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Attachment 1


Chapter XI Facebook Follies: Who Suffers the Most?

Katherine Karl Marshall University, USA

Joy Peluchette University of Southern Indiana, USA

Copyright © 2009, IGI Global, distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.


This study examined the relative impact of “inappropriate” postings on job candidates’ Facebook pro- files on hiring decisions. Such postings included negative work-related attitudes, the use of profanity, and comments regarding alcohol abuse, use of drugs and sexual activities. Respondents indicated that all five types of information were relevant to such decisions and that they would be unlikely to pursue candidates who posted such information. However, such information was viewed as being more relevant for female candidates than male candidates. In addition, respondents were more likely to pursue male candidates than female candidates who posted such information. Thus, females were found to suffer the most. Although negative work-related attitudes and drug use were considered more relevant to hiring decisions than the other types of information, respondents were least likely to pursue candidates whose Facebook profiles contained comments regarding negative work-related attitudes and alcohol use. Im- plications and suggestions for future research are presented.


Research has shown that communications on the Internet are less inhibited than public communica-

tions, that is, individuals will say or do things on the Internet that they would not ordinarily do in real life (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991; Kayany, 1998; Niemz, Griffiths, & Banyard, 2005). Countless

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Facebook Follies

examples of these uninhibited communications can be found on Facebook, one of the most popular social networking sites (Levy, 2007). For example, a recent study of 200 Facebook profiles found that 42% had comments regarding alcohol, 53% had photos involving alcohol use, 20% had comments regarding sexual activities, 25% had semi-nude or sexually provocative photos, and 50% included the use of profanity (Peluchette & Karl, 2007). These authors also examined wall comments, or “public” messages that individuals post on each others’ profiles and found that about 50% involved issues of partying, 40% involved negative comments about other people, 25% in- volved derogatory comments about employers, 18% sexual activities, and 10% negative racial comments.

It has been suggested that these Facebook follies, or this reckless tendency to post anything and everything on one’s profile, is in part due to students’ perceptions that the likelihood of anyone other than other students or recent alumni seeing their posting is remote (Lupsa, 2006). Yet, recent evidence suggests that employers are looking. Ac- cording to Taylor (2006), using Internet search en- gines such as Google, blogs (Web logs), and social networking Web sites (Facebook, MySpace) has become commonplace for screening potential job candidates. In support, a 2006 ExecuNet survey of 100 executive recruiters found that 77% use search engines as part of their recruitment process and that 35% have eliminated job candidates based on information they have found on the Internet (Jones, 2006). That is up from 26% reported in the 2005 survey (Forster, 2006). A study conducted at the University of Dayton revealed that 40% of employers would consider applicants’ Facebook profiles as part of their hiring decision (Lupsa, 2006). Finally, a study by CareerBuilder.com re- vealed that 26% of the 1,150 hiring managers they surveyed said they used Internet search engines in their candidate screening process and 12% said they used social networking sites. Of those hiring managers that used social networking sites, 63%

said they did not hire the person based on what they found (Sullivan, 2006).

So, what kind of information are these hiring managers using to screen applicants? According to the aforementioned study by CareerBuilder. com (Sullivan, 2004), 19% said they eliminated candidates from further consideration because they had bad-mouthed their previous company or a fellow employee, 19% were eliminated because they had posted information about drinking or using drugs, and 11% were eliminated because they posted provocative or inappropriate photo- graphs. The purpose of this study was to examine the relative impact of these Facebook follies on hiring decisions for male and female candidates. More specifically, we examine the following five types of information: (1) negative work-related attitudes, (2) comments regarding alcohol abuse, (3) comments regarding use of drugs, (4) com- ments regarding sexual activities, and (5) use of profanity.

Negative work-related attitudes

Based on the notion that it is much easier to train people to learn new skills than it is to change their inherent attitudes, many companies have adopted the “hire for attitude, train for skill” philosophy (O’Connor, 2000; Greengard & Byham, 2003). Perhaps the most well known example of this is Southwest Airlines who looks for people who can embrace change, keep promises, follow through, and bring a sense of humor and fun to their work (O’Connor, 2000). Empirical research also sug- gests that hiring managers consider attitude to be an important attribute in new recruits. For example, the results of a 1994 survey revealed that employers valued attitude more highly than ability when hiring an administrative employee (Flynn, 1994). Another survey of hiring manag- ers conducted by the New York Times Job Market found that 85% considered personality to have great importance in hiring decisions (Milne, 2002). Other factors considered important were:

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Facebook Follies

multi-tasking (84%), ability to learn new skills (84%), leadership (75%), and analytical ability (67%). In another study, practitioners rated the hirability of a series of hypothetical candidate profiles that varied on the Big Five personality traits and general mental ability (Dunn, Mount, Barrick, & Ones, 1995). Typically, managers viewed general mental ability and conscientious- ness as the most important attributes related to an applicant’s hirability. Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable and pos- sess traits including self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, and organization (Goldberg, 1990). Together, this research suggests that Facebook profile comments related to procrastination, dislike of work, or low self-discipline should be perceived negatively by hiring managers. There- fore, it is predicted:

H1: Hiring managers will consider Facebook comments indicating a negative work-related attitude to be relevant in making a hiring decision.

H2: Hiring managers will not continue to pursue candidates who have included comments on their Facebook profile indicating a negative work-related attitude.

alcohol abuse

It has been estimated that alcohol costs American businesses $134 billion in productivity losses, mostly due to missed work (Anderson & Goplerud, 2005). Alcohol abuse has also been associated with turnover, lower productivity and accidents (Kandel & Yamaguchi, 1987; Blum, Roman & Martin, 1993; Holcom, Lehman & Simpson, 1993). Moreover, workers with alcohol problems are almost three times more likely than workers without drinking problems to have injury-related absences (Webb, Hennrikus, Kelman, Gibberd, & Sanson-Fisher, 1994). Alcohol use on and off the job can also cause problems for nondrinking co-workers. One out of five employees report

alcohol problems of people they work with cause them to fear injury, work harder, redo work or cover for the drinker (Mangione, Howland, & Lee, 1998).

Research also shows that even though alcohol- ism is a disease covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, many Americans still have a bias against alcoholics in hiring decisions. For instance, a telephone survey of 1,500 adults across the U.S. found that if these respondents had to choose be- tween two equally qualified job candidates—one a recovering alcoholic and one who has never needed treatment for alcoholism—47% would hire the candidate who never needed treatment, 34% said they had no preference, and only 14% would hire the recovering person (Survey reveals bias against recovering alcoholics and addicts, 1999). Given these findings, we predict that:

H3: Hiring managers will consider Facebook comments indicating alcohol abuse to be relevant in making a hiring decision.

H4: Hiring managers will not continue to pursue candidates if they find examples of alcohol abuse in the candidate’s Facebook profile.

use of Drugs

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that substance abuse costs businesses more than 100 billion dollars every year (Ireland, 1991; Many good reasons, 2005). This is due to lost productiv- ity, absenteeism, theft, accidents, and additional healthcare costs. Another report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that the typical drug-abusing worker uses three times the normal amount of sick benefits and is five times more likely than other employees to file a workers’ compensation claim. He or she is involved in ac- cidents 3.6 times more often, is late three times more often and has 2.5 times as many absences of eight days or more (Pouzer, 1991).

The aforementioned survey of 1,500 adults in the U.S. found that when responders were asked

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Facebook Follies

to choose between two job candidates—one a recovering drug addict and one who had never needed treatment—60% said they would hire the candidate who never needed treatment, 26% said they had no preference, and only 10% said they would hire the recovering addict (Survey reveals bias against recovering alcoholics and addicts, 1999). Another survey of several hundred human resource professionals revealed that many would not reject a candidate based on a conviction for marijuana possession if it had happened only once and occurred a long time ago. For example, some sample answers included “To me, a single mari- juana conviction at age 18 would be in the same league as a speeding ticket,” “Kids are kids,” and “What someone did at age 18 is not necessarily a reflection of what he will do as an adult” (Fisher, 2002). Thus, we propose:

H5: Hiring managers will consider Facebook comments indicating illegal drug use to be relevant in making a hiring decision.

H6: Hiring managers will not continue to pursue candidates if they find examples of illegal drug use in the candidate’s Facebook pro- file.


In Cursing in America, Jay (1992) claims that curs- ing at inappropriate times can reduce a speaker’s credibility, persuasiveness, and perceived profes- sionalism. In support, Bostrom, Baseheart, and Rossiter (1973) examined reactions to people who swear and found that using profanity in a com- munication generally had a detrimental effect on the perceived credibility of the communicator. Another study conducted by Hamilton (1989) found that obscenity increased audience disgust with the message and negative perceptions of the source. Another study found that observers who heard a speaker who used profanity formed more negative impressions of the speaker than observers who heard a speaker who did not use

profanity (Cohen & Saine, 1977). Based on these findings, we predict:

H7: Hiring managers will consider Facebook comments including profanity to be relevant in making a hiring decision.

H8: Hiring managers will reject candidates from further consideration if they find examples of profanity in the candidate’s Facebook profile.

Gender differences have also been found. In general, men use offensive language more than women (Foote & Woodward, 1973; Lakoff, 1973; Bailey & Timm, 1976; Staley, 1978; Rieber, Wi- edemann, & D’Amato, 1979; Selnow, 1985; De Klerk, 1991; Jay, 1992; Bate & Bowker, 1997), women hold more negative attitudes toward the use of such language (Rieber et al., 1979; Sel- now, 1985; Jay, 1992), and swearing is usually perceived as acceptable for men but inappropriate for women (Burgoon & Stewart, 1975; Mulac & Lundell, 1980; Burgoon, Dillard, & Doran, 1983; Mulac, Incontro, & James, 1985; De Klerk, 1991). Based on the reasoning that traditional female sex roles have discouraged the use of profanity, while norms associated with the male sex role often promote profanity in everyday speech, we predict that:

H9: Hiring managers will consider Facebook comments including profanity to be more relevant for female candidates than male candidates.

