By: Keaton Fletcher
Social Media, specifically LinkedIn, has played an increasingly important role in connecting job seekers with employers and recruiters. In an article recently published in Personnel Psychology, Roulin and Levashina (2019) presented data from two studies exploring how LinkedIn is, and can be, used as a selection tool. As a first step to the studies, the authors surveyed 70 hiring managers in North America. These managers considered LinkedIn as roughly equivalent to résumés with regard to the level of information they provide for assessing personality and predicting performance on the job.
The first study the authors presented included data from 133 senior business students from Canada and the United States. Raters with their MBAs evaluated the LinkedIn profiles of the participants across two years. The raters’ assessment of skills (except conflict management and leadership), personality, cognitive ability, and hiring recommendations were generally consistent with one another. Further, ratings were moderately correlated with one another across the two years, suggesting some level of temporal stability in how LinkedIn profiles display users’ traits. It is also worth noting that across the two-year period, participants tended to increase the length of their profile by nearly 100 words. Raters’ evaluation of participants’ traits only correlated to the participants’ self-reported traits for leadership, planning, communication, extraversion, and cognitive ability. Less visible traits and skills (e.g., problem solving, openness to experience) were not correlated. Of note, there was a positive, albeit weak, correlation between the hiring recommendation made by the raters at Time 1 and whether the participant reported employment in their field, or a promotion at Time 2. When the authors examined ratings for adverse impact, there were no significant differences in the ratings made for men versus women or white versus non-white users.
In the second study, 24 MBA students rated the LinkedIn profiles of the participants from Study 1. The students were asked to use a holistic/global approach for half of the profiles they rated and an itemized approach (similar to the rating system from Study 1) for the other half of the profiles. Using an itemized approach increased the likelihood that different raters made the same recommendation for hiring compared to the global approach. Looking at adverse impact, the authors found no difference in male versus female profiles using the global approach but did find that White profiles were given higher assessments than non-White profiles. Using the itemized approach, however, results showed no difference between White and non-White profiles, and showed higher ratings for women versus men.
Overall, these studies suggest that LinkedIn may be a viable way to examine job seekers’ skills and abilities, particularly those that are more visible. Further, using an itemized approach to evaluating LinkedIn profiles, rather than a more holistic approach, can help ensure a reduced level of adverse impact, thereby increasing the diversity of candidates that are considered at the next step in the application process.