Social networking websites (SNWs) aim to develop communities of people that share similar interests or desire to learn more about others' interests. These sites also provides a presentation of one's network of friends. With their increased popularity, they have began to become a popular tool in the world of recruitment and selection. In a study by Shea and Wesley (2006) it was found that 50% of employers [that attend job fairs] and 20-25% of hiring managers (Taylor, 2007; NACE, 2006) utilize SNWs and search engines to screen candidates. However, there is little research on the validity and reliability of SNW. This is crucial to prove to the Legal Justice System that the tool accurately predicts success in the position.
A variety of traits have been found to be a successful predictor of job performance; primarily consciousness. Extroversion agreeableness, and neuroticism have also been found to have positive relationships to job performance. Finally, openness have been a successful predictor of training performance (but not job performance). Kluempter & Rosen (2009) set out to determine if SNW can be use to appropriately measure these traits as well as intelligence and performance.
63 students that were currently enrolled in an employment selection course were chosen to participate in the study. These individuals were trained on employee selection as a result of their coursework and attended a one hour training to cover the focal characteristics required for this study. All participants have utilized SNW and were asked to spend ten minutes to identify aspects of six SNW profiles (that were pre-chosen) that could relate to a specific trait.
Picture was extracted from:
- 25 items from the bipolar adjective checklist (Goldberg,1992) to measure the big-five personality traits.
- An estimate [based on the profile being viewed] of the individuals IQ.
- An estimate [based on the profile being viewed] of the individuals GPA.
- Big-five personality traits from the international personality item pool (IPIP).
- IQ true score from the Wonderlic personnel test.
- Academic performance from the college's registrar.
In regards to the assessment of SNW profiles, it was found that evaluators with higher IQs and higher emotional stability were more accurate in their appraisals. The group of evaluators with high IQ and/or high levels of emotional stability were more successful in identifying conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness and performance.
The study has a variety of limitation since all of the participants were college students. It is suggested that future studies on SNW use participants that are not in an academic and/or utilize individuals with experience in recruitment or selection.
Take this study with a grain of salt. Although the results are exciting, the study has little representation of the population and therefore may not be accurate. However, (with the permission of an applicant), hiring companies can obtain assessment results and compare them to the evaluations of SNW profiles. If enough data is collected, statistics may be able to establish reliability and validity for SNW. HR Professionals should never attempt to do this alone unless they have experience/education in validation studies.
The study also identifies that SNW may result in adverse impact. The profiles on social media websites contain information pertaining to age, sex, race, religion and more. With this access to information, an applicant can easily pursue a lawsuit if they feel they are being discriminated against. As HR professionals, we must ensure to avoid collecting/viewing this information. One suggested way to approach this is to have another individual print off the profiles and then black/white-out all the information considered illegal in selection. Overall, it is crucial to be cautious when using these websites in the selection process.