H10: Hiring managers will be less likely to pursue female candidates who use profanity than male candidates who use profanity.

Sexual activity

Sexual behavior or conversations with sexual content are considered taboo in the workplace largely due to concerns about potential sexual harassment charges, office gossip, distraction, and

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Facebook Follies

lost productivity (Sills, 2007). Yet, office romance is on the rise, where more and more employees are seeking both dates and mates at work (Lever, Zellman, & Hirshfeld, 2006). Some surveys report that one in ten employees have actually admitted that they have “made love while at work” (Lever, Zellman, & Hirshfeld, 2006). Another concern for employers is online sexual activity (Cooper, Safir, & Rosenmann, 2006). For example, in a survey of 40,000 adults, 20% reported engaging in online sexual activity while at work (Cooper, Scherer, & Mathy, 2000). Workplace online sexual activity also results in lost productivity and could potentially result in sexual harassment claims if an employee were to see a coworker’s computer screen with pornography or if he or she were to receive e-mails with sexual content (Stanton & Weiss, 2000). Thus, it is likely that if hiring managers were to find that an applicant has de- scribed his or her sexual activities on his or her Facebook profile, they would be concerned that this applicant may do the same in the workplace. Therefore, we predict:

H11: Hiring managers will consider Facebook comments describing one’s sexual activities to be relevant in making a hiring decision.

H12: Hiring managers will not continue to pursue candidates if they find examples of sexual activities in the candidate’s Facebook pro- file.

The term “double standard” is used to describe findings that show most people have less permis- sive attitudes toward female sexual behavior than male sexual behavior (Sprecher, McKinney, & Orbuch, 1987; Spears, Abrams, Sheeran, Abra- ham, & Marks, 1991). For example, the results of a meta-analysis suggest that men compared to women, have more permissive attitudes about sex; they are more accepting of premarital sex and less likely to feel guilty about it than women (Oliver & Hyde, 1993). They also found that women are more likely to endorse the double standard than

men. In their review of 30 studies published since 1980, Crawford and Popp (2003) also found evidence for the continued existence of sexual double standards. Evidence for double standards in the workplace has also been found. Anderson and Hunsaker (1985) found that women who are romantically involved with someone at work are more negatively evaluated regarding their compe- tence and motivations than romantically involved men. Similarly, Devine and Markiewicz (1990) found that female managers who were involved in a workplace romance were expected to be more at risk of losing their jobs than their male partners. Other studies have shown gender-based double standards in the evaluation of the competence of men versus women, whereby women were held to higher standards than men or women were less likely to be rated as more competent than men even when having better credentials (Foschi, Lai, & Sigerson, 1994; Foschi, 1996). Given these findings, we predict that:

H13: Hiring managers will consider Facebook comments regarding sexual activities to be more relevant for female candidates than male candidates.

H14: Hiring managers will be less likely to pursue female candidates who discuss their sexual activities than male candidates who discuss their sexual activities.

Relative Impact of Type of Profile information

As stated earlier, one purpose of this study was to examine the relative impact of five types of information (negative work-related attitudes, alcohol abuse, use of drugs, sexual activities, and use of profanity) on hiring decisions for male and female candidates. While the existing literature provides support for why hiring managers may find this type of information relevant in making hiring decisions, we could find no research to sup- port why candidates with one type of information

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Facebook Follies

might be viewed more negatively than those with another type of information. Thus, we make no predictions regarding the relative impact of the five types of information.



This study utilized a sample of 148 graduate students enrolled in human resource manage- ment and organizational behavior courses at two medium-sized universities, one located in the Midwest and the other located in the southeast- ern part of the United States. Participation was voluntary although participants were given some minimal course credit for doing so. All students in each class agreed to participate. About 42% of the respondents were male (N=62) and the mean age was 29.7 years. The average hours worked per week was 34.8, and the average number of years of work experience was 8.84.

experimental Design

This study examined one within-subjects factor (type of Facebook information) and one between- subjects factor (gender of job candidate). Type of Facebook information consisted of five levels: (1) negative work-related attitudes, (2) alcohol abuse, (3) illegal drug use, (4) sexual activities, and (5) use of profanity. Gender of job candidate consisted of two levels: male versus female.

Survey instrument

The survey instrument consisted of two sections: (1) demographic items including gender, age, hours worked per week, work experience; and (2) the five employee selection scenarios. Each of the five scenarios was followed by items measuring respondents’ opinions regarding the relevance of Facebook information for hiring decisions, and their intent to pursue each candidate.

Employee Selection Scenarios. After com- pleting the demographic information, respondents were given the following instructions. “Assume that you are a manager in charge of hiring an outside salesperson for your department. You have received several resumes and are currently in the process of screening out those who you feel do not meet the job requirements. The following five candidates are among those who applied for the position. They are all senior marketing majors at Midwestern University, with similar work experi- ence and GPAs (ranging from 3.5 to 3.7). They are all females (or males, depending on the survey the respondent received) and are either 22 or 23 years old. To aid you in your decision making, the HR manager has provided you with information found on the students’ Facebook profiles. Please read the information that follows and answer the questions at the end of each profile.”

Following these instructions, each respondent read information about the five candidates from the following common Facebook profile catego- ries: activities, interests, favorite quotes, about me, and groups. All of the information used in the profiles was taken from actual Facebook pages and was selected based on whether it fit one of the variables we examine in this study: alcohol use, drug use, profanity, sexual activity, and negative work-related attitudes. For example, the sexual activity profile for the female candi- date included the following: “I’m a stripper on the weekends . . . college doesn’t pay for itself ya know!!!” (activities), “Men are like tires you always need a spare!!” (favorite quotes), and “If homework were a hot guy I would do him every night” (groups). The profanity profile had the “F” word listed 450 times under favorite quotes and “People who love the F word” under groups. The negative work-related attitude profile included: “working at a job I hate, avoiding doing home- work, being lazy” (activities), “I work at a Credit Union and I get paid to sit on my ass and stare at a computer screen all day!” (about me), and “I hate my job but need the money so I can’t quit!!”

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(groups). The drug use profile included: “Smoking, chillin, wasting time, wasting away” (activities), “PARTYING!!!! Smokin’ the reefer, killing brain cells” (interests), “Legalize all drugs; Local pipe smokers union 420; Drinkers, smokers, & tokers” (groups). The alcohol profile included: “I really don’t do much but drink beer and sit around” (activities); “Beer pong, drinking, partying, hang- ing out with friends” (interests); “Live it up and drink it down” and “A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts!!!” (favorite quotes); and “I need a drink,” “Alcoholic anonymous droupouts,” and “There is nothing absolute in life . . . except Vodka” (groups).

Relevance of Facebook information. Fol- lowing each scenario, respondents were asked six items which measured their opinion regarding the relevance of Facebook information. Sample items include: “I believe the information above is useful,” “The information above is irrelevant” (reverse scored), and “I don’t believe the in- formation above is indicative of this person’s work behavior” (reverse scored). All items were

rated on a five-point scale (1=Strongly Disagree, 5=Strongly Agree). Co-efficient alpha for this scale ranged between .75 and .85.

Intent to pursue candidate. Each scenario was also followed by three items which measured the respondent’s intent to continue to pursue each job candidate. These items were as follows: “I would invite this candidate for an interview,” “I would not pursue this candidate any further” (reverse scored), and “I would call the references listed on his/her resume.” All items were rated on a five-point scale (1=Strongly Disagree, 5=Strongly Agree). Co-efficient alpha for this scale ranged between .86 and .88.

To prevent an order effect, the five scenarios contained in each survey were arranged in 12 different orders. The results of a mixed-model ANOVA with repeated measures revealed order did not have a significant effect on respondents’ opinions regarding the relevance of the infor- mation [F (11, 133) = .93, p = .52] or their intent to pursue each candidate [F (11, 135) = .55, p = .86].

Table 1. Means and Standard deviations for the relevance of various types of Facebook information and intent to pursue the job candidate.

Facebook Profile Information

Relevance of Information Intent to Pursue Job Candidate

Gender of Job Candidate Gender of Job Candidate

Male Female Total Male Female Total

Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD

Negative Work-related At- titude 3.45 1.02 3.78 0.89 3.59 b 0.98 2.86 1.25 2.40 1.17 2.67 b 1.23

Alcohol Abuse 3.27 0.95 3.67 0.97 3.44 a 0.97 2.82 1.22 2.53 1.21 2.70 b 1.22

Drug Use 3.46 1.01 3.73 0.95 3.57 b 0.99 2.63 1.25 2.10 1.06 2.41 a 1.20

Profanity 3.31 1.02 3.64 1.07 3.45 a 1.05 2.57 1.25 2.16 1.08 2.40 a 1.20

Sexual Activity 3.14 1.03 3.81 0.85 3.42a 1.01 2.62 1.28 2.24 1.07 2.46 a 1.21

Estimated Marginal Mean 3.33 3.73 2.70 2.29

Standard Error .10 .11 .11 .13

Note: Means with different superscripts are significantly different from one another at p < .05. Male and female means in boldface are significantly different from one another at p < .05.

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Facebook Follies


Means and standard deviations for all five types of information by gender of job candidate are shown in Table 1. In general, respondents were in moderate agreement that all five types of informa- tion would be relevant in making hiring decisions (overall means ranged between 3.44 and 3.59) and they generally disagreed that they would continue to pursue the five job candidates (overall means ranged between 2.10 and 2.53). Thus, hypotheses one through eight and hypotheses 11 and 12 were supported.

