GHENT, Belgium, February 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --
New research published by the top impact scientific journal New Media & Society shows that employers use Facebook to screen job candidates. In fact, one's Facebook profile picture affects one's chances of appointment about as much as the picture that one adds to one's CV.
Undercover on the Internet
Employers have limited information when they make their first selection of the candidates for their vacancies. A CV and short motivation letter are often not sufficient to gain insight in the personality of the candidates. At the same time, there's a lot of information available online to further refine a first impression. A potential source of information is the social networking website Facebook.
Professor Stijn Baert (Ghent University, Belgium) examined whether employers actually use Facebook in a first screening. He and his research assistants sent fictitious letters of application in response to genuine vacancies. The names of the fictitious candidates led, via a search engine or directly via Facebook, to just one hit on the Internet: one of the four fictitious Facebook profiles under the control of the research team. On Facebook, only the profile picture of the candidates was publicly visible. The four photographs were diverse in terms of attractiveness and personality traits (see "Method").
Female recruiters screen more via Facebook
The research team compared the chances of positive responses for candidates with different Facebook profiles. In their application letter there was no picture. Professor Stijn Baert: "The candidate with the most favourable Facebook profile picture received approximately 21% more positive responses to his application in comparison to the candidate with the least favourable profile picture. The difference in the chance to be immediately invited to a job interview even amounted to 38%." These important differences can only be driven by the view of the Facebook profile picture, so it is clear that a significant proportion of employers screens via Facebook.
According to Professor Baert's results female recruiters are more likely screen via Facebook than male recruiters.
Furthermore, Facebook profile picture appearance affects hiring chances more for highly educated candidates. Contrary to expectations, employers didn't look more often on Facebook for occupations with an intense customer contact.
Facebook profile picture as much impact as CV picture
At the same time, an alternative experiment was conducted. The research team added the Facebook profile pictures of the first experiment directly to the CV of the fictitious applicants. The differences in attractiveness and personality between the photos proved to have about as much impact when used as Facebook profile pictures as if they are added directly into the CV.
This finding is remarkable because not all employers use Facebook to screen candidates (while they all see a photograph which added to the CV). Professor Stijn Baert: "A possible explanation why a Facebook profile picture and a CV photo can have the same impact, is that employers see a Facebook profile picture as an honest signal (since not all candidates are aware that employers use Facebook to screen candidates)."
As for the economic side of things, screening via Facebook seems efficient. Professor Stijn Baert: "Via Facebook, employers can collect information about candidates in a quick and easy way. Moreover, international research suggests that the impression someone gives on Facebook reflects his real personality rather than some form of self-idealization."
In total, 2112 fictitious job applications were sent to genuine vacancies for a range of jobs in various sectors on the Belgian labour market. The CVs and motivation letters differed in detail and layout but were similar in productivity-influencing characteristics. What differed substantially, was the name of the candidates (leading to a unique Facebook profile) or picture. This feature was added to the two different applications in a random way. The photos that were used in this study were selected for their different scores for attractiveness and personality (reliability in particular) in line with earlier research about the importance of these features in the labour market.
The study was, after three revision rounds, based on comments from five anonymous experts in the field, published in the scientific journal New Media & Society in February 2017 (second most important journal in the field of Communication in terms of impact).
Bibliographic information and contact details
SOURCE Professor Stijn Baert (Ghent University)