Facebook as a screening tool for employment?

28 Feb

Will employers start using Facebook and other social networks as a screening tool for hiring decisions?

I recently came across two articles highlighting a study done at Northern Illinois University that suggests Facebook profiles can be used as a personality assessment and indicator of job performance. While it’s nothing new for companies to use the web to screen applicants, the study suggests it’s even more accurate than standardized assessments currently used in the hiring process.

The study asked trained “raters” to review 247 Facebook pages based on specific questions related to personality. They then followed up with the supervisors of 69 of the page owners six months later to view performance reviews. Based on the reviews, they found that their relatively quick Facebook reviews were more accurate at predicting performance than standard tests.

Besides the obvious legal implications, there are many reasons employers shouldn’t use social network profiles for personality assessments. For one, it’s more than common knowledge that people only share the best aspects of their life on social networks. How can you accurately asses someone’s personality or performance based only on what they want their social network to know about their life? Secondly, people tend to be more opinionated online than in “real life.” It’s easier to disagree with someone when you don’t have to face them. It’s also easier for introverts to become outgoing online (I respectfully disagree with the following quote from the study results: “Extroverts more frequently interact with others, which could be represented by the number of SNW (social networking websites) friends a user has.”)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, not everyone uses Facebook. In fact, not all young people use it. Companies and groups make a big mistake when they use Facebook as their only marketing or communications tool. They’re missing out on a large part of their potential audience.

What I did glean from this article from a job search perspective is that more and more employers are paying attention to what you post on social networks, and whether they do it consciously or not they are using it to form opinions about you. My advice to job seekers is to review your social networks, not just for embarrassing pictures, from a holistic perspective. Pay attention to what someone who doesn’t know you might think about you.

Facebook and job performance, Chicago Tribune
Face-to-Face vs. Facebook Personality Ratings, Recruiter.com

Also posted on Tampa Job Search Examiner

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