To examine whether respondents held higher standards for women than they did men (i.e., a double standard), we conducted two ANOVAs with perceived relevance of the information as the dependent variable and two ANOVAs with intent to pursue the candidate as the dependent variable. As predicted in hypothesis 9 and 10, respondents perceived the information on profanity [F (1, 147) = 4.05, p = .046] and sexual activity [F (1, 146) = 17.87, p =.000] to be more relevant for female candidates than male candidates. Respondents were also less likely to pursue female candidates than male candidates who included profanity in their Facebook profile [F (1, 147) = 4.54, p = .03] or described their sexual activities, however, this difference was only marginally significant [F (1,146) = 3.58, p = .06]. Thus, hypothesis 13 was supported, but hypothesis 14 was only partially supported.

To examine the relative impact of the five types of information on respondents ratings of the relevance of the Facebook information, we conducted an ANOVA with repeated measures in which gender of the job candidate was entered as the between subjects variable and type of information was the within subjects variable. A significant main effect for both gender of the job candidate [F (1, 143) = 7.22, p =.008] and type of information [F (4, 143) = 3.31, p = .011] was found. The interaction between type of information and gender of the job candidate was only marginally

significant [F (1, 143) = 3.77, p = .07]. These results show that, in general, respondents were more likely to rate the information as being more relevant for female candidates than male candidates. To test for significant differences between means, we selected the pairwise comparison option in SPSS using the least significance difference test. These results show that Facebook profiles containing information related to sexual activities, alcohol use and profanity were considered less relevant than negative work-related attitudes or drug use.

To examine the relative impact of the five types of information on respondents’ intent to pursue the five job candidates, we conducted another ANOVA with repeated measures in which gender of the job candidate was entered as the between subjects variable and type of information was the within subjects variable. A significant main effect for both gender of the job candidate [F (1, 145) = 5.89, p =.016] and type of information [F (4, 145) = 6.11, p = .000] was found. The interaction between gender and type of information was not significant [F (4, 145) = .53, p = .71]. In general, respondents were more likely to pursue male candidates than female candidates. Once again, to test for significant differences between means, we selected the pairwise comparison option in SPSS using the least significance difference test. These results show that respondents were least likely to pursue job candidates with Facebook profiles containing information related to sexual activities, drug use and profanity, and most likely to purse those who included comments regarding negative work-related attitudes and alcohol use.

Finally, we conducted some post hoc analyses to determine whether our male respondents rated the candidates any differently than our female re- spondents. Two additional ANOVAs with repeated measures were conducted in which gender of the job candidate and gender of the respondent were entered as the between subjects variables and type of information was the within subjects variable. When relevance of the information was entered as the dependent variable, we found a significant

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Facebook Follies

main effect for gender of the respondent [F (1, 141) = 5.89, p =.016], gender of the job candidate [F (1, 141) = 7.91, p =.016], and type of informa- tion [F (4, 141) = 3.20, p = .013]. The interaction between type of information and gender of the job candidate was also significant [F (4, 141) = 4.21, p = .002]. These results show that female respondents, compared to male respondents, gave higher ratings regarding the relevance of all Face- book profile information (the estimated marginal means were 3.68 and 3.32 respectively, the stan- dard error for each was .11 and .10, respectively). The interaction between type of information and gender of the job candidate is shown in Figure 1. These results show that Facebook profile informa- tion regarding sexual activity is considered least relevant for male candidates but most relevant for female candidates. When intent to pursue the job candidate was entered as the dependent variable, we found a significant main effect for gender of the job candidate [F (1, 143) = 6.89, p =.01], and type of information [F (4, 143) = 5.91, p = .000]. The main effect for gender of respondent was only

marginally significant [F (1,143) = 2.77, p = .098] and there were no significant interactions.


In this study, we examined the impact of Facebook follies, or the posting of information regard- ing unacceptable work behaviors (i.e., negative work-related attitudes, alcohol abuse, drug use, profanity, and sexual activities) on respondents’ hiring decisions for hypothetical job candidates. Our intent was to determine: who suffers the most from Facebook follies, men or women? We also wanted to determine whether one type of infor- mation was more detrimental to job candidates than another.

Our results showed that all five types of infor- mation are considered relevant by our respondents and they indicated they would be unlikely to pursue candidates who posted such information. We also found that women are more likely than men to suffer negative consequences from such profile

Figure 1. Interaction between gender of job candidate and type of Facebook information on respondents ratings of information relevance

Figure 1. Interaction Between Gender of Job Candidate and Type of Facebook Information on Respondents Ratings of Information Relevance











Gender of Job Candidate

Sexual Activity Negative Attitude Drug Use

Alcohol Abuse Profanity

Male Female

Relevance of



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Facebook Follies

content. Our respondents rated the Facebook in- formation as being more relevant for female job candidates than male candidates and they were also more likely to pursue male candidates than female candidates who had posted such informa- tion. Regarding type of information, our results showed that negative work-related attitudes and drug use were considered more relevant to their decision than information related to sexual ac- tivities, alcohol use and profanity. However, our respondents indicated they would be less likely to pursue job candidates with Facebook profiles containing information related to sexual activi- ties, drug use and profanity than candidates who posted comments regarding negative work-related attitudes and alcohol use. While our earlier re- search (Peluchette & Karl, 2007) found that men are more likely than women to post extreme or risqué information on their social network profiles, the results of this study suggest that women are more likely to suffer in the job market if they post such information.

Given the potentially negative consequences of social networking profile content, college and universities have a responsibility to be proac- tive in advising students as to the risks involved in how they create and use their profiles. In particular, students should be advised not to include information regarding inappropriate work-related behaviors such as drug use, alco- hol use, profanity, sexual activities, or negative work-related attitudes. Such advice should also include the recommendation that students select privacy controls which will limit who can see their profile. Because many students participate in co-ops/internships during their college years, it is important that the risks associated with social networking activity and content be addressed in freshman orientation sessions and reinforced at various points during students’ college careers. Fraternities and sororities should also be active in ensuring that their members are aware of the potentially harmful impact of such information. As social organizations, Greek life often has a

reputation for excessive alcohol use which could have particularly negative consequences for fe- males. Most importantly, career services centers on college campuses should be heavily involved in ensuring that students are aware of this issue as they prepare to transition into the workforce. In addition, faculty who teach courses focused on career preparedness should also address this as part of their curriculum.

While our study provided some valuable insight into the relationship between Facebook postings and hiring decisions, we recognize that there are limitations that provide opportunities for further research. One limitation is that this study utilized a convenience sample of graduate students some of which had little or no hiring experience. Thus, our results may not be repre- sentative of most managers who make hiring deci- sions. Future research should utilize a sample of hiring managers. Another limitation of this study is that we did not include a “normal” Facebook profile for comparison purposes. That, is we do not know whether respondents would be less likely to pursue job candidates who post information regarding drug use, alcohol use, sexual activity, profanity or negative work-related attitudes than someone who posted common socially acceptable and politically correct information (e.g., he or she likes sports, going to movies, hanging out with friends, shopping, etc.). A third limitation is that our hypothetical candidates’ Facebook profiles were developed for maximum impact. That is, a very high quantity of information related to the variable of interest (e.g., profanity, drug use, etc.) was included in the job candidates’ profiles. It is possible that a small amount of profanity, or one comment about one’s sexual activities might not affect a hiring manager’s intent to pursue a can- didate. On the other hand, any mention of drug use may result in a candidate being rejected from further consideration. To address this limitation, future research should include profiles with both low and high levels of what we have referred to as Facebook follies.

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While this study has provided useful find- ings regarding the impact of social networking profile content on the employment process, it is important that both the use and implications of social networking continue to receive research attention. Given the widespread popularity of this communication medium for young people, further research will allow insight into both the negative and positive implications of profile con- tent and activity.


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Attachment 2

Future employment selection methods: evaluating social

networking web sites Donald H. Kluemper

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, and

Peter A. Rosen University of Evansville, Evansville, Indiana, USA


Purpose – The use of social networking web sites (SNWs), like Facebook and MySpace, has become extremely popular, particularly with today’s emerging workforce. Employers, aware of this phenomenon, have begun to use the personal information available on SNWs to make hiring decisions. The purpose of this paper is to examine the feasibility of using applicant personal information currently available on SNWs to improve employment selection decisions.

Design/methodology/approach – A total of 378 judge ratings (63 raters £ 6 subjects) are evaluated to determine if raters can reliably and accurately determine the big-five personality traits, intelligence, and performance based only on information available on SNWs. Interrater reliability is assessed to determine rater consistency, followed by an assessment of rater accuracy.

Findings – Based solely on viewing social networking profiles, judges are consistent in their ratings across subjects and typically able to accurately distinguish high from low performers. In addition, raters who are more intelligent and emotionally stable outperformed their counterparts.

Practical implications – Human resource (HR) professionals are currently evaluating social networking information prior to hiring applicants. Since SNWs contain substantial personal information which could be argued to cause adverse impact, academic studies are needed to determine whether SNWs can be reliable and valid predictors of important organizational criteria.

Originality/value – This paper is the first, as far as the authors are concerned, to address the use of SNWs in employment selection, despite their current utilization by HR practitioners.

Keywords Selection, Recruitment, Social networks, Internet

Paper type Research paper

Within the past few years, the phenomenon of social networking web sites (SNWs) on the internet has exploded into the mainstream. Further, this online information has begun to be used for purposes beyond its intended use. Owing to the vast amount of personal information on these web sites, employers have begun to tap into this information as a source of applicant data in an effort to improve hiring decisions. This study evaluates the use of the SNWs in employment selection. Specifically, can trained judges consistently and accurately assess important organizational characteristics such as personality, intelligence, and performance using only a target’s SNW information? In addition, the use of this information may lead to discrimination against applicants, given the wide range of available personal information such as gender, race, age, religion, and disability status otherwise illegal to use when making employment decisions.

