Actions Speak Louder Than Personality: Effects of Facebook Content on Personality Perceptions

Article excerpt

Social media networks such as Facebook have become a prominent part of popular culture. Currently, the most utilized social online networking site is Facebook (see Karl & Peluchette, 2009), which is a social communication tool designed to allow individuals from all around the world to interact with each other. The website allows users to post photos, express themselves in a "status," and share personal information with others (Nosko, Wood, & Molema, 2010). Moreover, Facebook serves as a nexus for social interaction by providing an array of features that include categorical indicators of "friends," instant messaging options, and email accessibility.

Facebook promotes social connections, but there have been growing concerns about its use as an evaluation tool. For example, employment organizations are becoming increasingly interested in Facebook content when making hiring decisions, and in recent years, employers have relied on Internet resources (including Facebook) to screen employees (Taylor, 2006). Additionally, employees in certain occupations face increasingly strict pressures about Facebook disclosure outside the workplace. For instance, public school teachers are expected to show both professional competency and personal character in order to be considered for success in the field (see Murray, 2007). As a result of traditional expectations, increased scrutiny has forced educators to be more wary about posted content on social network sites (Olson, Clough & Penning, 2009), and this trend is likely to extend to other professions.

Although some have ethical concerns regarding the use of Facebook content in employment decisions (Zeidner, 2007), there are clear advantages for doing so. First, recruiters at college and university career fairs are relying on Facebook heavily because of its appeal among students, and many recruiters have cited using it as a screening tool at these functions (Shea & Wesley, 2006). Second, employers can potentially gain information from a social network that cannot be legally obtained in traditional interviews (e.g., ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, see Kowske & Southwell, 2006). Finally, potential employees view employer access as a "friend" in the workplace as positive (Karl & Peluchette, 2011). Because Facebook allows users to share personal information, employers have a potentially extensive pool of information that can be used to screen those who are seeking employment (via an indirect observation of others).

For over two decades, employee-screening methods have been used to identify reliable dimensions of personality that predict future job performance (e.g., Barrick & Mount, 1991; Barrick, Patton, & Haugland, 2000; Frei & McDaniel, 1998; Kluemper & Rosen, 2009; Tett, Jackson, & Rothstein, 1991). Many evaluation instruments have focused on Costa and McCrae's (1992) Big Five personality trait theory, which assesses dimensional tendencies for openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (i.e., emotional stability). Assessment instruments that measure these personality dimensions have been considered reliable predictors of job-related behaviors in various employment settings (e.g., Barrick, Patton, & Haugland, 2000). However, there are some critics (e.g., Sackett, 2007) who have questioned these methods because they may reflect one's "maximal" level of performance, presumably because potential employees can research the personality inventories, and, therefore, prepare themselves to answer the questions in a way that may sway the evaluator toward a particular conclusion. Although these personality-screening methods should not be discounted, some suggest that sites like Facebook may reveal more about aspects of a person's personality than the standard personality inventory approach (Kluemper & Rosen, 2009). Moreover, the qualities portrayed on Facebook may be important in employment selection (Kluemper & Rosen, 2009). …

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