Using Facebook Profiles To Predict Career Success

By David Cohen Comment

It has already been well documented that content in Facebook profiles can influence hiring managers and recruiters, often negatively, but can they use profiles on the social network to predict users’ success in academics and the working world?

The results of a new study from Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville, and Auburn University seemed to arrive at that conclusion, as researchers profiled a group of 274 Facebook users and a group of 244 college students.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the researchers spent about 10 minutes looking at photos, wall posts, comments, education, and hobbies on each profile, and answering personality-related questions including whether the subject was dependable and whether he or she was emotionally stable. After six months, they compared their results with those submitted by the subjects’ supervisors.

Peter A. Rosen, associate professor of management information systems in the Schroeder Family School of Business Administration at the University of Evansville, outlined the results from the two groups:

For the 274 Facebook users, the study found that the Facebook personality ratings:

  • Correlated with traditional self-reported personality.
  • Demonstrated internal consistency and inter-rater reliability for personality and hirability.
  • Correlated with evaluator preferences to hire the Facebook user.
  • Correlated with supervisor ratings of job performance for a sub-sample of Facebook users who were employed.

And for the group of 244 college students, the Facebook personality ratings:

  • Correlated with traditional self-reported personality.
  • Demonstrated internal consistency and inter-rater reliability.
  • Were stronger than self-reported personality and IQ in predicting academic success.
  • Provided incremental prediction of academic performance beyond what was obtained from self-rated personality and intelligence tests combined.

Northern Illinois University Professor of Management Don Kluemper, lead researcher on the study, told the Journal students who traveled, had higher friend totals, and had extensive hobbies and interests scored well, adding that photos of those students partying didn’t necessarily reflect poorly on them, as it showed that they were extroverted and friendly.

And Rosen said:

A rapid expansion of social media over the past decade has resulted in the use of social networking websites beyond their initial purpose. University administrators and hiring managers have begun to view this technology to evaluate students and employees, despite controversial legal issues associated with this practice.

Our research provides evidence from two studies that Facebook can be used by trained evaluators to reliably assess various personality traits — traits shown in existing literature to predict academic and job success — and to be legally defensible for selection purposes.

Although further study is needed, perhaps when viewing applicant social networking profiles, there is more to it than meets the eye.

Readers: Do you think social network profiles should be fair game for job recruiters and hiring managers?