Job applicants and incumbents often use social media for personal communications allowing for direct observation of their social communications “unfiltered” for employer consumption.
As such, these data offer a glimpse of employees in settings free from the impression management pressures present during evaluations conducted for applicant screening and research purposes.
This study investigated whether job applicants’ (N=175) personality characteristics are reflected in the content of their social media postings. Participant self-reported social media content related to (a) photos and text-based references to alcohol and drug use and (b) criticisms of superiors and peers (so-called “badmouthing” behavior) were compared to traditional personality assessments.
Results indicated that extraverted candidates were prone to postings related to alcohol and drugs. Those low in agreeableness were particularly likely to engage in online badmouthing behaviors.
However, evidence concerning the relationship between conscientiousness and the outcomes of interest was mixed. Specifically, conscientious applicants were less likely to badmouth, but no relationship was found between conscientiousness and substance use posting behaviors.
The inconsistency regarding conscientiousness is particularly interesting. We argued that conscientious individuals should be the most likely to comply with warnings against inappropriate behaviors on social media. Highly conscientious individuals may avoid badmouthing in general because it is frowned upon in settings beyond the employment context. Partying, however, differs from badmouthing; whether it is viewed as inappropriate likely depends on one\’s social media audience. Popular press claims indicate that applicants and incumbents do not necessarily view their Facebook profile as relevant to employers.6–8 Perhaps many applicants do not consider their social media usage through the eyes of employers. That is, surveillance by prospective employers is not typically salient to applicants, and this salience may moderate whether conscientiousness relates to substance use postings.
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