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Scholarly Article Review of Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants’ Social Media Postings

Updated on March 25, 2015
  • Summarize the article.
  • Discuss how this topic is important to you as well as to society.
  • Discuss how reading this article may influence your social media use in the future.

Job applicants and incumbents often use social media for personal communications allowing for direct observation of their social communications ‘‘unfiltered’’ for employer consumption. As such, these data offer a glimpse of employees in settings free from the impression management pressures present during evaluations conducted for applicant screening and research purposes.

— J. William Stoughton, MS, Lori Foster Thompson, PhD, and Adam W. Meade, PhD

I chose to read and review “Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants’ Social Media Postings” by J. William Stoughton, Lori Foster Thompson, and Adam W. Meade. This article is on the findings of a study created, using 175 participants, to determine if the personality characteristics of job applicants and incumbents are reflected in the content of their social media postings (Stoughton, Thompson, & Meade, 2013). The study participants all self-reported on social media content related to “photos and text-based references to alcohol and drug use and criticisms of superiors and peers (so-called ‘‘badmouthing’’ behavior) were compared to traditional personality assessments” (Stoughton, Thompson, & Meade, 2013, p. 800). The study concluded that extraverted candidates were predisposed to post on social media about alcohol and drugs; while participants that were low in agreeableness were particularly prone to engaging in badmouthing behaviors online through social media (Stoughton, Thompson, & Meade, 2013).

The conclusion of the study has raised questions about whether the personality of the members of society can be assessed through an individual’s social media usage. Stoughton, Thompson, and Meade’s (2013) results have led to the proposal that it may be possible to infer certain personality characteristics from the social media postings of individuals. This study and subsequent future studies may lead to society being able to measure that personality of individual’s through their social media postings. This could lead to job applicants and incumbents being hired, not hired, fired, or let go because of the personality that their social media usage indicates that they have.

The results of this study could have a great influence over society’s social media usage. The fact that social media usage may come to influence a person’s employment may cause people to use more privacy settings to avoid potential employers being able to have access to postings. People may also decide close their social media accounts to insure that potential employers cannot measure their personality based on their social media usage. It is also a possibility that social media users will become more guarded on social media and cease “badmouthing” potential employers, current employers, co-workers, and/or organizations on social media.

Reading this article has already influence my social media usage and will continue to influence my future uses of social media. Prior to this article I did not grasp how much an employer could tell about a person from their social media postings. Since learning about how employers can view social media postings to learn about potential and incumbent employees’ personality and how certain personalities may eventually be able to be gleaned from postings I have upped my privacy settings. I have also decided to refrain from posting anything that I would be uncomfortable with a future employer seeing. I do find it interesting that it may eventually be possible to learn a person’s personality from their social media postings, but I also see it as a violation of privacy. I feel that social media postings are only meant for friends and family, not employers. This article has caused me to become more aware of how my postings may eventually come to affect my employment opportunities.


Stoughton, J. W., Thompson, L. F., & Meade, A. W. (2013). Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants' Social Media Postings. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 16(11), 800-805. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0163

This study investigated job applicants’ personality characteristics reflected in the content of their social media postings. Results indicated that extroverted candidates were prone to postings related to alcohol and drugs.Those low in agreeableness were particularly likely to engage in online badmouthing behaviors.

— J. William Stoughton, MS, Lori Foster Thompson, PhD, and Adam W. Meade, PhD


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