Strategy+Business, March 21, 2016

How Having an MBA vs. a Law Degree Shapes Your Network

Harvard Business Review, February 19, 2016

Insights by Stanford Business

writtenWhat Internships Reveal About the Gender Pay Gap

November 6, 2017

A careful study of internships suggests what can be done about the wage disparity among managers.

writtenWhat Does the Word “Intelligence” Really Mean?

August 21, 2017

Stanford GSB professors suggest a reading list of articles and books related to the concept.

writtenCan Job Referrals Improve Employee Diversity?

April 11, 2017

New research looks at how referrals impact promotions of minorities and women.

writtenWhy Are Law Firms Failing on Diversity?

September 15, 2016

A new study finds that the trend toward external hiring may be partly to blame.

writtenAdina Sterling: What Your New Co-Workers Know About You Matters

September 8, 2015

First impressions follow new hires into their tenure at a job.


Courses Taught

Read about executive education

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