July 27, 2012

Facebook Profiling Moves from Art to Science

profilingFacebook Beats Personality Tests for Predicting Job Success.

Has Facebook unwittingly become a tool that can provide us with a valid psychometric assessment of a candidate?

Not quite yet, but research conducted earlier this year by Professor Don Kluemper of Northern Illinois University’s College of Business (discussed in detail earlier on Recruiter.com), shows that in their trial at least that Facebook was a more reliable predictor of job performance than a psychometric test. So, still a bombshell, nonetheless.

Their findings showed that: impressions gleaned from a five to 10 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.’

The Study in More Detail

So, how exactly did the study work? Each of the subjects of the study completed a personality questionnaire to assess five key traits of: conscientiousness, agreeableness, extroversion, emotional stability and openness, and the subjects also granted three raters access to their Facebook profiles. Researchers than reviewed a subset of the subjects, who were employed six months later, and asked their supervisors to complete a performance evaluation. They then compared these performance scores to the personality scores and found that the Facebook derived scores provided a more accurate predictor of job performance than the score which came from the personality self evaluation.

This is not yet the green light for Facebook profiling

Although the results are compelling, I would urge some caution because while this study does possess academic rigor, it is isolated and has not yet been independently replicated as far as I am aware – although I will happily stand corrected it anyone knows different.

In addition, the study does not address or contend with any of the legal issues of using Facebook as a formal personality assessment tool.

It is therefore not yet the green light for Facebook personality profiling in recruitment. Professor Kluemper has warned that it will need to be “proved valid” before it can be used as a “legally defensible recruitment tool” and that this “research is just a first step in that direction”.

Should People Optimize Their Facebook Profile For Personality?

Even though this study doesn’t condone the use of Facebook for personality profiling, the reality is that many recruiters do use Facebook profiles. In fact, one survey by Reppler showed that 90% of recruiters were using Facebook profiles to screen candidates, while another by OPP reported a lower figure of 56%. Either way, since the Facebook profile is being unwittingly used as personality profiling tool, candidates should be aware of the top five things that their Facebook profile reveals about them; these are as mentioned above; conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extroversion and openness to experience.

As to whether candidate’s should optimize their profile to suit these traits… No, I don’t recommend making an artificial representation of yourself to suit what you think recruiters are looking for, because this is in itself not good practice, as you may be accepted for a role that you are not suited for and could be unhappy as a result.

By the same token, you don’t want your profile to be misleading as it could make you appear unsuited for jobs that you actually are suited to, so I’d suggest that you round out your Facebook profile (so it is not too polarized), so it shows the full range of what you do and who you are – hopefully making it a truer representation of who you are.

Read more in Personality Test

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.