The Big Idea: Facebook Profiles Now Used to Predict Job Performance



This week, Facebook reported that their membership has hit over 2 billion. That is a quarter of the world’s population. On. Facebook. With so many monthly users, Facebook can easily claim the title of the largest, most influential social network in the world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in his blogpost, “We’re making progress connecting the world, and now let’s bring the world closer together.” Nice idea, don’t you think?

This all sounds well and good, until you take a deep look into what Facebook provides to the world: a snapshot as to who you are. Amongst your friends, that’s fine; but are your Privacy settings set to be visible just to friends, or are you sharing your profile with the world.

Young man waiting for job interview indoors.Hey, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your thoughts, opinions, and ideas with the world. Just remember that the world includes your job supervisors, provided they are active on social media. Even prospective employers might be able to glean from your Facebook profile everything from your political opinions if you are posting articles from The Washington Post or The Washington Times. A profile can showcase your openness to new experiences if you are posting vacation pictures from a glacier off New Zealand. What about emotional stability? Are your friends constantly offering you words of comfort? Agreeableness—are you constantly arguing with friends over stuff? All of these things are on the world for display, and for present and potential employers to evaluate you.

In a series of two studies conducted by researchers at Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville and Auburn University, six people with experience in Human Resources were asked to rate a sample of 500 people in terms of key personality traits using only the sample group’s Facebook pages as a guideline. The raters were told to spend roughly five to ten minutes with each person’s Facebook page, and asked to rate members of the sample group on what is known as the “Big Five” personality traits, and these Big Five are what employers want to see.

The traits they were asked to consider from profile to profile were the following were:

  • Extroversion
  • Conscientiousness
  • Emotional Stability
  • Agreeableness
  • Openness to New Experiences.

❈ Facebook or Flower  🌸🌾High scores on these traits are generally accepted by Human Resources managers as an indication of future good job performance. Members of the sample group were also asked to give a self-evaluation and take an IQ test. In one study, researchers followed up with the employers of people in the sample group six months after their personality traits were rated, to ask questions about job performance. Researchers found that the raters were generally in agreement about the personality traits expressed by the sample group’s Facebook page. These HR representatives also reported that their ratings correlated strongly with self-rated personality traits. And they correlated more effectively than they did with the IQ test. Very telling.

So, your Facebook page. What exactly does that mean? Well, once upon a time, I was telling people not to have anything remotely controversial or even that topical on your Facebook page, but I am now of two minds about it. With the right editing and moderation, if you carefully hone your Facebook page. it could actually help you get a job.

But Employers BEWARE: A Facebook page can provide a lot of information that would be illegal for an employer to ask for in a phone interview.

This is why the results of a 2011 study conducted by Reppler (a social media reputation app, now offline) found that 90% of recruiters and hiring managers look at an applicant’s Facebook page anyway, but just didn’t talk about it. Not really certain how it influenced decisions, but it is worth noting.

Just remember, if you find yourself asking over a post, “Should I really share this?” Chances are, you shouldn’t.



shurtz.jpgA research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratford University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.