Facebook Profiles are Useful Tools for Employment Selection, Study Shows

Potential employers are judging you based on your Facebook profile, but are their judgements based on what they find accurate? All signs point to yes according to a recent study.

More and more employers are turning to the information available on social networking websites (SNWs) like Facebook to screen job applicants but little is known about whether the information found on these websites is useful for selection. Can social networking websites be used to select the best applicants? One pair of researchers from the southern United States aimed to find out: Donald Kluemper of Louisiana State University and Peter Rosen of the University of Evansville published a ground-breaking study in 2009 about the usefulness of social networking profiles in selection for employment.

In their study, which is the first of its kind, Kluemper and Rosen asked 63 judges to rate 6 real Facebook profiles (3 female and 3 male Facebook users) on measures of personality, intelligence, and global performance – three factors that are related to work performance. The study took place at a large southern university and employed undergraduate business students as judges and ratees.

Personality was assessed according to the Big 5 model of personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Judges were asked to rate the subjects on adjectives relating to these personality traits using the information contained within their profiles. The judges were also asked to estimate the subjects IQ and GPA as measures of intelligence and global performance, respectively. The researchers also measured the judges’ IQ and personality to establish the effects of these traits on their judgements.

The researchers determined that the judges were generally able to accurately distinguish high scorers versus low scorers on the measures of IQ, GPA, and personality using only the information contained within the profiles. Additionally, it was found that judges who are more intelligent and emotionally stable are more accurate than their counterparts.
Although their findings seem promising for potential employers who wish to tap into the wealth of information available on social networking websites Kluemper and Rosen offer a word of caution: the use of SNWs in employment selection may not be legal. Because these sites often contain personal information that is not allowed to be used in hiring decisions according to equal employment opportunity law, using them as a selection tool raises ethical and legal implications that need to be considered.

Kluemper and Rosen have provided a jumping-off point with their pioneering study in this subject area. Ultimately more research is needed surrounding the use of SNWs in selection. Further information will surely be useful for employers and job-seekers alike as the selection process shifts to incorporate more and more information found online.

The article:
Kluemper, D. H., & Rosen, P. A. (2009). Future employment selection methods: evaluating social networking websites. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 24(6), 567-580.

Author’s note: This work was submitted as a press release assignment for PSYC*3070 Psychology in Human Resource Management at the University of Guelph, as instructed by Professor Deborah Powell, Fall 2012.

1 comment to Facebook Profiles are Useful Tools for Employment Selection, Study Shows

  • Lori Montcalm

    Well written. An interesting article. I wonder if unemployed people will now start filtering what they post and who they open their pages to. No doubt if someone eventually runs for public office what they posted years earlier could show up and bite them.

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