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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A new study from a University of Iowa researcher suggests that reviewing job applicants’ social media sites may not be an effective way to assess the candidates, and doing so may also conflict with federal employment law.

Chad Van Iddekinge, professor of management and entrepreneurship in the Tippie College of Business, says the study is one of the first to look at the impact of applicants’ social media presences on hiring decisions. In one study, they reviewed the content of 140 Facebook pages of job applicants and compared it to recruiters’ evaluations of the applicants. They found recruiters evaluated job applicants who were single less favorably than those who were married or in a relationship, and those who displayed information about their religion on their Facebook pages were rated less favorably than those who did not.

The researchers also found that job seekers sometimes disclose information about themselves that employers are prevented or discouraged from asking about in an interview, such as age, religion, and marital status. Some of this personal information was related to recruiter evaluations.

The authors found that some Facebook pages contained information regarding such negative behaviors as profanity, alcohol use, drug use, or sexual behaviors that was associated with lower recruiter evaluations. On the other hand, potentially job-relevant information, specifically education, work-related training or skills, and written communication skills, is also sometimes displayed on social media and associated with better evaluations.

Researchers also found recruiters’ evaluations of applicants’ Facebook pages were not a significant predictor of future job performance or intention to leave the job, nor did the information on Facebook appear to improve employers’ ability to make better predictive evaluations.

The study cautions applicants about what they make public on social media pages, since certain information may unintentionally influence recruiter evaluations. At the same time, the widespread use of screening social media profiles during the hiring process may not be useful, and reviewing job applicants’ social media might lead to personal information influencing hiring decisions. The researchers urge organizations to reconsider the practice of assessing job applicants’ social media pages until evidence of its benefits is found.

The study, “What’s on job seekers’ social media sites? A content analysis and effects of structure on recruiter judgments and predictive validity,” was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

 

Media contact: Tom Snee, tom-snee@uiowa.edu, 319-541-8434