A University of Iowa study finds things you post on social media could prevent you from getting your dream job, even though it’s a fuzzy, gray area for potential employers to be scouring your online accounts.
Chad Van Iddekinge , U-I professor of management and entrepreneurship, says they reviewed the Facebook pages of 140 job applicants and compared it to recruiters’ evaluations of those applicants.
“Recruiters tended to give higher ratings to people who were in a relationship or married than to single job seekers,” Van Iddekinge says. “They also gave lower ratings to people who included some information about their religious beliefs than to people who didn’t include any religion information on Facebook.”
The study found potentially job-relevant information, like education, work-related training, and written communication skills that were displayed on social media were associated with better evaluations.
“More negative behaviors, such as profanity, substance use, information about sexual behavior, and even information about illegal activities,” he says, “recruiters picked up on these types of information and gave lower ratings to the job seekers whose Facebook pages included such information.”
Anyone who’s looking for a job would be wise to “scrub” their social media accounts before applying, he says, because potential employers will certainly be looking.
“We would never ask applicants to report on an application information about their race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, their religious beliefs, political beliefs and so on,” Van Iddekinge says, “but all of this information is widely available on social media. There’s really nothing regulating or prohibiting employers from looking up this information.”
Caution is recommended on all sides, when you’re posting information about yourself online and for potential employers who are harvesting those personal tidbits.
“It’s hard to blame organizations who very easily can look up a job applicant to see if there are any red flags,” he says, “but the problem is, once you get exposed to this information, it’s very difficult to set it aside and focus on more job-relevant information.”
The study is being published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.