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Facebook profile analysis … Using social networking sites for selection


Social Media

Social Media is revolutionising the way we live, representing a fundamental shift in human communication. 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old, 96% of millennials have joined a social network, and social media is the number one activity on the internet (Buzzz Social Media, 2015). The largest social networking website is Facebook, launched in 2004 with a mission to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”. If Facebook were a country it would be the largest, recently surpassing 1.44 billion monthly active users. Facebook users personalise a profile page by adding real time information about themselves via their computer or mobile device.


Employers seeking applicants for vacant positions engage in recruitment activity in order to obtain appropriate candidates. The selection process enables an employer to consider information about candidates in order to assess their suitability and determine their ‘fit’. Of great interest to employers is the ability to predict future job performance. In addition to general mental ability, personality measured using the five factors is recognised to be predictive of job performance. Employers are turning to the internet to access publically available information about candidates. 80% of companies use social media for recruitment (Buzzz Social Media, 2015). An increasing number of HR practitioners are using social networking sites (SNW’s) to aid in decisions made at the early stages of the selection process.

Can you use Facebook to assess personality using a recognised model like the ‘Big 5’ to determine a candidates suitability for a role?  From a public profile, can you evaluate key factors identified as positive predictors of job performance such as openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and the degree of neuroticism? Then, even if this is possible, should it happen?



This method of assessing personality is remarkably effective, particularly given the internal consistency, inter-rater reliability, convergent, criterion-related, and incremental validity findings in a range of recent studies (see Kluemper et al., 2012). The theoretical basis for this approach is the realistic accuracy model (Funder, 1995). Accuracy is enhanced as a result of the Facebook profile format which offers a rich, multidimensional, and consistent view of an individual, providing the rater with data to project behavioural tendencies and patterns. Facebook collates information (quality and quantity) from different sources allowing others to form a schema of the person. Independent ratings are likely to be more accurate and predictive of job performance than self-ratings as they are not influenced by personal bias. The effectiveness of this approach is obviously limited by whether a candidate has a Facebook profile and how accurate and current it is.

As this approach is new, it is yet to be established as an expected part of the selection process leaving its appropriateness open to debate. Organisations looking to pursue this method of obtaining candidate information may want to minimise any legal risks associated with candidate privacy by requesting candidate consent. Ethical issues include the risk of introducing bias into the selection process by making assumptions about race, religion, sexual preference or marital status from the profile information, potentially exposing the organisation to an employment discrimination claim.

We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it” (Buzzz Social Media, 2015). This suggests that all organisations must embrace social media for recruitment. Implications include which method of social media to utilise i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and how to access and collate this information. Do candidates consent or is this covert? Who completes the assessment, are there multiple raters for consistency? How is this information considered alongside other sources of applicant information such as work or ability tests, interviews, or references? At what point in the process is this information obtained? Implications for job recruits include whether to sanitise their profile to ensure it is attractive to prospective employers, maintain multiple profiles (personal and professional) or increase privacy settings restricting information access.

Managing high application volumes could prove difficult for employers. In what circumstances would information uncovered on SNW preclude an offer of employment? This would need to be defined clearly. Some candidates in a particular age or demographic bracket may not have access to SNW. Would this limit the potential candidate pool? In addition, candidate treatment is particularly important as SNW candidates may become future customers, and their experience during the selection process may leave a lasting impression of the organisations brand.

Irrespective of these questions, the future of recruitment is increasingly digital as pressure continues for organisations to remain competitive. It’s clear that the future of technology will continue to dramatically change the way we live and work.

Is profile analysis the next level of social recruitment? What do you think?

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