Study: Facebook Profiles May Not Reveal What Employers Think They Do


Ryan Jorgensen /

Although California recently enacted a law to ban employers from asking prospective employees for their Facebook passwords, at least a third of all U.S. employers regularly use Facebook to learn about potential hires.

But do they know what they’re looking for?

A recent study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking suggests that employers may look for the wrong things when checking out a prospective staffer’s Facebook profile.

Employers likely expect that those who are more active on Facebook will enjoy better relationships with co-workers, the study noted. Indeed, one human resources manager who participated in similar poll told Forbes that candidates who have a lot of friends and take a lot of photos were rated positively.

But according to the newly published study, users who are more active do not have better relationships with their co-workers. Those with more Facebook friends generally take their jobs less seriously, and those who post frequent status updates are more likely to consider switching jobs than their less active counterparts, even though they may not have a “very impressive Facebook profile compared with those who update their status frequently,” the study noted.

The study surveyed 516 college students who used Facebook and were employed.

Candidates can’t control the conclusions would-be employers reach. However, the most common use of Facebook by HR departments is to weed out those who seem to exhibit unprofessional behavior such as drunkenness or complaints about co-workers, so those who avoid that — and tighten their privacy controls — will limit the damage their Facebook profiles do to their job searches.

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