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Employers Checking FB to Screen Applicants Draw the Wrong Conclusions

Companies often check social media to get a sense of how prospective employees behave on their own time. If there are photos involving alcohol or drug use, for instance, your resume may end up in the circular file. But new research from NC State’s Department of Psychology says that’s actually a bad move for employers.

“Companies often scan a job applicant’s Facebook profile to see whether there is evidence of drug or alcohol use, believing that such behavior means the applicant is not ‘conscientious,’ or responsible and self-disciplined,” says Dr. Lori Foster Thompson, a professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the study. However, the researchers found that there is no significant correlation between conscientiousness and an individual’s willingness to post content on Facebook about alcohol or drug use.

“This means companies are eliminating some conscientious job applicants based on erroneous assumptions regarding what social media behavior tells us about the applicants,” says Will Stoughton, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of the paper.

Listen to Dr. Thompson discuss the research with National Public Radio’s Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson. Here’s the NPR interview and the news release.

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  1. Living in a society that judges, and is judged, by outward appearances, it becomes almost a necessity to use social networks as a “window to the soul” for an individual you know little to nothing about. The saying goes “Do not judge a book by its cover,” yet for some people, their social engagements are their cover. We are not so much influenced into activities because of our peers as much as we are influenced by our own desire to feel a connection- a place of safety and an identification, as it were,- through ourselves. I believe that stereotypes exist and that they exist for a reason, yet we can, as individuals, control some of the stereotypes we are placed in. With that being said,trying to cast judgement and label someone solely on pictures containing alcohol or signs of drug use are not what I would look for to decide on the character of someone if my source was a social network such as Facebook. That is equivalent to judging someone simply because they have tattoos on their body. It is culturally accepted in many circles to be tattooed, and, in some cases, a rite of passage. The men and women of the armed forces are well known for the work they have done. Many mark themselves with references to their military career, or a climatic event that they went through, such as the loss of a brother or sister at arms. So instead of looking for posted content of alcohol and under substances, and if a social network was the only source afforded me, I would focus on the general viewpoints of the individual. What pages do they like and what material do they attach themselves to? How do they write their posts, and how do they interact on the social network with friends versus the general public? If one goes looking for flaws in another individual, they will tend to find what they are looking for. This in turn causes what might have initially been a slight flaw against someone to explode into a greater issue; your proverbial mountain from a molehill. Yet if we look at the general character of a person and the way that they behave naturally by themselves, and not in front of others, we can be granted a more informed perception as to the true nature of the person in question. That is, at least, the observation of this individual’s experience.