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at


Employment selection methods


Journal of Managerial Psychology Vol. 24 No. 6, 2009

pp. 567-580 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited

0268-3946 DOI 10.1108/02683940910974134

Social networking web sites SNWs focus on building online communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services. SNWs are designed to connect users to each other and to visually display each individual’s network of friends. The number of users for these web sites and the daily traffic created by these web sites are staggering. According to the “About Us” section of the various sites, MySpace is the largest with over 248 million registered users. Other SNWs also have millions of users registered, such as Facebook (110 million), Friendster (85 million), Hi5 (80 million), Orkut/Google (37 million), and LinkedIn (25 million).

While these sites differ in the features that are available, most have a mechanism for posting pictures, music and videos, keeping blogs, sharing links, and displaying interests. These sites vary in user demographics. For example, although Facebook is currently open to anyone, it started as a high school and college web site exclusively, with about 90 percent of students registered for the site (van der Werf, 2006).

Social networking web sites in selection Owing to the increasing prevalence of SNWs in conjunction with the large volume of information available to the viewer, employers have begun using SNWs to assist in the selection process for new employees. About 50 percent of the employers attending college career fairs use online technology, including both search engines and SNWs to screen candidates (Shea and Wesley, 2006). Currently, between 20 (Framingham, 2008) and 25 percent (Taylor, 2007; NACE, 2006) of managers are using SNWs to screen candidates, with 40 percent indicating that they are likely to use them within the next year (Zeidner, 2007). These employers apparently feel justified in electronic screening using SNWs. The president of a small Chicago consulting firm, when asked about an applicant that applied for an internship and had questionable content on his page, replied, “A lot of it makes me think, what kind of judgment does this person have? Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly?” (Finder, 2006).

While it may be common practice to monitor web site content it may not be legal. Lance Chou, Director of Career Development at Stanford University, noted that:

[. . .] some employers might try and learn something about the student’s personality and whether it would be appropriate for the job. However, there is information on Facebook that is not relevant to the job, but may be used inappropriately by employers to assess a candidate (Fuller, 2006).

According to George Lenard, an employment attorney, employers can inadvertently learn about matters such as candidates’ age, marital status, and other topics typically are off limits in job interviews, and organizations can be sued for discrimination if these candidates are not hired (Frauenheim, 2006). The question of whether employer monitoring of SNWs is illegal may relate to equal employment opportunity (EEO) law. EEO severely limits the type of information an interviewer may ascertain and use. For example, during interviews employers may not ask questions regarding race, religion, sexual preference, or marital status. However, all of this information can be easily located using SNWs (Kowske and Southwell, 2006). The ethics and legality behind electronic screening using SNWs has become an important issue for human resource (HR) practitioners (Zeidner, 2007).

JMP 24,6


Since no academic studies, to our knowledge, have assessed whether using SNWs in employment selection are a reliable and valid predictor of important organizational outcomes, their value in employment screening is unknown. Until the reliability and validity of information on SNWs is established, employers should use caution when using SNWs to make hiring decisions. Just as with structured interview methods (Campion et al., 1997), focusing on job-related information in SNWs should minimize the use of less job-relevant information that might bias the hiring decision. This study focuses on showing the validity and reliability of three such categories of job-relevant characteristics which have potential to be rated consistently and accurately and to serve as valid predictors of job performance. The assessment of personality, intelligence, and a global measure of performance through SNWs provide multiple possible avenues regarding validity generalization of job-relevant characteristics, and thereby justifying the use of SNWs in the screening process.

Assessment of personality The 1990s have seen a huge growth in the use of personality assessment within personnel selection practice and research (Barrick and Mount, 1991; Frei and McDaniel, 1997; Ones et al., 1993; Salgado, 1998; Tett et al., 1991). These studies provide positive evidence for the criterion-related validity of personality. When it comes to the prediction of overall job performance, conscientiousness was found to be the best predictor, showing consistent predictions across all occupational groups. In addition, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism were shown to predict job performance in certain jobs. Finally, although typically unrelated to job performance, openness to experience has been found to predict training performance.

Beyond the predominant focus on self-reported personality assessment, personality can also be measured using other-ratings. It is well established that people can assess the personality of others, even after relatively short exposure, but that the accuracy of these assessments depends on the information available to the observer (Barrick et al., 2000). Observer ratings may be more valuable than self-ratings in employment selection, particularly when targets are not available for self-reports, self-reports are untrustworthy, and researchers wish to improve accuracy by aggregating multiple raters (Hofstee, 1994; McCrae and Weiss, 2007). Other-rated personality via SNWs seems quite promising in the selection context, since other-ratings of personality have been found to predict job performance. Motowidlo and colleagues (1996) found that interviewer-rated extroversion and conscientiousness (r ¼ 0.27 and 0.20, respectively) significantly predict supervisor rated job performance. In addition, Mount et al. (1994) show that observer ratings of extroversion and conscientiousness from supervisors, coworkers, and customers significantly predicts sales performance, even beyond self-rated personality.

The validity of other-rated personality, however, can depend on the relationship the subject has with the rater and the quality of the information available to the rater. A meta analysis conducted by Connolly and Viswesvaran (1998) show low accuracy for strangers in predicting personality and moderate prediction by peers for each of the big-five traits. In addition, Barrick et al. (2000) developed a personality-based job interview for the purpose of assessing the personality of the applicant. They found that personality-based job interviews could be used to accurately predict three of the big-five. Considering the average interview is approximately 40 minutes in length

Employment selection methods


(Campion et al., 1997), it appears that an interviewer can assess some aspects of personality as effectively as a close acquaintance of the applicant. We propose that the information available in SNWs provides a similar means to assess personality.

Furthermore, since SNW ratings are obtained from a wide range of personal information that is a reflection of ongoing behaviors and interactions with other users of the networks, web sites may actually provide unique information not found with other selection methods. Recent issues of Personnel Psychology (Morgeson et al., 2007a, b; Ones et al., 2007; Tett and Christiansen, 2007) and Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Hough and Oswald, 2008; Griffith and Peterson, 2008) have focused on the limited criterion validity of self-reported personality measures as well as the complex issue of social desirability and faking of self-reported personality measures. To increase validity and address issues of socially desirable responding “we should look at other ways of assessing personality. There are a variety of ways of finding out about people’s stable pattern of behavior” (Morgeson et al., 2007a, b, p. 719). SNWs may prove to be an appropriate means of assessing personality in this way. Beyond personality assessment, similar issues emerge in relation to a host of employment selection methods. Resumes, interviews, job applications, and many other forms of employee selection include a certain element of self-presentation, reflecting “maximal” instead of “typical” work performance (Sackett, 2007; Sackett et al., 1988). Employment selection methods using social networking are likely to be based on “typical” behaviors, and therefore may be more accurate than other selection methods. At a minimum, this method should provide information that is distinct from “maximal” selection methods, thereby allowing for a stronger likelihood that using SNWs will yield incremental validity beyond established methods of employment selection[1].

This is not to say that SNWs are not susceptible to manipulation and faking, similar to that of self-report personality measures and job interviews. In fact, as users of SNWs become more aware that their profiles are being evaluated by potential employers, information provided on profiles is likely to be skewed in an effort to be viewed more favorably. However, there are aspects of SNWs which would make the process of skewing information difficult. Much of the information present in a given social networking profile is submitted by other members of the network, such as tagged photos and writing on another’s wall[2]. Although some negative information can be deleted by the user, the user has more limited control over this aspect of their profile. In addition, some of the information controlled by the users themselves would be difficult to fake. For example, extroversion may be tied to the number of friends a user has in the social network. Artificially inflating a substantial number of friends in the network would pose great difficulty, as the user cannot control who accepts their friend request. As another example, rater assessment of personality traits might be drawn in part from photos, which are similarly difficult to fake. Thus, while faking would appear to be an issue, it is likely that the impact of faking is less than with other selection methods. Future research should assess the impact of faking in the context of SNWs.

Despite the potential for faking, Vazire and Gosling (2004) used personal web sites to accurately assess personality. Although personal web sites are similar in some ways to SNWs, they are used by such a small percentage of potential applicants that they are impractical for purposes of employment selection. In addition, SNWs provide additional information not included in personal web sites, such as a list of the user’s friends and a list of the interest groups a user has joined. However, Vazire and Gosling

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provide initial evidence for the accurate prediction of personality using personal information available on the internet.

The types of information available on SNWs may be particularly effective in predicting the big-five personality traits. SNWs contain various sources of information which could be used to assess behaviors related to personality. For example, the types and number of interest groups the user has joined, comments that have been left for the user, comments made by the user on other people’s “walls,” “tagging” photos, updating “status messages”[3], and listing books and intellectual interests in the “personal information” section[4]. These examples provide only a very preliminary introduction to the various sources of personal information available in SNWs which might indicate an individual’s personality. It should also be noted that the use of SNWs may vary based on characteristics beyond personality. For example, an individual who is more adept with this form of technology may be more likely to participate in social networking and may post more information more frequently than those individuals lacking in these technological skills. Since age has been shown to relate to technology acceptance and use (Morris and Venkatesh, 2000), this also brings the issue of age into the possible groups which could be adversely impacted by the use of this type of technology by HR departments in hiring. Future research should explore this issue further.

