Spoiler Alert: Facebook May Tip Employers Off to Your Bad Personality

by Cathy Vandewater | March 22, 2012

Maybe this is the real reason employers have been asking job candidates for Facebook passwords: they want to make sure you're not a pain in the butt to work with.

Pyschology researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh conducted a study of 100 college students, using their log in frequency and duration and activities like photo sharing and status updates to predict how narcissistic the Facebookers were offline.

Using the Narcissism Personality Inventory and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the study then correlated the identified narcissists (and people with low self esteem) as those most likely to log into Facebook for more than an hour a day. It also found narcissists, unsurprisingly, to be those most likely to use status updates and photos exclusively as a tools for self-promotion.

The link isn't exactly shocking. By definition, narcissists thrive on convenient, distant relationships, which are easily found online. Facebook activity gets users instant attention with few reality checks, which makes it practically the perfect pastime for the superficial and the self obsessed.

But what you may not know is exactly how revealing the social media site can be:  research has shown that traits including openness to new experiences, neuroticism, and agreeableness can all be revealed within a 10% of a person's actual personality test score.

Even something as simple as your number of friends is a dead giveaway: narcissists tend to burn through contacts quickly (they're always looking for a new "fix" of admiration from new acquaintances), so experts say that several hundred friends on the site fingers you as an egotist.

So as shocking as it may be to job seekers, asking for Facebook passwords may actually make a lot of sense to employers.  

After all, the stakes are high, with hiring: narcissists, who tend to win people over (employers included) with charm and confidence at first, are usually bad at maintaining relationships long-term, including at work. They also notoriously can't handle criticism, value their own interests over those of the team or company, and take little personality responsibility for their work. This could mean disaster in a work environment.

But disaster isn't always guaranteed, and that might make outing narcissists a little unfair. If given the opportunity to use their strengths (such as public facing work, or client relations), even the supremely egotistical can thrive  in the workplace, thanks to confidence, persuasiveness, self-sufficiency, and aura of excitement. In short, they're client bait.

The difference boils down to a breakdown of "narcissism" that's not easy to discern from social media alone. There are two kinds: grandiose and exploitive. 'Grandiose' refers to personalities with lighter, extroverted tendencies—people who enjoy being the life of the party.

Exploitive, on the other hand (which is, coincidentally, linked with a tendency to have several hundreds of Facebook "friends") refers to narcissists who go as far as to blame others for their mistakes, or use and discard people at will to get ahead, without moral implications.

The trouble is not that Facebook doesn't help anyone differentiate between the two—it just outs the extroverts and attention seekers. And once employers identify those traits in their jobseekers, they may not be taking the time to look further.

So if you're positing Paris Hilton quotes as your status for 900 friends, know that you're making a statement--and that Facebook is a very powerful mouthpiece.

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Read More:
Should You Share Your Facebook Password With Your Employer?
How Many Facebook Friends Do You Have? Study Links Narcissism and Facebook Activity (Yahoo News)
Self-Presentation 2.0: Narcissism and Self-Esteem on Facebook (Mehdizadeh study)
Big Egos in Business (Psychology Today)
Facebook Can Serve As a Personality Test

Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search | Networking | Workplace Issues


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