Drunk Facebook photos not good personality predictor

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It’s become common practice to check applicants social media presence as part of the screening process, but are you focusing on the wrong traits?

A study from North Carolina State University found that many companies have a fundamental misunderstanding of online behavior and might be eliminating desirable job candidates.

Companies often consider photos showing drug or alcohol use a valid reason to reject an application, there is no correlation between posting such photos and desired traits such as conscientiousness.

“This means companies are eliminating some conscientious job applicants based on erroneous assumptions regarding what social media behavior tells us about the applicants,” PhD student and lead author Will Stoughton said.

Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants’ Social Media Postings described how researchers tested 175 study participants to measure the personality traits that companies look for in job candidates, including conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion. The participants were then surveyed on their Facebook behavior, allowing researchers to see which Facebook behaviors were linked to specific personality traits.

Companies looking for extroverts – such as those hiring for sales or marketing positions – are doing themselves an even worse disservice. The study found extroverts were significantly more likely to post about drugs or alcohol on Facebook, so companies weeding out those applicants are likely to significantly limit the pool of job candidates who are extroverts.

However, the researchers did find one online indicator strongly correlated to the personality traits that employers look for. Study participants who rated high on both agreeableness and conscientiousness were also very unlikely to “badmouth” or insult other people on Facebook.

“If employers plan to keep using social media to screen job applicants, this study indicates they may want to focus on eliminating candidates who badmouth others – not necessarily those who post about drinking beer,” Stoughton said.

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