Certain personality traits predict job performance — and those traits show up on your Facebook profile.
“What ‘personality’ speaks to is the underlying, difficult-to-name things that makes a person who they are,” says Old Dominion University researcher Richard Landers, “and Facebook is a way to get to that question.”
As Landers and his colleague Katelyn Cavanaugh find in their new paper “Incremental Validity of Social Media Ratings to Predict Job Performance,” a thorough reading of a Facebook profile provides clues to how someone will behave on the job.
The personality traits that are most easily observed on Facebook and useful at work, they say, are conscientiousness and extroversion.
As Landers explained to Business Insider, conscientiousness is one of the most consistent factors of job success, regardless of the role you’re in. It refers to habits like being on time, doing complete work, and generally being organised and dutiful. “Being on top of deadlines is almost universally a good thing,” he says.
Extroversion also shows up on Facebook, but there’s greater variance in how much it predicts success at work. Some roles rely on extroversion. Sales is a classical example, since it’s so social. But the trait isn’t so important for, say, a computer programmer.
What’s interesting is how those social traits surface on your social networks.
In the study, Landers and Cavanaugh asked 146 participants to take an online personality test. In addition, a group of observers rated them along personality traits, like agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and extroversion. Then the results of the self-administered personality test and the observed personality ratings on Facebook were compared against on-the-job performance.
Interestingly, the Facebook profiles provided a better correlation to success than the personality test. Landers owes this to the fact that not everyone is great at identifying their true personality in the context of a test, while a Facebook profile can provide years’ worth of online behaviour.
But this doesn’t mean that a quick glance at a profile can give you deep insight into how someone will do at work.
“In order to have a really good picture of a person’s personality from Facebook, you need to have a dozen or more people making judgments about the profile,” Landers says, because everybody has their own interpretation about what constitutes extroversion or conscientiousness.
Instead, Landers said, if you’re going to use social networks in hiring, make it a “formal system” where lots of people look at a profile and then compare notes. Combining those notes gives a better, richer understanding of a person’s personality traits.
Of course, there are problems with making Facebook stalking part of the recruitment process.
As the Daily Dot reports, if a hiring manager found out about a candidate’s sexual orientation or religious beliefs on Facebook and didn’t make the hire as a result, the candidate could sue for discrimination. Plus, employers can’t always get a handle on employees’ profiles, especially since states such as California, Illinois, and Delaware have passed laws outlawing the practice.
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