FacebookFacebook profiles are supposed to be a digital representation of a person’s self, but how much they reveal about a person might be far more in-depth than previously thought. That’s because new research published by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology has indicated that Facebook profiles can serve as a stronger indicator of job performance than an IQ test.



In the study, six participants with prior HR experience were asked to rate the profiles of more than 500 college students. The participants rated the students’ Facebook profiles on their neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.



According to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the results indicated that the participants were able to draw similar conclusions independently. What this means is that given the proper amount of training, recruiters can form a reasonable picture of a potential candidate based on his or her profile alone. The effect isn’t exclusive to Facebook, either: Nearly any social networking site can serve this purpose.



One of the main takeaways of the test, according to the researchers, is that it confirms previous theories that users of social networks externalize personality tendencies. This would also explain why the evaluators’ ratings matched up very closely with self-rated traits from the Facebook users included in the study.



Despite the viability of Facebook and other social sites as a recruiting tool, the era of combining through Facebook profiles from job applicants still faces some hurdles. The practice has drawn criticism because viewing an applicant’s profile lets recruiters view things such as religion, race and martial status. Such criteria lead to ethical issues and raises legal concerns. It’s illegal for recruiters to ask applicants to self-identify this sort of criteria.



Still, the benefits of being able to use social networks in recruiting are clear. HR employees who are screening applicants can view and assess a person’s profile in just minutes, without the presence of the candidate. And, since the study confirmed the accuracy of this technique that means there are few drawbacks to using it as a tool. The study even found that ratings of candidates made by unassociated individuals matched up closely with ratings made by people who know the candidate.



Given all of that, we might not be too far away from Facebook becoming a legitimate resource for employers.