Facebook Fun or Selection Suicide?

Topic(s): staffing

Topic: Staffing
Publication: International Journal of Selection and Assessment (June 2010)
Article: Who’s posting Facebook faux pas? A cross-cultural examination of personality differences
Authors: K. Karl, J. Peluchette, and C. Schlaegel
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Recent research suggests that a sizeable number of recruiters and organizations have reported eliminating applicants from consideration because of information posted on applicants’ personal profiles on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Karl et al. (2010) investigated personality and cultural differences that help explain which people are more likely to post what they refer to as “Facebook faux pas” (e.g., content and pictures related to sex, drug/alcohol use) which can ultimately put them at risk for not receiving a job offer.

Karl et al. surveyed 346 American and 290 German undergraduate business students about their use of social networking sites, the type of information they willingly post on these sites, and their personalities.

The authors found that those people high in conscientiousness, emotional stability, and agreeableness to be less likely to post “Facebook faux pas” than those lower in these personality traits.  Interestingly, there was also a general trend toward American participants reporting be more likely to post “Facebook faux pas” than German participants.  The authors speculate that this is due to Americans being more individualistic and less concerned with rules and conventions than Germans.

From an organization’s perspective, social networking sites such as Facebook are a free and easily accessible source of information about job applicants’ attitudes, values, and volitional behaviors.  Employers may reason that applicants who post inappropriate content on these sites may be more likely to have performance problems on the job (e.g., inappropriate use of the internet, lack of integrity, incongruent values with the organization, etc.).  Indeed, just as this study suggests that people low in conscientiousness, agreeableness and emotional stability are more likely to post inappropriate content, research suggests that these individuals are also more likely to engage in counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs).

Organizations Beware:
While social networking sites may provide a realistic view of a job applicant’s typical behaviors and attitudes (while NOT at work), if this information is irrelevant to the job, then it cannot legally be used to make hiring decisions.

Job Applicants Beware:
Whether fundamentally “right” or “wrong”, inappropriate information about oneself on social networking sites such as Facebook can potentially lead to not getting a job!

Karl, K., Peluchette, J., & Schlaegel, C. (2010). Who’s posting Facebook faux pas? A cross-cultural examination of personality differences. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 18(2), 174-186.