UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On the hunt for a new job? You may want to cut back on time spent posting to social media. A new study from Penn State finds that people who come across as conceited and self-absorbed, or tend to post frequently with strong opinions on controversial topics, are less likely to be hired.
Posting about alcohol or drug use is also a red flag among hiring managers or recruiters. All in all, the study makes a strong case for just logging off in general until you secure that dream job.
“In 2018, 70% of employers reported looking at social media sites to help them evaluate potential employees, and almost that many — 60% — eliminated candidates on the basis of negative content,” comments Michael Tews, associate professor of hospitality management, in a university news release. “It’s important for job candidates to be aware of how they portray themselves in social media.”
There hasn’t been a whole lot of research performed on how “negative” social media content influences a person’s chances of being hired, so the research team decided to investigate the effects of three common, potentially negative, characteristics seen in many social media posts: drugs, strong opinions, and conceitedness.
“Social networking sites are often lamented as incubators of self-absorption, motivating people to tell others about their every deed and thought,” Tews says. “It could be that hiring managers view individuals who are more self-absorbed and focused on their own interests to be less likely to sacrifice for the benefit of other employees and the organization.”
A total of 436 hiring managers from various companies took part in the study. A bit more than half of the managers (61%) worked in hospitality, while the rest worked in other fields such as IT and healthcare. Each manager was given a hypothetical scenario involving a fictional job candidate who performed very well during an in-person interview, but also appeared prone to “job-hopping.” Then, each manager was shown one of 16 different fake Facebook profiles, supposedly belonging to the aforementioned job candidate, and asked to rate their employment “suitability” based on the profile.
Each of the 16 possible Facebook profiles showed either a male or a female exhibiting self-absorption or not, opinionatedness or not, and drug use or not.
Overall, profiles that showed the job candidate as particularly self-absorbed were the biggest red flags for hiring managers. Similarly, profiles that showed opinionatedness or mentioned drug use also made managers much less likely to hire the fictional individual.
“Social networking sites have given rise to unprecedented numbers of individuals expressing extreme and controversial ideas in a public forum,” he continues. “People who post divisive subject matter may be viewed as more argumentative and less cooperative. Additionally, their views could run counter to those of hiring managers, which may influence managers’ beliefs in candidates’ qualifications for jobs.”
For what it’s worth, managers were the least concerned with social media profiles mentioning drug use.
“One possible reason for the relatively small effect alcohol and drug use content is that hiring managers may perceive the content as relatively normal. It is also possible that people have become accustomed to references to marijuana in the United States as more states have legalized its consumption for both medicinal and recreational use,” Tews explains.
In conclusion, the study’s authors recommend staying away from all three pitfalls on social media while searching for a new position.
The study is published in the International Journal of Selection and Assessment.