Assessment of intelligence Since the very earliest research on personnel selection, cognitive ability has been one of the major methods used to attempt to discriminate between candidates and to predict subsequent job performance (Robertson and Smith, 2001). Intelligence is the single most effective predictor known of individual performance at school and on the job (Gottfredson, 1998), accounting for approximately 25 percent of the variance in job performance (Hunter and Hunter, 1984). Cognitive ability provides criterion-related validity that generalizes across more or less all occupational areas (Robertson and Smith, 2001). In addition, judge ratings of intelligence have been shown to predict intelligence test scores (Borkenau et al., 2004). Furthermore, biographical data have been shown to predict intelligence (Schmidt and Hunter, 1998). These results provide some evidence that assessment of intelligence should be viable within the context of SNWs.

Assessment of global performance Beyond personality and intelligence, SNWs may also contain additional information which may be useful in employment selection. Owing to the large volume of information contained in SNWs, information may also be obtained which relate to the user’s writing skills, job experiences, or a variety of knowledge, skills, abilities, or other criteria which might relate to job or organizational fit in a given employment selection context. A more global assessment of performance would include a variety of information. In fact, due to the broad range of information available on SNWs and the lack of consistency in this information across individuals, the approach of assessing broad characteristics is likely to be more practical than assessing more narrow aspects of social networking profiles that may be unavailable and/or inconsistent for a large segment of the profiles.

Employment selection methods


Rater consensus/interrater agreement Furr and Funder (2007) identify rater consensus as the first psychometric concern when assessing characteristics through judge-rated behavioral observation. Thus, the primary focus of this paper, as the first to address the potential use of SNW information for the purpose of employment selection, is to focus on the issue of rater consensus.

To the degree to which SNWs provide a distinguishable and consistent basis of evaluation, judges will reach a certain level of consensus in their impressions of these SNWs. Thus, consensus is expected across judges:

H1. Ratings of the big-five dimensions of personality, intelligence, and performance based on SNW information are consistent across raters.

Accuracy of ratings A second psychometric concern is that of validity (Furr and Funder, 2007). If rater consensus is established, the next step will be to establish various forms of validity. This study evaluates validity by assessing whether judges are accurate in their assessment of personality intelligence, and performance.

Personality, intelligence, and performance impressions based on judge assessments have been shown to be quite accurate, even when the amount of information is limited (Borkenau et al., 2004). This growing body of research suggests that people have a natural talent for judging one another accurately (Vazire and Gosling, 2004). Given the high volume of information available to assess behavioral cues on SNWs, a suitable level of accuracy is expected:

H2. Raters assessing an individual’s personality, intelligence, and performance through SNWs are able to distinguish between those individuals who are high on each characteristic from those who are low on that characteristic.

Method Participants and procedures This study was conducted at a large public university in the southern USA. A total of 63 students enrolled in an employment selection course participated in this project for course credit. Participants were 49 percent male, 90 percent Caucasian, averaged 24 years of age, and worked an average of 26 hours per week. Participants had prerequisites in HRs and statistics. As part of the employment selection course, these participants were trained in both personality/intelligence testing and effective utilization of rating scales, participated in a one hour training session for this project (reviewing the definitions of the big-five personality traits, general mental ability, and academic performance; viewing Facebook profiles to identify specific information which could be used to assess the focal characteristics of the study; and familiarizing the participants with the rating form to be used when conducting the assessments), and participated in a series of practice assessments prior to conducting the ratings for this study (an assignment to evaluate SNWs and identify specific information that could be used to assess each of the focal characteristics of the study, follow-up class discussion of these observations, and a practice session in which each participant conducted two assessments of current Facebook users by using the researcher designed rating form). All participants had personal involvement with SNWs. Participants were asked to spend ten minutes evaluating each of the six social networking profiles, consider multiple

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aspects of the profiles which could relate to a specific trait, then complete the rating form based on their overall impression of the social networking profile.

The choice of the three male and three female social networking profiles was randomly generated from a list of volunteers in an introductory management course. Along with volunteering to have their SNWs evaluated[5], the volunteers also completed demographics and personality questionnaires, an intelligence test, and consented to allow the researchers to obtain their grade point average (GPA) from the university registrar.

Measures Judge ratings of big-five personality traits – measured with 25 items from the bipolar adjective checklist (Goldberg, 1992) on a nine-point scale.

Judge ratings of general mental ability – a single item measure was used to measure intelligence quotient (IQ) based on Reilly and Mulhern (1995). Judges were asked to “Estimate the user’s IQ. Remember that the average IQ is 100, and one-sixth of the population have IQs less than 85, with one-sixth scoring over 115.”

Judge ratings of performance – a single item measure was used to measure academic performance based on the format used to measure IQ. Judges were asked to “Estimate the user’s GPA. Remember that an average GPA is 3.0 and the maximum is 4.0.”

Ratee self-reported big-five personality traits (referred to as true scores) – measured with 150 items from the international personality item pool – IPIP (Goldberg et al., 2006) on a five-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The as ranged from 0.92 for conscientiousness to 0.81 for openness.

Ratee general mental ability (IQ true score) – measured with the Wonderlic personnel test (Wonderlic, 2000), a 12 minute/50 question timed test of intelligence.

Ratee performance (performance true score) – academic performance was obtained via GPA from the University Registrar. Although academic performance is less ideal than job performance in the context of employment selection, it represents an objective measure to test the hypotheses presented.

Results The as for the judge ratings of personality were calculated for each of the six ratees. These six as were then averaged for each of the big-five to estimate the overall internal consistency of the scales. In order to assess H1, interrater agreement in the form of average measures intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) for the judge ratings are included in Table I. The scaled scores for the big-five personality traits and the single item scores for IQ and performance were evaluated for interrater agreement. The 378 total ratings (63 raters £ 6 ratings each) were used to calculate the ICCs. The ICC values were all adequate, ranging from 0.93 for extroversion to 0.99 for conscientiousness and performance. Since ICCs are expected to be higher with a larger number of raters, Table II also includes the number of raters for each characteristic which would be necessary to achieve a 0.50 ICC value. Although there are no guidelines for level of agreement, 0.50 was used in the analyses as it should provide a minimum level of acceptable agreement across judges. The Spearman Brown prophecy formula was used to determine how many raters would be required to obtain an adequate (0.50) ICC value. Based on the 63 raters from this study, it was determined that between two (for conscientiousness and performance) and six (for emotional stability

Employment selection methods


and extroversion) raters would be required to obtain a satisfactory level of interrater agreement.

H2was evaluated by conducting t-tests on score means in order to determine whether or not the means are statistically different from one another. In order to determine which means to test, the true scores (self-reported big-five personality scores, intelligence scores, and GPA) of the six rated subjects were evaluated. For each of the seven characteristics, the individual with the highest true score and the individual with the lowest true score were selected for analysis. Judge mean ratings for these subjects were then compared to determine whether or not raters are able to distinguish individuals high on a characteristic from those low on the same characteristic. This method also allows for evaluation of the direction of the relationship, such that (in addition to evaluating mean differences) the judge rating of the subject with the higher true score should be higher than the judge rating of the lower true score. Results demonstrate that the mean judge ratings for the subject highest on the seven characteristics were statistically different from the subjects lowest on those characteristics. In addition, with the exception of openness to experience, the judges mean ratings were higher for those with the highest true score, indicating the ability of judges to distinguish the traits of conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extroversion, intelligence, and performance by evaluating SNWs[6].

Post hoc analyses were conducted to determine the impact of intelligence and personality on judge consistency and accuracy. Prior research has demonstrated mixed findings related to the impact of personality traits of the rater on rating accuracy.

High ratee score Low ratee score n S# SS RM S# SS RM T

Conscientiousness 63 6 4.07 8.03 2 3.50 7.65 2.77 *

Emotional stability 63 5 3.33 6.29 3 2.17 5.80 3.00 *

Agreeableness 63 6 4.27 8.04 5 3.57 7.26 6.12 *

Openness 63 3 3.78 5.51 1 3.46 6.37 6.34 *

Extroversion 63 1 4.10 7.65 2 3.40 6.85 5.99 *

IQ 63 6 26 110.4 3 17 94.7 13.53 *

Performance 63 6 3.94 3.57 2 1.81 3.46 2.78 *

Notes: *p , 0.05; S#, subject; SS, subject score (true scores); RM, rater mean score

Table II. Differences in judge ratings means comparing high and low ratee scores

a ICC No. of raters

Conscientiousness 0.92 0.99 2 Emotional stability 0.83 0.94 6 Agreeableness 0.80 0.98 3 Openness to experience 0.87 0.98 3 Extroversion 0.85 0.93 6 IQ 0.98 3 Performance 0.99 2

Notes: n ¼ 378 ratings (63 raters £ 6 ratings each); number of raters indicates the number of raters which would be required in a future study in order to obtain a 0.50 ICC value

Table I. Judge rating as and ICCs

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Ambady et al. (1995) found that less sociable (extroverted) raters were more accurate, while Lippa and Dietz (2000) found that only openness indicated more accurate raters. In addition, narcissistic raters have been found to be less accurate (John and Robbins, 1994), which may be relevant to the big-five since narcissism relates strongly to neuroticism. Finally, intelligence has also been reported to positively relate to rater accuracy (Lippa and Dietz, 2000). In the current study, the 63 judges were asked to take the same intelligence and personality tests as the SNW subjects. The analyses conducted above were then re-evaluated based on high versus low groups based on intelligence and the big-five. Results show no difference in interrater agreement based on these characteristics. However, judges who are more intelligent and more emotionally stable were shown to be more accurate in their judgments. More specifically, when the raters were split into high and low groups based on intelligence scores (the 31 highest scores versus the 31 lowest scores), the high intelligence group significantly and more accurately differentiated between high and low characteristics for conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness, and performance. For example, with all 63 raters combined, the difference between rater means for conscientiousness in Table II is 0.38 (8.03 for the high ratee score and 7.65 for the low ratee score). When assessing high and low intelligence raters independently, the mean difference for the 31 high intelligence raters is 0.61, but only 0.14 for the 31 low intelligence raters. Thus, more intelligent raters seem to be more capable of assessing this trait than less intelligent raters. Similarly, raters who are the most emotionally stable also rate more accurately for conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness, and performance. For example, the mean difference across raters for high and low ratee conscientiousness is again 0.38, but is 0.73 for the 31 raters who are the most emotionally stable and 0.03 for the 31 raters who are the least emotionally stable. These results indicate the potential need for researchers to consider intelligence and emotional stability when selecting individuals who will serve as raters of characteristics such as personality.

