Facebook profiles can predict job performance

According to a recent report published in the “Journal of Applied Social Psychology,” a person’s Facebook page might have a greater impact than previously thought on whether or not s/he is chosen for a job. Researchers found Facebook pages were better predictors of aptitude than traditional methods for screening candidates.

Experts have long advised against posting too much personal information on your Facebook page, and this study shows how your social networking page could keep you from being hired by a prospective employer. However, the study also determined that information gained by looking at an applicant’s Facebook page, is actually an accurate indicator of a person’s job performance abilities. In other words, employers can look at your Facebook profile not for red flags but for predictive patterns that demonstrate you have the skills they are looking for in their employees.

“As (social networking) popularity has continued to increase, organizational representatives have increasingly used them to evaluate current and potential employees,” the report says. “Reason dictates that these representatives perceive the data available on (social networking sites) as providing valuable, organizationally relevant information.”

The study done by researches from Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville and Auburn University looked at traits such as conscientiousness, agreeability and intellectual curiosity. The study’s participants were 56 college students with jobs.

Researchers matched their evaluations of the students’ Facebook pages to employee evaluations by the student’s supervisors, creating similar pictures of their aptitude. However, perhaps what was most interesting about the study is that Facebook profiles with pictures of activities like “partying” were not graded harshly by researchers.

So what does this mean for the millions of people currently looking for a job? It’s clear that employers are using Facebook as a means to screen applicants. And while the study indicated applicants might not be judged harshly for displaying activities like “partying,” it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Job seekers should update their page’s security settings to ensure viewers who are not in the user’s group of friends are only able to see a limited amount of information. Since this limited information includes a user’s profile picture, job seekers should make sure these pictures are appropriate.

However, since employers are scouring Facebook for clues as to your aptitude and other important skills, why not use Facebook to promote yourself. You might choose to reduce your priority settings and fine-tune your profile for a professional audience as a means of presenting yourself to prospective employers. This doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out the activities that are a part of your true character but possible toning down qualities that don’t fit in the workplace and instead demonstrating qualities that you know help you excel at work.

If your a kind person, does this come across in your Facebook profile? Are you great at helping others solve their problems? Do you care about your friends and their accomplishments? These are just some personal qualities that will reflect well upon you during your job search.

As a way to embrace the use of Facebook for professional purposes, the social media site recently launched BranchOut, an app for career networking. This app allows users to post job opportunities and connect with decision-makers as prospective companies.

Deciding whether or not to utilize social networking sites like Facebook is an important part of the job search process. Depending on how it’s incorporated, Facebook can either help or hurt you in your search.