New Study Says Facebook Cannot Foretell How Job Candidates Will Perform At Work

January 16, 2014  |  

We get it. There is a towering stack of job applications looming over an HR exec’s desk. Each and everyone of them are putting their “best face” forward — selling themselves as the best fit for the job. It’s overwhelming! But nowadays you don’t need to rely on just first impressions and a prayer. With Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook right at your fingertips, you get a better sense of what a candidate is really like when they’re not trying to impress a recruiter.

But is social media really a good predictor of how a prospective employee will do on the job? A new study published by the Journal of Management (via Liberty Voice) says heck no!

During the experiment, the lead investigators looked at how recruiters rated each candidate according to their Facebook profiles. They found that these ratings did not correlate with the candidate’s current job performance evaluation at work. “Recruiter ratings of applicants’ Facebook information were unrelated to supervisor ratings of job performance… In addition, Facebook ratings did not contribute to the prediction,” the researchers noted, Liberty Voice reports.

The researchers suggest that we all act different in certain circumstances. Your wild demeanor during a girl’s night out won’t be the same as your demure behavior upon meeting Michelle Obama — or so I hope. Although a job candidate might act a complete fool on Facebook, this does not necessarily mean that she or he will bring such clownery on the job.

Not to mention the fact that many people on Facebook aren’t even themselves.  For social acceptance, their own profiles might be embellished to be perceived in a certain light. So in this case, a job candidate might seem prim and proper on their social network — they get hired — and to the employer’s dismay, they’re a complete buffoon!

This is not to say, though, that you shouldn’t be weary of what you post on the internet. The researchers are right: your cleavage pictures or sloppy drunk photos does not foretell how one will perform at work. But the very fact that you felt compelled to post such intimate and inappropriate snapshots online will make employers question your judgment.

This is where this study misses the mark. Recruiters aren’t just flocking to Facebook to use deductive reasoning on their potential employees. They want to see if you’re astute enough to know that you should use a little discretion in the virtual world — especially if they’re concerned about how their workers will affect their brand. A law firm, for example, would not want to deal with client complaints about your unprofessionalism as you flaunt your “assets” on Instagram.

What’s most interesting, the researchers point out, is the faux pas on the recruiters’ side. You mustn’t forget that besides internet activity, Facebook and other social media outlets allow employers to discover a candidate’s race and gender. This adds a higher probability of bias, of course, as the recruiter now knows what a prospective employee looks like:

“There was evidence…that [recruiters] tended to favor female and White applicants. The overall results suggest that organizations should be very cautious about using social media information such as Facebook to assess job applicants,” the researchers wrote.  

My advice? If you’re going job hunting, you should deactivate your account! In this way, employers will have a pretty tough time determining what you look like or how you carry yourself on the internet.

Recruiters will be forced to rely on your application and references to decide if you’re the best fit for the company.

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