Discussion Based on the large volume of personal information available on SNWs, judges’ ratings of the big-five dimensions of personality, intelligence, and global performance were consistent across the 63 raters in this study, demonstrating adequate internal consistency reliability and interrater agreement. In addition, the trained raters were able to accurately distinguish between individuals who scored high and individuals who scored low on four of the big-five personality traits, intelligence, and performance, providing initial evidence that raters can accurately determine these organizationally relevant traits by viewing SNW information.

As stated earlier, other rated personality has been shown to predict job performance. Considering that other methods of other-reported personality are unlikely to be viable in an employment selection context, SNW ratings of personality may be a practical approach. Owing to the theoretical and methodological differences between self-reported and other-rated personality, it is likely that ratings of personality via SNWs will provide a context for incremental prediction of job performance beyond the predominant self-report approach. In addition, the differences in context between SNWs and a job interview (i.e. socially desirable responding in the job interview as well as the unique nature of information contained in SNWs) should similarly allow for unique prediction of job performance beyond what can be evaluated through

Employment selection methods


personality assessment in the employment interview. This approach may be particularly valuable since these assessments take only a fraction of the time involved with other selection methods.

This study is not without limitations. Although the analyses testing the consistency of the relationships of SNW ratings are based on 378 judge ratings from 63 raters, the analyses testing rater accuracy were conducted by testing for significant differences between the high and low performer on the seven characteristics for only six subjects. Future research should assess accuracy over a larger sample of subjects.

We hope that the results of this preliminary study will not be used by organizations to support their use of SNWs in employment selection. Without further validation in a variety of studies, with larger samples and in a variety of organizational contexts, caution should be used when interpreting the implications of this study. This is particularly true given the potential for employer legal liability due to the vast amount of personal information available on SNWs. Information regarding gender, race, age, disabilities, and other criteria which should not be used when making hiring decisions will most certainly, consciously or not, influence who gets hired. Even if this information does not bias the hiring decision, disparate impact issues may still exist. Future research should also examine the potential issues of adverse impact and potentially illegal information in hiring decisions using personal information from SNWs. In addition, research should be conducted to compare assessments of SNWs to other employment selection methods, such as personality assessment, intelligence testing, and employment interviews.

Based on the relative absence of research evidence in this newly developing area, particularly regarding the potential for adverse impact and the lack of validity evidence, we believe the most important practical implication of this paper is for organizations to use SNWs with these issues in mind. Organizational representatives assessing SNWs should ask themselves two important questions. First, is the organization assessing (or could be perceived as assessing) information which could lead to discrimination against a legally protected group? Second, is the specific social networking information used to help make a hiring decision valid in determining who will perform better on the job? The approach used in this paper of assessing personality traits, intelligence, or general performance begin to provide answers to these questions.


1. Special thanks to an anonymous reviewer for pointing out the “maximal”/“typical” performance distinction.

2. A wall, similar to a guestbook on other web sites, is a forum for the friends of the user to post comments to the user in an open forum where all of the user’s friends can see. This is different from a message that goes only to the user, and cannot be seen by others. By tagging a photo, both the user and the user’s friends have the ability to indicate that the particular user appears in a photo. Both user posted photos and photos where the user has been tagged appear on the users profile in the photos section. The user has the ability to “untag” or remove the link between the picture and his or her profile, but the picture will still remain on the page of the friend who uploaded the picture.

3. Status messages are a way for the user to briefly tell their friends what they are currently doing, how they are feeling, or any other short message that they would like to convey to their friend list. Status messages are often times the area of the social networking page that

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gets updated most frequently, with some users changing their status message multiple times a day.

4. Personal information lists the user’s activities, interests, and favorite movies, books, television shows, and quotations, and is a way for the user’s friends to get a better understanding of the user.

5. It is unknown whether or the degree to which these participants made modifications to their Facebook profile after agreeing to allow their profiles to be evaluated for research purposes. However, the potential for altering a profile parallels situations in which these Facebook users might choose to alter their profile when applying for a job, since it is now widely known that employers may potentially assess these profiles during the employment selection process. Future research should assess the degree to which SNW users attempt to modify their profiles in these situations.

6. Based on a suggestion from one of the anonymous reviewers, we also assessed H2 based on the magnitude of the correlation coefficients between Facebook-ratings and “true scores,” since this approach includes all six of the Facebook users in the sample instead of just the high and low performer for each characteristic. Owing to the extremely small sample size, this approach is problematic, even considering the large number of items and raters used to generate the scores. However, due to the novelty of the research question and the exploratory nature of this study, we agree that this analysis may provide additional insight into the proposed relationships. Results indicate that four of the seven proposed relationships have medium to large effect sizes (Cohen, 1988). Specifically, conscientiousness (0.40), agreeableness, (0.38), extroversion (0.52), and performance (0.32). Emotional stability and IQ were small (0.07 and 20.01, respectively), while openness was once again negatively associated. These results provide additional evidence that measuring job-relevant characteristics using SNWs may be a valid method of assessment.


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Further reading

McCain, J. (2008), “McCain says using Google to vet VP candidates”, Yahoo News, available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080609/wr_nm/usa_politics_mccain_google_dc (accessed June 12, 2008).

Motowidlo, S.J., Burnett, J.R., Maczynski, J., Witkowski, S., Wojtachnio, A. and Chelpa, S. (1996), “Predicting managerial job performance from personality ratings based on structured interview: an international replication”, Polish Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 27, pp. 139-51.

About the authors Donald H. Kluemper is an Assistant Professor and Robert and Patricia Hines Professor of Management at Louisiana State University. He received his PhD from the Department of Management at Oklahoma State University. He is a member of the Academy of Management, American Psychological Association, Southern Management Association, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. His research interests include employment selection, personality testing, intelligence testing, and emotional intelligence. His research has been published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, International Journal of Selection and Assessment, and Personality and Individual Differences. Donald H. Kluemper is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected]

Peter A. Rosen is an Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems at the University of Evansville, Indiana. He received his PhD from the Department of Management Science and Information Systems at Oklahoma State University. He is a member of the Decision Sciences Institute, Association for Information Systems, INFORMS, and the Academy of Management. His research interests include social networking technology, data privacy and security, technology acceptance, personal innovativeness, and statistics in sports. His research has been published in the Journal of Database Management, the International Journal of Information and Computer Security, the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, and the Journal of the Academy of Business Education.

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Attachment 3

The Writing on the (Facebook) Wall: The Use of Social Networking Sites in Hiring Decisions

Victoria R. Brown • E. Daly Vaughn

Published online: 4 May 2011

� Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Abstract The popular media has reported an increase in

the use of social networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook

by hiring managers and human resource professionals

attempting to find more detailed information about job

applicants. Within the peer-reviewed literature, cursory

empirical evidence exists indicating that others’ judgments

of characteristics or attributes of an individual based on

information obtained from SNSs may be accurate.

Although this predictor method provides a potentially

promising source of applicant information on predictor

constructs of interest, it is also fraught with potential lim-

itations and legal challenges. The level of publicly avail-

able data obtainable by employers is highly unstandardized

across applicants, as some applicants will choose not to use

SNSs at all while those choosing to use SNSs customize

the degree to which information they share is made public

to those outside of their network. It is also unclear how

decision makers are currently utilizing the available

information. Potential discrimination may result through

employer’s access to publicly available pictures, videos,

biographical information, or other shared information that

often allows easy identification of applicant membership to

a protected class. For the practice to progress in a positive

direction, evidence for the validity and job-relevance of

information obtained from SNSs needs to be established.

Organizational researchers and practitioners also need to

promote awareness and attempt to create safeguards

against the potential negative outcomes related to misuse of

SNSs by employers.

Keywords Personnel selection � Legal issues � Social networking sites � Social media � Discrimination � Prescreening

According to recent reports in the popular media, an

increasing number of hiring managers are utilizing social

networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook (http://www.

facebook.com), MySpace (http://www.myspace.com), and

Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) to aide in screening and

selecting applicants (e.g., Clark 2006; Grasz 2009). A 2009

survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com found that 45% of

over 2600 hiring managers reported searching SNSs to

learn about job candidates, an increase from the 22%

reported in 2008 (Grasz 2009). Despite the growing use of

this screening method, a search of relevant databases

(PsycINFO, Business Source Primer) indicates that no

research currently exists in peer-reviewed outlets investi-

gating the practical and legal consequences for employers

utilizing this practice or assessing the validity of this method.

Instead, research has examined the social implications of site

membership (e.g., identity formation; Goodings et al. 2007)

and the factors influencing the type of content shared by users

(e.g., Peluchette and Karl 2010).

