Hey students, next time a potential employer wants to see your Facebook profile, it could be used to predict how well you'll do when you're on the clock. Turns out there's a real correlation between Facebook profiles and job performance, according to a study by a group of business school academics.

For the study, more than 500 undergrad volunteers at a midwestern university granted access to their Facebook profiles. They also completed a questionnaire companies often use to determine what are commonly called the "big five" traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion and openness.

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Three raters spent several minutes looking at each Facebook profile, answering "big five" questions such as "Is this person dependable?" They awarded scores for traits based on what they saw on each person's main Facebook profile frame, wall, info, and photos. For example, openness could be indicated by favorite quotes, the variety of books read, and posts about creative endeavors.

Those Facebook scores ended up closely matching the original questionnaire results.


The research was led by Don Kluemper, an assistant professor of management at Northern Illinois University, and included both University of Evansville associate professor Peter A. Rosen and Auburn University professor Kevin Mossholder. The Journal of Applied Social Psychology published their results (PDF) in the February issue.

Oddly, photos of the Facebook user in full party mode didn't negatively sway the raters. Instead, Kluemper told the Wall Street Journal's Leslie Kwoh, partying made those students seem extroverted and friendly.

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Kluemper and his colleagues also checked back with 56 of the students who later got jobs and asked their employers for detailed evaluations. They discovered that Facebook-derived scores from the study were a better predictor for actual job performance than scores from the personality questionnaire.

"A lot of actions are taken based on Facebook profiles — people are hired, fired, suspended — but this is the first study to systematically examine whether using Facebook to help make such decisions has any validity," Kluemper said in a Northern Illinois University article about his research. He added that their research should be repeated to make sure the results can be duplicated.

When asked why Facebook can be used as a predictive tool, he noted that questionnaires invite socially acceptable answers while faking your entire personality on Facebook would be much harder. Thumbs up for that.

Credit: Terry Chay