Could Your Facebook Persona Cost You a Job? (IO Psychology)

Topic: Selection, Personality, Recruiting

Publication: Journal of Applied Social Psychology (MAY 2012)

Article: Social Networking Websites:  Personality Ratings, and the Organizational Context: More Than Meets the Eye?

Authors: D. H. Kluemper, P. A. Rosen, and K. W. Mossholder

Reviewed By: Megan Leasher

Pr_31_-_TRP_-_28_05_10_-_164We are used to companies having candidates take personality tests.  Candidates answer a ton of seemingly annoying and repetitive questions about themselves, and poof!  They magically and accurately clue companies in to whether or not they will be a strong performer and/or a good fit.  (When I say “poof,” please envision the happy leprechaun opening his box of Lucky Charms and witnessing the jubilant rainbow explosion of marshmallows.  It will ensure you are in the right frame of mind.)  But have you heard of other people taking a personality test, answering the questions based on what they think YOUR personality is like?  Holy creepy, Batman.  And what if I told you the “other people” were complete strangers answering those questions about YOUR personality based on what they saw on YOUR Facebook page?  Holy switcheroo, Batman!

We all make judgments of others based on what they post on their Facebook page.  For example, if you post a picture of yourself doing the “I’m the king of the world” pose on a cruise ship, I will deem you an idiot.  If you update your status with random movie quotes from Best in Show, I will proclaim your brilliance.  This study took those judgments and morphed them into a scientific evaluation of a candidate’s personality.

Trained evaluators viewed an individual’s Facebook page then completed a personality test, answering the questions about the individual, utilizing only their impressions from seeing the Facebook page.  The individuals themselves also took the same personality test answering the questions about their own personality.  In addition, the researchers obtained on-the-job performance ratings from the individuals’ supervisors.  Can strangers accurately rate your personality based on your Facebook persona?  If so, do those perceptions of your personality statistically predict job performance?

The answer to the first question is yes.  Sorta.  Evaluators’ perceptions of individuals’ personalities based on their Facebook pages had some overlap with how individuals rated their own personalities, but they certainly didn’t agree 100%.  So they had some similar impressions and some unique impressions, as well.  To answer the second question, the study found that evaluator-rated personality was a slightly stronger predictor of job performance than an individual’s self-reported personality.  But the difference wasn’t that large in a practical sense.  I have to wonder, if evaluator ratings of a candidate’s personality don’t predict job performance much more than a candidate completing a personality test about themselves, why add all of those work hours to the organization?  The time it takes a candidate to complete a personality test does not generally cost an organization anything.

But is a stranger rating a candidate’s personality from a Facebook page even the right thing to do?  I feel like you are taking away a bit of the candidate’s say in the matter.  Sure, they have full control over what they put on their Facebook page, but that’s certainly not the end-all-be-all of a person.  (Note:  If it is, don’t hire them.)  Where is the candidate’s ability to speak up in all of this?  If Facebook does all of the “talking” early on in the screening process, will the candidate ever get a chance to speak for themselves in an interview?  Just playing devil’s advocate here, as I see both sides to this argument.  And what about candidates who have their Facebook privacy settings up high and a random outsider can’t see it?  Or don’t use Facebook?  What might that mean about their personalities?  Are they the savviest of all?

This study, despite its limitations, is hopefully one of many to come on this sexy and timely topic.  But there are tons of caveats to consider, including potential adverse impact, ever-changing Facebook privacy settings, and how to implement consistent processes when social networking is involved…Many unknowns.  Holy puzzlers, Batman.

Kluemper, D. H., Rosen, P. A., & Mossholder, K. W. (2012).  Social Networking Websites, Personality Ratings, and the Organizational Context: More Than Meets the Eye?  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42, 1143-1172.  doi:  10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00881.x

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management




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