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What your Facebook profile is telling prospective employers

Your Facebook profile says more about you than you may think, including how well you work.

A new study by a professor at Northern Illinois University's college of business and a team of researchers has found that even five to 10 minutes of browsing through someone's Facebook profile can provide a strong idea of what they'd be like as workers.

A quick skim can even serve as a better predictor of one's job performance than personality surveys, which human resources departments commonly use to screen job applicants, according to the university's website.

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Until now, there hasn't been the science to support the value of employers perusing applicants' Facebook profiles, even though many have been doing so practically since the site was launched.

"A lot of actions are taken based on Facebook profiles – people are hired, fired, suspended – but this is the first study to systematically examine whether using Facebook to help make such decisions has any validity," assistant professor and lead author Don Kluemper said.

In an experiment, the researchers asked a group of participants to complete a standard personality survey, while independent raters examined their Facebook profiles. They found the raters were able to get a surprisingly accurate picture of the participants' personalities.

"Based upon other studies, we were able to conclude that after a five-minute perusal of a Facebook page, raters were able to answer questions regarding the subject about as reliably as would be expected of a significant other or close friend," Dr. Kluemper said.

Six months later, the researchers compared their ratings with employers' performance evaluations of the participants. The scores derived from raters' assessments of their Facebook profiles provided a more accurate prediction of their job performance than participants' own scores from their self-reported survey.

In a separate experiment, the researchers found scores based on students' Facebook pages were also better predictors of academic success than the results of personality and IQ tests.

Dr. Kluemper suggested this could be partly because of the wealth of information that Facebook provides, such as the tone of the language used, musical and cultural preferences, and photos of friends and social scenarios. He also said it can be difficult for Facebook users to put up a false front on the social media site, whereas with personality surveys, people can answer how they think others want them to respond.

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He noted, however, there are potential legal barriers to using Facebook to screen job applicants, but his research indicates how powerful it can be a human resources tool.

What does your Facebook profile say about you?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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