How Employers are Using Facebook to Research Potential Hires

We’ve all heard how employers are looking at social media sites to research potential employees during the hiring process. But is the discovered information indicative of future performance? Thanks to a study from professors at the University of Evansville and Louisiana State University, there’s a little social science to answer this question. (Speaking of LSU, one might question if the sometimes volatile and outspoken Shaq would have gotten through admissions had Facebook been around when he attended the school. Then, without hesitation, one should probably answer "yes.")

This article from Inside Indiana Business by UE Asst. Professor Peter Rosen explains the study:

Louisiana State University Professor Don Kluemper and I both thought this was an interesting question, and one worth exploring. So last year, we began a study entitled “Future Employment Selection Methods: Evaluating Social Networking Web Sites.” The goal was to learn whether or not the information found on a person’s Facebook page could serve as an accurate barometer of that person’s personality, IQ and academic performance, which are many of the same things that predict job performance.

The answer, we found, was a resounding “Yes!” Working with 63 LSU students, all of whom had undergone training in what potential employers look for on Facebook, we were able to determine that much of what employers look for can, indeed, create an accurate impression of several personality traits, including:

• Extroversion
• Agreeableness
• Conscientiousness
• Emotional Stability
• Openness to Experience

To do this, we randomly selected six sample Facebook pages from a group of students that had agreed to join our research study. Each of the 63 trained student raters was asked to individually review the six sample pages. Using only what they saw on the site, the students were then asked to rate each Facebook user based on their perception of the person’s personality, intelligence, and academic performance – our proxy for job performance.

What we found is that there is general consistency among the student raters in differentiating between the high and low subjects on each of the Big-5 personality traits, intelligence, and academic performance. While the study had a small sample size and perhaps a few limitations, we believe that the results of the study support the claim that Facebook and other social networking websites can be used to aide in the prediction of personality and performance measures like IQ and GPA.

This is an important finding given the sheer number of employers using screening tests as part of the hiring process. From a Washington Post article, we learned that about 50 percent of all companies ask candidates to answer questions that aim to measure their success at particular jobs for which they apply, including tests of cognition and ability, simulations and skill tests, personality and values tests, which measure values and the right orientation for a specific job.

If personality and intelligence tests can be used to predict one’s job performance, and we can accurately measure the personality and intelligence of an individual based on a view of their social networking Web site, then a small leap can be made to show that Facebook ratings of personality and intelligence can be used to predict job performance.