Given the expanding percentage of employers using

SNSs to gather data on applicants (cf., Grasz 2009 and Du

2007), it is reasonable to expect this practice to affect

various human resource decisions, including hiring, train-

ing, promotion, and termination. The focus of the current

article was to address the use of SNSs within the hiring

process. The objectives are: (a) to create awareness of the

potential negative outcomes related to misuse of SNSs by

V. R. Brown � E. D. Vaughn Department of Psychology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL,


V. R. Brown (&) Department of Psychology, Roosevelt University, 1400 N.

Roosevelt Blvd, Schaumburg, IL 60173, USA

e-mail: [email protected]


J Bus Psychol (2011) 26:219–225

DOI 10.1007/s10869-011-9221-x

employers, (b) to discuss validation and legal issues related

to using this predictor method, and (c) to discuss the

practical implications for organizations and directions for

future research associated with using SNSs for hiring/

screening decisions.

Defining and Describing Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites allow users to create web-based

profiles where individuals can interact. SNSs ‘‘allow indi-

viduals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile

within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users

with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and

traverse their list of connections and those made by others

within the system’’ (Boyd and Ellison 2007, p. 3). A typical

profile may contain images, videos, and biographical

information about the individual. There may be a forum

where other users can write public or private messages.

Many sites allow users to post real-time updates of their

thoughts or actions. The profile owner has control over

most of the information presented, and can adjust the pri-

vacy settings to manage how much of that information is

made public. Generally, the friends, family, and colleagues

within a user’s ‘‘network’’ are given more access to profile

information than the general public.

In recent years, the popularity of SNSs has increased rap-

idly. Founded in February 2004, Facebook is now the largest

SNS in the world (Holahan 2008). Usage statistics reported on

the website at the time of this writing indicate that Facebook

supports over 500 million active users (defined as users

viewing the website within the past 30 days; Facebook, Inc.,

2011, February). As the line between public and private life

becomes more blurred, employers are beginning to examine

available information on the internet from SNSs such as

Facebook that may not be accessible from reviewing a résumé

or conducting an interview.

This screening procedure affords several benefits to

organizations. Social networking sites provide a readily

available public forum to research candidates while

incurring minimal cost, allowing even small businesses to

engage in such practices. The information on SNSs may

provide further evidence related to the veracity of infor-

mation presented on an applicant’s résumé (e.g., education

and work experience). In addition, potential employers

may have access to detailed information that would allow

them to draw conclusions or make inferences about the

applicant’s character or personality that might not be as

easily or economically obtained through traditional means.

Such information may increase or decrease the likelihood

that a candidate is considered for further review.

In the 2009 CareerBuilder survey, 35% of employers

reported not hiring an applicant due to detrimental

information found on a SNS (Grasz 2009). Reasons for

screening out ranged from applicants posting provocative

or inappropriate photographs or information, displaying

poor communication skills, conveying information associ-

ated with alcohol or illegal drug use, revealing information

that falsifies qualifications listed in a résumé, and posting

content disparaging previous work associates. The survey

also revealed that applicants’ profiles may enhance their

chances of being hired or selected for consideration by

providing supportive evidence of their listed qualifications,

portraying a profile indicative of being a good fit with the

employer, and displaying creativity and positive commu-

nication skills. In fact, professional SNSs such as LinkedIn

(http://www.LinkedIn.com) are tailored to provide users

opportunities to market themselves for career opportunities

(e.g., a user can receive recommendations from previous

employers and colleagues which will then be displayed on

the user’s profile). Despite the promising potential that

reviewing SNSs may have for employers, unfettered use of

this screening method presents several legal and ethical

considerations that must be addressed.

Risks Associated with Misuse of SNSs by Employers

Several opportunities for employer misuse must be con-

sidered by organizations when creating policies regarding

searching SNSs in the screening/hiring process. Employers

who choose to use SNSs as an informal method of pre-

dicting applicant employability have many issues to con-

sider. Current risks with informal SNS searches include

perceptions of invasion of applicant privacy, lack of clearly

identifiable theoretical constructs used in the screening

process, and the absence of data to support that the infor-

mation used in screening is job relevant. Another contro-

versial issue surrounding the use of SNSs is the variability

in type and amount of information publicly available across

an applicant pool. This inevitable reality prevents a com-

pletely standardized collection of predictor information

across all applicants. In addition to these concerns, appli-

cants’ shared information might be distorted by social

desirability or high levels of self-monitoring. Finally,

employers must consider the role of context in considering

employability of applicants.

Information on the internet is publicly searchable, and in

itself does not constitute an invasion of applicant privacy.

It is each applicant’s responsibility to maintain their own

privacy settings and monitor information that is publicly

viewable. However, employers must ensure that the poli-

cies enacted by human resource professionals do not

invoke a breach in applicant privacy. In June of 2009, the

city of Bozeman, Montana required all applicants to pro-

vide user names and passwords for ‘‘any and all, current

220 J Bus Psychol (2011) 26:219–225


personal or business Web sites, Web pages or memberships

on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums,

to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,

YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.’’ (Ricker 2009). The city of

Bozeman initially defended this practice by stating that it

was similar to other methods of background investigation.

However, in light of nationwide headlines decrying the

practice it was immediately discontinued. The Bozeman

case illustrates the importance of considering privacy

issues when implementing practices for using SNSs as a

method of investigating applicants.

In addition to invasion of applicant privacy, employers

must give conceptual consideration to the constructs they

are assessing when conducting employment screens. Other

than preliminary survey results, it is uncertain what infor-

mation employers are using in their decision making pro-

cess. This is problematic because the job-relevance of the

constructs indicated by this information cannot be ascer-

tained. According to popular media reports on the use of

SNSs in making selection decisions (c.f. Grasz 2009), some

of the information utilized may not be directly job related.

Without arguments for job-relevance, there is no legal basis

to make screening decisions of applicants based on data

garnered from a SNS profile. In addition, the lack of

standardization from profile to profile will make estab-

lishing job-relevant criteria across candidates incredibly


Variability in available information due to the custom-

izability of users’ privacy settings also threatens the stan-

dardized use of SNSs in the hiring process. This lack of

standardization in turn likely hampers the reliability of the

predictor information that may be used when making

selection decisions. In a typical hiring context, managers

will be gaining access to different levels of information

among a pool of applicants. Some applicants might not use

SNSs or may select very stringent privacy settings for

individuals not in their network. Managers might then be at

risk of providing preferential consideration early in the

hiring process based in part on applicants’ personal pref-

erences for privacy settings or general use of SNSs.

Hiring managers electing to peruse information about

candidates are also at risk of committing the fundamental

attribution error (Harvey et al. 1981; Ross 1977), which

occurs when information is construed to be representative

of the person in question regardless of context. While

research indicates that SNS profiles may be an accurate

reflection of the owner (Back et al. 2010; Gosling et al.

2008), negative information or impressions conveyed

through the applicant’s personal profile may not be con-

sidered in the proper context, and could therefore result in a

hasty rejection decision. A recent conference panel dis-

cussion exemplified this potential misuse by providing

photographs of a female asleep on a bathroom floor

(Davison et al. 2009, April). Without context, it could be

assumed that she consumed too much alcohol. As the

panelists discussed, there are other plausible explanations

for the photograph (e.g., jokingly creating the photograph

with friends; being a victim of a practical joke after falling

asleep; asleep on the floor as a result of a medical


Even under the assumption that the photograph accu-

rately portrays an excessively inebriated individual; the

employer may still be putting themselves at legal risk by

using this evidence as a basis for screening out an appli-

cant. Imagine that in addition to finding the photograph of

the applicant on the bathroom floor, a hiring manager

discovers several pictures uploaded by friends of the

applicant which indicate heavy or excessive use of alcohol.

The employer then determines that the applicant is no

longer suitable for consideration and indicates evidence of

excessive drinking as the reason for removing the applicant

from consideration. As discussed by Davison et al. (2009,

April) this may be considered a violation in accordance

with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA 1990) as

subsequently augmented by the ADA Amendment Act of

2008 (ADAAA). In accordance with the ADA, a qualified

person with a disability is one whom can perform the

essential functions of the job with or without reasonable

accommodation. Alcoholism (or alcohol dependence) is

currently covered under the ADAAA; however, an

employer may deny employment to an applicant whose use

of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct

(EEOC 2008). Suppose this applicant is alcohol dependent

and, since being photographed consuming alcohol, has

undergone a substance abuse treatment program and has no

record of continued use. A hiring manager may unknow-

ingly discriminate by denying access of the applicant in the

hiring process on the basis of a covered disability (Davison

et al. 2009, April).

Establishing Validity

Currently, one of the most problematic issues surrounding

the use of SNSs in selection or screening is the dearth of

validity evidence supporting the appropriateness of using

this method to gather information. Despite the emphasized

critical importance of following selection system validation

procedures in professional guidelines (e.g., AERA 1999;

EEOC 1978; SIOP 2003), no research has investigated the

content or criterion-related validity of the information

gathered by employers. Without well-documented evi-

dence for validity, the conclusions drawn by managers on

the basis of profile searches may be tenuous at best and

might furthermore result in undocumented discriminatory

actions. Consistent with the weaknesses surrounding the

J Bus Psychol (2011) 26:219–225 221


use of unstructured interviews (see Guion 1998), the use of

informal decision making methods not supported with

validity evidence in the hiring process may increase the

likelihood of legal repercussions.

Evidence for the content validity of information gath-

ered using SNSs as a method of screening applicants

should first be established. The authors make an important

distinction in explicitly recognizing that searching SNSs

provides what Arthur and Villado (2008) refer to as a

predictor method by which employers indirectly ascertain

information related to predictor constructs. The implica-

tion of this distinction is that organizations must consider

what constructs are represented by the information

obtained through SNSs and whether that information is job-

relevant to establish validity. Subject matter experts within

an organization should candidly discuss the current use of

SNSs as a hiring method, including considerations of what

information is gathered and under what circumstances.

