Facebook may beat personality tests for predicting job success

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Researchers may have found a new and more accurate tool for HR to use in the pre-employment stage when trying to predict how a candidate would ‘fit’ – just check out Facebook.

According to a study by the Northern Illinois University’s College of Business, which has been published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, impressions gleaned from a five- to-ten-minute perusal of Facebook pages were actually a stronger predictor of a candidate’s likelihood to excel in a job than the personality surveys that many companies require job candidates to complete.

For the study, the researchers had a group of subjects complete a personality questionnaire commonly used by companies to gauge five key traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, emotional stability and openness.

The subjects then granted three faux employers access to their Facebook profiles. Each would-be employer perused the profiles and answered questions about the subject that were similar to those on the self-report personality questionnaire, for example, “Is this person the life of the party?”

Matching the self-evaluations with faux employer evaluations, the researchers found highly similar opinions. “We were able to conclude that after a five-minute perusal of a Facebook page, raters were able to answer questions regarding the subject about as reliably as would be expected of a significant other or close friend,” Kluemper said.“Our raters could look at the tone of a subject’s wall post, note the number of friends they have, peruse their photos to see how social they were and assess their tastes in books and music. It’s a very rich source of information,” Kluemper said. 

Researchers then followed a subset of subjects who were employed six months later, asking their supervisors to complete a performance evaluation. Comparing those scores to the personality scores they found that the Facebook-derived scores provided a more accurate predictor of future job performance than the score derived from the self-evaluation. One reason Facebook might be a more valuable predictor is that users are less likely to get away with putting up a false front. “Personality profile questionnaires are subject to people providing what they think is the socially acceptable answer. It’s harder to do that on Facebook – your friends will call you out.”

But head researcher, Don Kluemper did not advocate that HR toss aside existing tests and replace them with Facebook. “Before it can be used as a legally defensible screening tool, it has to be proven valid,” Kluemper said. “A lot of actions are taken based on Facebook profiles – people are hired, fired, suspended – but this is the first study to systematically examine whether using Facebook to help make such decisions has any validity. This research is just a first step in that direction.”

Until now, while many in the business have been taking sneaky peaks at Facebook since 2004, there has been no statistical data to prove that the hunch that practice has value. Notably, the study did not take into account potential legalities regarding the practice.

 

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  • Volcanik on 22/02/2012 3:41:23 PM

    Hunch indeed - good luck checking a person's FB page if their FB privacy settings are jacked up to the hilt.

  • toby on 23/02/2012 4:30:30 PM

    so the person with the most friends gets the job

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