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Traits of Job Applicants on Social Media Detrimental to Career

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Recruiters pan across and rummage several social media platforms to look for the profiles of job candidates before they make a hiring decision.

But how do they know they have chosen the ideal candidate and rightfully dismissed the wrong ones?

According to a new study, most employers – most likely – wrongfully evaluated the social media accounts of job applicants with great talents, as they quickly brushed aside applicants after reading their displeasing status updates, caustic remarks, and incriminating images.

Titled “Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants’ Social Media Postings,” the new study touched on links between the online behaviors and personality characteristics of job applicants that may affect work performance.

The authors of the study – J. William Stoughton, MS, Lori Foster Thompson, PhD, and Adam W. Meade, PhD – found that “unfiltered” social media content about photos and references to alcohol and drug use are key signs of personality traits that job applicants actually have.

The study, as published in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking and conducted by researchers from the Department of Psychology in North Carolina State University, identified that the traits may actually show a job candidate to be an excellent hire.

According to the authors, the social media activities of a job applicant reveal five personality traits: agreeableness, extraversion, emotional stability, conscientiousness, and openness to experience.

The researchers categorized social media posters who showed badmouthing behavior and posters who cited drug and alcohol use.

The study found that those with high ratings in agreeableness and conscientiousness were unlikely to malign other people through social media. While that was the finding, it does not necessarily mean that conscientiousness affects posts that recruiters frequently view as alarming.

Co-author Dr. Thompson said recruiters frequently examine hastily the Facebook profile of a job applicant to see whether or not there is proof of alcohol or drug use. Companies consider this behavior as an indicator that the applicant is unscrupulous or scrupulous and self-restraining

The researchers said, however, that there is no substantial connection between the tendency to post Facebook content about drug or alcohol use and conscientiousness.

Lead author Prof. Stoughton said employers brush off several scrupulous job applicants because of wrong presumptions in regard to their social media behavior.

Another frequently misconstrued trait is extraversion. The study found that extroverts have a tendency to post topics about alcohol or drugs on Facebook, and most employers will almost certainly dismiss their pool of candidates once they find indicators of alcohol- or drug-related activities on social media.

Stoughton said the study shows that employers may have to do away with job candidates who badmouth other people, if they plan to use social media behavior as a key indicator in choosing their next hire.

Traits of Job Applicants on Social Media Detrimental to Career Social Barrel - The latest Social Media News and Marketing Tips

Join The Conversation

  • Samuel Hum's picture
    Oct 22 Posted 3 years ago Samuel Hum

    That is a very good point, Chris. Not all drinking is bad, just like not all crazy behaviours suggest a wild party animal. But that being said, it is very convenient for people, and in this context, recruiters, to err on the side of caution and deny anyone who "seems" to be unreliable. 

    However, it is the personal responsibility of anyone seeking employment to be wary of what they post or get tagged in on social media platforms. Facebook is primarily a social networking site, but employers rely on it for a convenient search on a potential employee, so the line between personal and professional faces can often be blurred.

    I do think that both sides need to be more discerning: employers in using accurate metrics and predictors for evaluating potential employees, and anyone seeking employment to present the image that you would want to show to everyone, be it your friends or a potential boss.


  • ChrisSyme's picture
    Oct 21 Posted 3 years ago ChrisSyme

    Good post, Aaron. I work with HR people and recruiters and I find this research a little flawed. The five big personality traits found in this survey might be true in the context of the research, but honestly, many employers aren't connecting the dots this way. I've never seen "being an extrovert" show up on a survey of desired characteristics on an employer survey. And honestly, you cannot sugarcoat bad mouthing, no matter how you frame it. This piece is more of a finger-wagging at employers for what the reserachers think they should be doing. It isn't reflective of what they ARE doing. So before readers go thinking that it's okay to badmouth their current job on social media because your next boss will take it as agreeableness or being conscientious, think twice. Oh, and there's a difference in perception between a picture of you drinking a beer while on vacation and one depicting wild party behavior--another distinction not made in this research. 

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