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Employers May Be Missing the Point of Facebook Profiles

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 3, 2013

Employers May Be Missing the Point of Facebook ProfilesCurrent hiring practices often include a detailed examination of a prospective employee’s Facebook page.

However, a new study from North Carolina State University suggests employer’s use of Facebook to screen job applicants and weed out candidates they think have undesirable traits is often misguided.

Researchers believe their findings show that companies may have a fundamental misunderstanding of online behavior and, as a result, may be eliminating desirable job candidates.

The study found companies may be looking for the wrong things on social media profiles, and weeding out good job candidates.

In the study, researchers tested 175 study participants to measure the personality traits that companies look for in job candidates, including conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion.

The participants were then surveyed on their Facebook behavior, allowing researchers to see which Facebook behaviors were linked to specific personality traits.

The results would likely surprise many corporate human resources officials.

“Companies often scan a job applicant’s Facebook profile to see whether there is evidence of drug or alcohol use, believing that such behavior means the applicant is not ‘conscientious,’ or responsible and self-disciplined,” said Dr. Lori Foster Thompson, a professor of psychology at NC State.

However, the researchers found that there is no significant correlation between conscientiousness and an individual’s willingness to post content on Facebook about alcohol or drug use.

“This means companies are eliminating some conscientious job applicants based on erroneous assumptions regarding what social media behavior tells us about the applicants,” said Will Stoughton, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of the paper.

And companies that are looking for extroverts – such as those hiring for sales or marketing positions – may be doing themselves an even worse disservice.

The study found that extroverts were significantly more likely to post about drugs or alcohol on Facebook. So companies weeding out those applicants are likely to significantly limit the pool of job candidates who are extroverts.

However, the researchers did find one online indicator strongly correlated to the personality traits that employers look for. Study participants who rated high on both agreeableness and conscientiousness were also very unlikely to “badmouth” or insult other people on Facebook.

“If employers plan to keep using social media to screen job applicants, this study indicates they may want to focus on eliminating candidates who badmouth others — not necessarily those who post about drinking beer,” Stoughton says.

The paper, “Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants’ Social Media Postings,” was published online in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

Source: North Carolina State University

Facebook sign photo by shutterstock.

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2013). Employers May Be Missing the Point of Facebook Profiles. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/07/03/employers-may-be-missing-the-point-of-facebook-profiles/56763.html