You might think a Facebook profile loaded with pictures of you holding red cups can lower your standing in the eyes of your boss. But now there's reason to think those party pictures may help, rather than hurt.
A study published this week in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that perusing Facebook profiles can often predict success in the workplace and that having a profile full of friends may actually be an indicator of that success.
Researchers asked a group of students with jobs to take a personality test typically administered by companies to assess what the study calls "the Big Five" personality traits, including "neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness." Then a team of three raters, after sifting through the Facebook profile pages of each student for about five minutes -- looking at pictures, comments, friends and interests -- answered questions judging the same qualities the students had measured in themselves.
Don Kluemper, the lead researcher and a management professor at Northern Illinois University, said students with many friends and a diverse array of interests got positive feedback from raters. Instead of automatically seeing partying pictures in a negative light, raters took them as a sign of friendliness in students, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.
Six months later, the responses from the students were compared to those of the raters and the results indicated the Facebook-derived judgments were more closely connected to job performance than the students' self-assessments.
“In five or 10 minutes, our raters could look at the tone of a subject’s wall post, note the number of friends they have, peruse their photos to see how social they were and assess their tastes in books and music. It’s a very rich source of information,” Kluemper told NIU Today.
Although the study did not examine the legality of using social media sites in the hiring process, it coincides with recent reports of employers requesting job candidates to give them access to private information on Facebook. Applicants at police departments in North Carolina and Norman, Oklahoma, were asked to provide their Facebook passwords last year, according to a report in Human Resources Journal.
And last year, a candidate for a corrections supply officer job at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services was asked to supply his Facebook login information during an interview.
The Maryland department suspended its practice of requesting Facebook login access after getting a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union.
But with scientific evidence in hand, employers might start asking more often.