As Facebook becomes increasingly more popular, employers are starting to look at the profiles of applicants. Numerous pictures of drunken debauchery may be informative to employers, but can Facebook profiles be used to assess an applicant’s personality? A recent study by Donald Kluemper and his colleagues suggests that they can.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
In this study, raters used 15 questions from the IPIP (International Personality Item Pool) to rate participants’ Facebook profiles for the Big Five (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism) in 2007 and 2008. According to the authors, many indicators of personality can be found on a person’s Facebook page. For example, the number of friends that a person has is related to extraversion, and someone high in conscientiousness may be more careful regarding the types of posts he writes or comments on. Someone high in agreeableness may be more trusting and therefore post more personal information.
The authors found that raters showed good agreement about the personality ratings, and that they were fairly consistent. Also, other-ratings (the ratings based on Facebook profiles) showed pretty good agreement (r = .23 – .44) with self-ratings, which is about what would be expected based on past research looking at the accuracy of ratings from friends and family. In other words, Facebook profiles seem to be a pretty good way of getting personality ratings. In addition, the Facebook ratings were more strongly related to job performance than were self-ratings. The authors also found that of the Big Five, agreeableness and conscientiousness were the most important predictors of hirability ratings, and those ratings in turn were related to actual job performance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
These findings are interesting, but what do they really mean? We now know that Facebook profiles can be used as a source of personality ratings. However, should we really use them that way? As you can imagine, there are many potential legal and ethical issues related to using Facebook profiles in selection. In addition, many users now make their profiles private and therefore inaccessible to employers. It appears that using Facebook profiles in personality assessment could be useful, but at this point there remain potential legal risks.
Kluemper, D. H., Rosen, P. A., & Mossholder, K. W. (in press). Social networking websites, personality ratings, and the organizational context: More than meets the eye? Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
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