Political Affiliation Can Influence Hiring Decisions

Topic(s): fairness, selection
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Doxing, Political Affiliation, and Type of Information: Effects on Suspicion, Perceived Similarity, and Hiring-Related Judgments
Authors: P.L. Roth, P. Bobko, G. Shan, R.W. Roth, E. Ferrise, J.B. Thatcher
Reviewed by: Katherine Facteau

There is no question that a considerable partisan divide exists in the U.S., and this can impact the workplace in several ways. For example, people who make hiring decisions may pick up on cues that signal political affiliation, such as interests, clothing, and social media posts, which could ultimately introduce bias into the selection system. In addition, “doxing” is on the rise – where a third party publicly reveals another’s private information in a malicious way. For example, someone could anonymously submit a job candidate’s politically charged Facebook post to a potential employer to prevent that person from getting hired. New research (Roth et al., 2023) addresses these issues.


Study 1 utilized an experimental design in which participants viewed fictitious resumes for a managerial job. This was followed by a Facebook page containing either positively or negatively charged political content that was either Democratic or Republican leaning. Participants were either told the information was obtained through a regular HR screening (no doxing) or from an anonymous individual (doxing).

Interestingly, when information was obtained via doxing, participants were less likely to be suspicious of the candidate; it appeared that participants may not have trusted this type of information compared to information found via traditional screenings. Next, when participants were more suspicious of a candidate, they were more likely to think that the candidate would poorly represent the organization’s image. They also believed that people outside the organization could retaliate if that person was hired.

Study 2 recruited a larger sample size with more realistic social media posts; it found similar results. In addition, this study found that when participants believed they were similar to a candidate, they were more likely to think that the candidate would uphold the organization’s image. Finally, decision makers were least threatened by candidates who seemed similar to themselves and were posting positive content; they were most threatened by candidates in opposite political parties who were posting negative content.


Job applicants should be aware that politically charged social media posts (or even those that cue affiliation) can influence hiring decisions. Organizations should determine how to grapple with this reality; for example, hiring managers could adopt a policy to only look at work-related social media (e.g., LinkedIn) rather than more recreational avenues (e.g., Facebook).

If it is important to avoid liability by screening social media, organizations could consider having an outsider (someone not directly involved in decision making) screen for major red flags and report them if found. Further, organizations could mitigate political divisiveness in general by training employees to respect people with different political affiliations.


Roth, P. L., Bobko, P., Shan, G. (“J.”), Roth, R. W., Ferrise, E., & Thatcher, J. B. (2023). Doxing, political affiliation, and type of information: Effects on suspicion, perceived similarity, and hiring-related judgments. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.

Image credit: istockphoto/Jenny On The Moon