Purpose: Despite studies claiming gender inclusion is beneficial for organizations, the under-representation of females in the workforce is a reality. As recruitment practices impact employees' entry into organizations, examining the salient predictors of job pursuit intention might foster gender inclusivity. Design/methodology/approach: Based on a mixed-method study conducted in two phases (Phase 1: a sample of 2,084 professionals; Phase 2: interviews of 20 senior human resource (HR) professionals and interviews with 26 women professionals), we examine the key predictors of job pursuit intention of women. We employed a qualitative study as Phase 2 employed a qualitative study to understand why some of the proposed hypotheses were not supported. Findings: We found that work–life balance, perceived job security and perceived ethical behavior of organizations were more important for female than the male applicants in influencing their job pursuit intention. Also, the type of work and person–organization (P–O) fit were found to be equally important for both the gender groups. The implications of the study to theory and practice were discussed. Research limitations/implications: Our study extends the existing literature by identifying salient factors (such as work–life balance, perceived job security and ethical citizenship) that are found to be more important for female applicants compared to their male counterparts while pursuing a job. Also, females were found to worry more about losing or not finding a job than males. Our results further indicate that type of work and P–O fit have a significant effect on job pursuit intention for both male and female applicants. The study addresses the need for research on targeted recruitment to increase gender inclusion. Practical implications: The contribution of this paper lies in identifying critical factors relevant to the female applicants in India who potentially constitute a large talent pool waiting to be leveraged. It adds to the body of knowledge on enabling inclusivity and affirmative action for increasing gender diversity through recruitment. By highlighting the factors that should be given prominence in job promotions to attract more female candidates and emphasizing the gender-focused HR policies and practices and through internal and external communication, it helps practitioners attract and retain female applicants in an emerging economy like India. Originality/value: Our study contributes in three ways. First, it attempts to plug the gap by investigating gendered preferences in job pursuit intentions between male and female applicants, especially in different cultural environments and in emerging markets such as India. Second, existing studies on job pursuit intentions were based mostly on inputs from student respondents. Our study has collected data from professionals working in organizations who have worked and experienced gender-related HR practices in organizations. Third, our study used a mixed-method approach to get a nuanced understanding of female talent expectations and preferences during the job-seeking behavior. © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited.