Employers should not always judge a prospective employee by what they see on social media.
Thanks to the proliferation of social media, employers have the opportunity to know prospective employees in ways never before imagined.
But employers are urged to avoid over-judging what they see on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, lest they miss out on an employee that could be perfect for the job in question.
A new study from North Carolina State University indicates that companies may be misinterpreting behavior on social media in a way that could be harmful to the future of the firm in terms of getting the right person for a job.
There is overwhelming evidence that recruiters are checking out the social media pages of prospective employees and reacting to what they see. According to Jobvite, a job recruiting website, 42 percent of job recruiters said they have changed their opinion about a job applicant based on what they found on the candidate’s social media pages. The changes could be either positive or negative.
“They can’t help but try to find any information about you online before they hire you,’’ said Jobvite CEO Dan Finnigan.
But the North Carolina State study said recruiting professionals may be judging social media postings incorrectly.
The study tested 175 participants and measured them for characteristics that might be deemed desirable in any job candidate, such as conscientiousness and work ethic. The participants were then measured on their Facebook behavior, including written posts as well as photographs, seeing if there was any evidence that could be linked to personality traits.
What the research found was that there was no correlation between conscientiousness and an individual’s willingness to post content on Facebook about drug or alcohol use.
“Companies often scan a job applicant’s Facebook profile to see whether there is evidence of drug or alcohol use, believing that such behavior means the applicant is not ‘conscientious’ or responsible and self-disciplined,’’ said N.C. State professor of psychology Dr. Lori Foster Thompson, who co-authored a paper on the study.
“Companies are eliminating some conscientious job applicants based on erroneous assumptions regarding what social media behavior tells us about the applicants,’’ said Will Stoughton, a Ph.D. student at N.C. State and lead author of the paper.
This was especially true when recruiting for a position that requires an extroverted personality. Such people are likely to post frequently to Facebook and are more likely to post about drugs or alcohol, and eliminating them from the job applicant pool because of such posts could be eliminating a viable job candidate.
The research also showed that people who rated highly in both “agreeableness” and “conscientiousness” were very unlikely to insult others on their social media posts.
“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.
The Jobvite survey found that 47 percent of recruiters reacted negatively to pictures of alcohol consumption, 51 percent reacted negatively to references about guns, and 61 percent reacted portly to spelling and grammatical errors.
Even higher negative reactions were to profanity (65 percent), sexually explicit or implicit posts (71 percent), and references to illegal drug use (83 percent).
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.