Your On-line footprint could affect your job search

Posted by BarrettClark Executive Search

January 2, 2018


A candidate’s on-line footprint can provide useful indicators to certain behaviours identified during a selection process. The indicators should not be taken in isolation, rather used as part of a process to paint a bigger picture of a candidate. It would be treading a dangerous path to rely exclusively on information gleaned from an individual’s social media profile to make a judgement on their suitability for a role!

Does this sort of social media activity bring the employers into disrepute?

Facebook has re-appeared in the news again for all the wrong reasons!! The recent coverage of the Neknomination phenomenon that has gone viral on their site is being blamed for a number of tragic alcohol related deaths.

What is the employer / employee relationship with social media?

Companies are now using Facebook to vet potential employees. An online foot print is now easily accessible.

What if anything, can a recruiter reliably take on board from a candidate’s on line profile?

Whilst pondering this question, I read an article from the CIPD referring to a piece of research called “Big Five Personality Traits Reflected In Job Applicants“ (Social Media Postings by J.William Stoughton, Lori Foster Thompson and Adam W.Meade). The study examined how these personality traits relate to two forms of behaviour on networking sites:

  1. Badmouthing superiors & peers
  2. Disclosure of an individual’s drug or alcohol misuse.

The study examined students who were active Facebook users and were applying for a temporary research post. The applicants completed a series of tests that included the “Big Five Traits”: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional stability. They were then asked to complete a confidential ‘applicant reactions survey’ that questioned them around their behaviour on social media. From the 175 responses, correlations and regression analyses were conducted.

The only significant relationships the researchers found were:

  • Badmouthing on social media is a sign of a lack of agreeableness
  • Badmouthing on social media is also related to a lack of conscientiousness
  • Social media posts on substance misuse are a sign of extroversion

In contrast to the hypothesis that the researchers were working with, posts on substance misuse are not a sign of conscientiousness and there are also no significant relationships between either of the two behaviours and openness or emotional stability.


So the results of the findings do suggest that bad mouthing on social media can be a useful indicator for recruiters. However, posts relating to alcohol or drug misuse are less likely to tell anything useful, unless extroversion is particularly relevant to the job in question.

There are of course limitations to a study of this nature; it doesn’t take into account other personality traits; there may be other social media behaviours that corroborate or dismiss the traits highlighted and of course as people become more aware that their social media habits may come under scrutiny from potential employers then they are likely to amend accordingly which again makes the collection of this type of data less reliable.

Best practice would recommend that as recruiters we use this type of information as a point of discussion with potential candidates giving them an opportunity to respond to any social media concerns that we may have.

I would be interested in your thoughts on this subject, so do let me know @MartinJones_BC or @BarrettClarkcom