Facebook snooping more accurate than personality tests, but is it legal?
Could Mark Zuckerberg help you find the right candidate?
Facebook beats personality tests for judging success at work, but Canadian laws limit using information gathered through social media.
An ever increasing number of HR professionals are turning to social media to check candidate’s background, now academics have confirmed its effectiveness.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology showed a 10-minute review of a Facebook profile could be a better predictor of the “big five” personality traits than a personality test. The big five are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
Lead researcher Donald Kluemper said information from Facebook helped eliminate self-reporting bias.
"You're asking the rater, 'Is this person a hard worker?' On a personality test, the employee would be asked, 'How hard a worker are you?' One of the criticisms of self-reporting personality testing is that it can be faked. On a Facebook page, that's a lot harder to do," Kluemper said.
Anita Nickerson, President of HR One Consulting Inc., said most employers are looking at social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but few will admit it or bring up their findings in an interview because they could run into trouble with privacy laws.
In the future she believed Facebook and other social media pages might be used in a similar way to references.
“It’s part of a process, like when you ask for references. ‘Do I have permission to reach out to your list of references?’” Nickerson said. “Down the road I won’t be surprised at all if we include Facebook, Twitter and all those social media tools... ‘Can I get your references on Facebook – I want to be able to see you on Facebook.’ I wouldn’t be surprised it that’s part of the future.”
Those doing the hiring could run into trouble with privacy laws if they used their findings to influence hiring decisions.
Queens University media professor Sidneyeve Matrix said social media could be a great resource for HR professionals, but it could also make the process more complicated, rather than simpler.
“The biggest thing that gets people talking is social screening – employers taking a peek at social profiles and perhaps finding information that they wouldn’t be able to ethically ask in an interview and the awkward situation that that causes,” Matrix said. “Once you have that information, that you couldn’t have legally asked, you can’t ‘unknow’ it.”
Reliance on web searches could also be a disadvantage for older applicants, who may have sufficient background and experience, but who do not have any online presence, Matrix said.