Job recruiters’ perceptions of candidates are strongly impacted by opinionated content on social media

For future job candidates, the presence of being too self-absorbing on social networking profiles and the publication of strongly opinionated posts could negatively impact your candidacy in the eyes of job recruiters, according to a new study by Penn State University.

As published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Selection and Assessment, the research team at Penn State worked in conjunction with 436 hiring managers in the U.S., most in the hospitality industry and the rest in sectors like healthcare and technology. Their efforts assessed three key factors during candidate evaluation among job recruiters: self‐absorption, opinionatedness, and drug use.

In the study, the participants received a hypothetical depiction of a job candidate responding to interview questions appropriately with high enthusiasm but seemed to change positions frequently.

The candidates’ social networking profiles were then reviewed and rated based on how suitable they would appear to potential employers. Profiles, which were randomly assigned by researchers, included one of either gender, with or without any of the three key factors.

“The present study focuses on self‐absorption, opinionatedness, and alcohol and drug use both because such content is prevalent on social networking sites and because of its potential job relevance,” researchers stated. “Social networking sites are often lamented as incubators of self‐absorption, motivating people to tell others about their every deed and thought.”

“As individuals who are more self‐absorbed are more focused on their own interests, they may be less likely to sacrifice for the benefit of other employees and the organization.”

According to researchers, it is theorized that the publication of divisive subject matters might be perceived as argumentative and the contrast to a team player, thus inducing less attractive views of the candidate. Likewise, candidates associated with self-absorption may be described by potential job recruiters as too attention-seeking or exhibitionistic.

On the topic of drug use, like alcohol consumption, researchers noted such posts on social profiles could be viewed “negatively because its use is illegal in some cases, but also because the posting of such content could be viewed as lacking maturity and professionalism.”

By the study’s conclusion, researchers were able to determine the impact certain social media content has on job qualifications. The Penn State team found that opinionatedness negatively impacted perceptions of suitability toward a job vacancy. Although content suggesting the use of substances was viewed adversely as well, the impact was minimal compared to other factors.

“The present study contributes to the larger body of research on employee selection decision making with its focus on the impact of negative social networking content on perceptions of employment suitability,” researchers declared in the findings.

“By examining the impact of self‐absorption, opinionatedness, and alcohol and drug use content in social networking sites on perceptions of employment suitability, this research offers greater insight into selection decision making and the potential impact of social networking content on hiring outcomes.”

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