Examples of overtly job related information that could be

gathered by hiring personnel include posted images created

by a graphic design applicant or photographs posted by an

applicant looking to fill a photographer position. In such

cases, content validation might be relatively straightfor-

ward. Hiring managers could support the legal defensibility

by directly linking the information gathered to tasks or

competencies listed in a carefully documented job analysis.

However, Grasz (2009) survey results indicate that much of

the information that hiring managers report using may not

be explicitly job related. In these instances, it may be

indicative of a higher-order construct that is job relevant,

such as cognitive ability, personality, professionalism,

written communication skills, or person-organization fit, to

name a few. A current and detailed job analysis providing

construct-task linkages could be used to support that the

information gathered from a SNS reflects a knowledge,

skill, ability, or other characteristic needed to perform job


It is reasonable to question the accuracy of information

provided from examining SNSs as a reflection of higher

order constructs, but initial research is promising. Back

et al. (2010) indicated that associations can be found

between actual personality and ratings of personality pro-

vided by viewers of users’ SNS profiles. Back et al. found

that ratings of all of the Big 5 dimensions of personality

except Neuroticism correlated with aggregated indepen-

dent ratings of personality by viewers of user profiles (r’s

ranged from .27 to .41 with Extraversion and Openness

being most strongly related). Furthermore, ratings provided

by independent viewers of SNS users were not incremen-

tally influenced by the users’ idealized personality self-

image, indicating that SNS profiles can reveal accurate

representations of applicants’ personality. Moreover, Gos-

ling et al. (2008) found that close acquaintances of SNS

users report that the users have presented themselves

accurately on their profiles. This high rate of agreement

may be due to the inability of users to tailor their impres-

sions to suit a specific audience, forcing them to compro-

mise by presenting the most stable aspects of their

personality (Kramer and Winter 2008). This finding is

consistent with previous research asserting that people

present themselves more truthfully to larger audiences

(Schlenker 1980). However, as is true of résumés, biodata

inventories, self-report measures, and other information

provided during the hiring process, profile owners may

choose to present information in a socially desirable

manner. While studies provide encouraging evidence that

online profiles can contain accurate reflections of their

users, managers should keep in mind the potential to

manage impressions by users.

Once information on a SNS is tied to job-relevant con-

structs, a rubric for assessing profiles could facilitate

unbiased collection of information across individuals, as

well as documenting the information collected in case of

future litigation. While lack of standardization may make

the creation of such a rubric difficult, a critical incident

approach may be useful in developing exemplars for

managers to refer to as indicators of positive and negative

profile information related to the constructs of interest.

Once a formalized rubric for gathering information has

been created, organizations could benefit from evaluating

the systematic use of SNSs as a screening method through

concurrent and predictive validity studies. Provided that

organizations could demonstrate incremental validity, it

would still be prudent for practitioners and researchers to

excogitate the legal risks associated with conducting


Legal Implications

The information available through SNSs introduces a series

of unique legal issues and challenges. Social networking

sites easily allow the potential for individual biases to

affect hiring and screening decisions. Previous field

research has demonstrated that the rate of applicant call-

back differs when submitted résumés provide prototypical

Caucasian names versus prototypical African American

names, with résumés listed under Caucasian names being

50% more likely to receive a callback for an interview

(Bertrand and Mullainathan 2004). In efforts to predict

organizational behavior, behavioral scientists have long

recognized the significance of situational strength in

varying the capacity of expression of individual differences

(Mischel 1968). Much like the hiring manager that may

shuffle through a stack of résumés in a private location,

conducting online searches of applicants provides the

222 J Bus Psychol (2011) 26:219–225


hiring manager a ‘weak’ situation in contrast to more for-

mal selection practices such as administration of a work

sample test. In these weak situations, the manager may

more easily express biases based on any number of pro-

tected group status information that can be amassed from

SNSs. This is particularly true in organizations that still do

not have a formalized policy in place or a rubric by which

to document the information gathered.

Employers are not currently required to disclose what

information on a SNS was used in making screening

decisions, which may allow managers to discriminate

against candidates. In fact, through an online search it is

often possible for employers to discreetly identify (unin-

tentionally or otherwise) information related to protected

group status as covered by all major federal employment

discrimination laws. This information includes applicants’

race, color, religion, sex, national origin (covered under

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964); age (covered by

the Age Discrimination in Employment Act [ADEA] of

1967); and disability status (covered by the Americans with

Disabilities Act [ADA] of 1990). In support of the avail-

ability of protected group information accessible through

SNSs, a content analysis of 83 Facebook profiles found that

ethno-racial identities were salient and elaborated within

minority users’ profiles (Grasmuck et al. 2009). Further-

more, this information may be indicated from a profile

picture alone, which is typically available to the public as

part of most SNS default privacy settings. Other informa-

tion that is not currently protected under federal law, such

as the applicant’s sexual orientation, physical attractive-

ness, and smoking habits, may also be accessible by means

of a SNS profile search and has the potential to introduce

bias into the selection procedure.

Recommendations for Research and Practice

As the use of SNSs does not appear to be a passing fad,

research should begin examining how employers and

applicants might harness SNSs to their advantage, as well

as addressing legal and ethical considerations surrounding

this employment practice. The constructs assessed by the

use of SNSs information must be specified, and research

should consider whether the constructs being assessed by

hiring managers result in adverse impact or disparate

treatment (i.e., intentional discrimination) against protected

classes. In addition, employers should assess the job

relatedness of these constructs and ensure consistency with

business necessity as defined within the Civil Rights Act of

1991. Although the authors encourage the continued social

and personality research investigating how various psy-

chological constructs are associated with SNS use, research

embedded within an organizational context is also crucial

for specifically testing the validity of the SNS screening

method as uniquely relevant to a job, geographic location,

organization, or industry. While Back et al. (2010) have

provided a first step toward mapping personality constructs

to SNS profiles, future studies should explore whether

other well-established predictors of job performance, such

as cognitive ability and self-efficacy, can be accurately

predicted by managers after viewing SNS profiles.

Researchers should also address personal aspects beyond

personality that may be inferred from an evaluation of an

individual’s SNS profile. For example, hiring managers

could presume to know other information about an appli-

cant, such as an applicant’s values or how the individual

might fit with an organization. Future studies could use a

similar approach to Back et al. (2010) in areas like person-

organization fit and value congruence.

Concurrent and predictive validation studies using the

techniques currently employed in the traditional selection

and screening literature should be conducted to see if

information related to pertinent constructs gleaned from

applicants’ SNSs could provide incremental value to the

employer. It is important to carry out this research in

a systematic fashion, with clearly defined and logically

operationalized variables to aide in replication and com-

parison across contexts to test for validity generalization.

Validation associated with the method will undoubtedly

vary by the particular constructs assessed using the method

and the level of standardization established through

company policies addressing proper use of SNSs for

employment screening purposes (Arthur and Villado

2008). Continued research in this area will assist future

employment litigation as the courts seek to determine the

merit and job-relatedness of this screening practice.

Although there are currently no decided court cases to

offer definitive legal guidance to employers in the private

sector, there are certain steps that companies may take to

better safeguard against potential liability in a discrimina-

tion suit. Given the large number of hiring managers

already augmenting employee screening with SNS sear-

ches, it is recommended that organizations establish

explicit policies and procedures concerning the use of

SNSs as screening devices (Davison et al. 2009, April). As

with any procedure used in the hiring process, policies

should be developed by the organization’s human resource

(HR) department to ensure fair and uniform procedures in

evaluating SNSs. If HR professionals choose to utilize

SNSs as a method of researching applicants, it is advisable

to search all applicants for that position. Limiting searches

to a case-by-case basis, as Brown University admissions

officers have done when given anonymous tips (Arndt

2007), may introduce bias into the search process.

Human resource departments should provide up-to-date

training on protected class information and what kinds of

J Bus Psychol (2011) 26:219–225 223


information would not be legally defendable for screening

out applicants. In addition, HR departments should

encourage employees making hiring decisions to document

all information gathered and used in the screening process

as well as to identify reasons for follow-up or screen out

decisions. The rubrics developed by subject matter experts

should be included in each applicant’s personnel file, as

well as any printed screen shots of profile aspects that may

have affected the screening decision. Another important

consideration for HR professionals electing to allow poli-

cies for searching publicly available information from

SNSs is whether to disclose this practice to applicants.

Doing so may cause applicants to preemptively alter their

profiles in a socially desirable way, thus reducing access to

potentially helpful information. However, failure to do so

may be perceived by applicants learning of this practice at

a later time as an unfair hiring procedure or an invasion of


The authors encourage organizations to be proactive in

considering these issues carefully and creating policies in

accordance with these recommendations before formal

legal action is required. Although it may prove difficult to

enforce, it may be necessary for organizations to create a

written policy banning the use of SNSs in the selection

process until evidence of validity can be inferred from a

careful analysis of the standardized use of such practices.

To examine interrater reliability of construct assessment as

well as avoid the potential for discrimination associated

with individual bias (whether unconscious or otherwise),

initial research and practice might benefit by having mul-

tiple raters code profile information where feasible. Thor-

ough records of all SNS information used within the

guidelines of carefully documented policies and procedures

will help practitioners avoid unpleasant legal ramifications

in the future. In addition, organizational research address-

ing the current gaps discussed herein may unleash timely

information on the uses (and abuses) of SNSs in the hiring



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  • c.10869_2011_Article_9221.pdf
    • The Writing on the (Facebook) Wall: The Use of Social Networking Sites in Hiring Decisions
      • Abstract
      • Defining and Describing Social Networking Sites
      • Risks Associated with Misuse of SNSs by Employers
      • Establishing Validity
      • Legal Implications
      • Recommendations for Research and Practice
      • References

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