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Facebook: Predicting Success?

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Job seekers are very familiar with the advice: Anything posted on Facebook and other social networking sites could potentially hinder chances of employment. It turns out that while compromising photos and negative rants could certainly be stumbling blocks, new research suggests that a quick review of a Facebook profile can actually provide a better prediction of job success than the standardized tests HR departments have used for years. A recent study found that a 10-minute review of a Facebook page can not only yield red flags, but also provide an unvarnished look at a job candidate and some strong clues to that person’s character and personality. Donald Kluemper, a management professor at Northern Illinois University and one of the lead researchers on the study, believes that a wealth of information exists online -- beyond just negatives -- that can be mined by HR professionals to better assess a job candidate. The research sought to establish just how much reliable data could be gleaned from Internet sources and social networking sites. Several “raters” were given two hours of training on how to evaluate a Facebook page and answer specific questions relating to personality. They would then spend five to 10 minutes evaluating pages; a total of 274 Facebook profiles were reviewed. What type of indicators they were looking for? According to Kluemper, it’s possible to identify someone who is likely to be agreeable, trusting and get along well with others by examining the extensiveness of personal information posted. Another example: Openness to experience is related to intellectual curiosity and creativity, which could be revealed by the variety of books, favorite quotations or other posts showing the user engaged in new activities and creative endeavors. Extroverts more frequently interact with others, which could be represented by the number of social networking website (SNW) friends a user has. The researchers followed up with the job candidates after six months and got performance reviews from the supervisors of 69 of them -- about 25 percent of the original group. Across the board, the study found that these relatively quick Facebook evaluations more accurately predicted success than standard tests.