Skip to Main Content
by Cathy Vandewater | February 23, 2012


When Facebook first blew up, so did fear of professional repercussions.

While the Id side happily tagged ourselves in flattering cocktail party photos and "liked" our favorite albums, the Superego fretted about the beer picture in our hand, or the explicit lyrics in that Lil Wayne song. Comments from friends were also a liability, what with their curse words, references to less-than-wholesome activities, and links to raunchy content or videos.

But, quite comfortingly, a new study has pointed to a rather simple conclusion: that the people hiring you and looking at your Facebook profile can see past a few blue comments or party photos and quite accurately see the bigger picture of you as a person.

The study of 56 students with jobs (at Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville and Auburn University) had raters take 10 minutes to scan students' profiles and answer questions projecting their work performance.

The raters, who were a university professor and two student peers, took note of photos, comments, level of education, hobbies, travel photos, and hobbies. Then they answered questions about the Facebooker's emotional stability or dependability.

Six months later, those projections were matched against actual reports from the student's supervisors on their work performance, and the results were surprisingly comparative—especially concerning traits like agreeability, conscientiousness, and intellectual curiosity.

In 10 minutes, raters had predicted what months of job supervision had gradually revealed. Well-travelled students were open to new experiences at work; those pictured with lots of other people were friendly to coworkers; those with a lot of negative comments and status updates were low on morale at the office.

Researchers have suggested that the high level of correlation between Facebook and real life comes from the audience we're targeting all those status updates for. It's harder for us to hide our personalities from the people already in our lives than it is from a strange recruiter. We're more likely to be filter-free with our thoughts and ideas for the people on our friends list than we are with a recruiter from our dream company.

This effect can be troublesome for those of us who would go to great lengths to hide a disdain for authority on an interview, or neglect to mention our love of illicit substances. But for job seekers with nothing serious to hide, the transparency might be positive. A good career fit for you shouldn't require hiding your true colors, and if this study is any indication, people looking at your Facebook photos are less likely to get hung up on a detail—like a drink in your hand—and more likely to see a bigger picture: that you have a life.

So yes, chill on the negativity, remove overtly glassy eyed party pics, and try to post a few more activity or group shots than glamour photos. But after that, stop worrying so much. We're all human, even recruiters.

--Cathy Vandewater,

Read More:
10 Things You Need to Know About Social Media for Your Job Search
Facebook Profiles Found to Predict Job Performance (WSJ)