NC State Study: Employers Who Use Facebook to Screen Job Applicants Could be Missing Out

NC State Study: Employers Who Use Facebook to Screen Job Applicants Could be Missing Out

10:29am Jul 05, 2013
A NC State University study says companies may be looking at the wrong things when using Facebook to screen job applicants.
Keri Brown

An increasing number of employers are using Facebook to screen job applicants. But a new study from NC State University says companies who use social media to weed out prospective employees could still be missing the perfect candidate.

There are more than one billion Facebook users world-wide. Several companies are using the social network to look at behavior traits in the personal profiles of applicants.

Will Stoughton is a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of a new study called, “Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants’ Social Media Postings". He says employers might want to reconsider how they use the tool in the screening process.

“It does look like Facebook on its face is a very real and usable tool for assessing personality from or job fit of a particular applicant, but the study shows that you might not get the applicant you want or you might be lowering your pool of applicants that are highly desirable,” says Stoughton.

Researchers tested 175 participants to measure the personality traits that companies look for in job candidates, including conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion.

The participants were then surveyed on their Facebook behavior, allowing researchers to see which Facebook behaviors were linked to specific personality traits.

“If an employer looks at a Facebook profile and sees references to alcohol, drugs or beer, they might be inclined to look at that say this person is not self-disciplined or contentious and I’m going to remove them from the applicant pool,” says Lori Foster Thompson, a psychology professor at NC State University.

Thompson says the study results would likely surprise those same corporate human resources officials.

“People who posted references to drugs and alcohol were no less contentiousness or no more contentiousness than those who didn’t,” says Thompson.

Stoughton says the study also found that extroverts were significantly more likely to post about drugs or alcohol on Facebook, so companies weeding out those applicants are likely to significantly limit the pool of job candidates who are extroverts.

But researchers did find one online indicator that strongly correlates to the personality traits that employers look for. Study participants who rated high on both agreeableness and conscientiousness were also very unlikely to “badmouth” or insult other people on Facebook.

Thompson says more studies need to take place to help determine what sorts of assumptions can and cannot be made on the basis of Facebook profiles.

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