20 Jan 2014

Is Facebook a good source for assessing job applicants?

Certainly the selection of personnel is a difficult task, especially now with the economic crisis. Anyone can make the experiment of seeing the disproportionate amount of applicants for each recruiter in webpages like infojobs.

Human Resource departments collect and process all available information of shortlisted candidates. Normally the candidate provides the information, but with the appearance of social media we all leave a trail in Internet. And for certain people this is scary. Some of my friends do not engage in social media because they are afraid about third party judgments. 

So here we have a big question. Does our activity in social media say anything about our professionalism and productivity? Or in other words, is it really worth for human resource managers to check the Facebook page of the candidates? 

This is the same question that arises to Chad H. Van Iddekinge, associate professor in Florida State University. He led an outstanding experiment recently released in Journal of Management. In a first stage they engaged around four hundred students in the experiment, all of them were close to finish their studies and claimed to be active job seekers. They showed the Facebook profiles of those students to eighty-six recruiters with large experience in human resource departments. Those recruiters gave their considerations about the students in the form of detailed ratings. One year after the researchers contacted the supervisors of the one hundred fifty students that were working. They collected information from most of their job supervisors about their performance, also in the form of ratings. 

Once the data was collected they correlated rating from the expert recruiters and supervisors. Surprisingly, they found that the correlation was statistically not different from zero. So, the academic experiment shows that from Facebook profiles we cannot infer the productivity of candidates. 

This is obviously good news for those that suffer from the content they share in social networks. However, I still think we can extract relevant information of candidates with Internet searches. For instance, in those activities that require communication skills, social media could be a good source of information. 

Finally, I wonder what happens with traditional CVs and attached cover letters. Are good source of information for recruiters? Do they outperform social media profiles? Or, maybe social media is just a complement of CVs and that is the reason why expert recruiters (in the experiment) could not identify the most productive candidates? 

These are questions still unresolved. Hope that future research will shed light on these issues, but in the meanwhile we can just share our opinions. If you were a recruiter which would be the data sources you would rely on to take your decision?

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