As social networking web sites (SNWs) such as Facebook and LinkedIn become ever more popular, the field of IO psychology has begun to turn its attention towards understanding the impact these web sites have on human resource management. On the one hand, these SNWs offer a tempting opportunity for organizations to obtain information about applicants. At the same time, there are concerns about the legality of obtaining this information; if information that is not job-relevant is obtained through the examination of SNWs and used to make hiring decisions, then organizations who use such methods may violate employment laws and put themselves at risk of having lawsuits filed against them.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
In a recent paper, researchers (Kluemper & Rosen, 2009) examined the consistency and accuracy of student judges (in an employment selection course) who examined six different profiles in SNWs. Overall, they found that judges were consistent with one another and fairly accurate at evaluating the intelligence and personality of the individuals in the profiles they viewed. While these results suggest that it may be possible for SNWs to provide useful information about job applicants, concerns remain about obtaining applicant information in this fashion, particularly as it concerns the legality of such practices.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Practitioners should stay tuned for further research in this area, and caution organizations about relying too heavily on the information that SNWs may provide about applicants until more is known about the usefulness and legality of this information. At the same time, given the relatively short time that SNWs have been popular, this topic may be ripe for academic-practitioner collaboration; the large field samples that practitioners often have access to may be particularly useful for conducting research in this area.
Kluemper, D. H., & Rosen, P. A. (2009). Future employment selection methods: Evaluating social networking web sites. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 24, 567-580.