Job candidates who share their religious affiliations on Facebook and Twitter could have a more difficult time finding work, new research suggests.
A study from Carnegie Mellon University revealed that while there are a number of personal questions employers are not legally allowed to ask during the interview, job candidates who post those details on social networks are opening themselves up to potential hiring discrimination.
"Our experiment focused on a novel tension: the tension between the law — which, in the United States, protects various types of information, making it risky for certain personal questions to be asked during interviews — and new information technologies, such as online social networks, which make that same information often available to strangers, including interviewers and employers," said Alessandro Acquisti, associate professor of information technology and public policy and one of the study's authors.
While the majority of organizations don't use social networks as part of their hiring process, researchers found that those that do tend to be biased against some applicants.
"While it appears that a relatively small portion of U.S. employers regularly searches for candidates online, we found robust evidence of discrimination among certain types of employers," said Christina Fong, senior research scientist at Carnegie Mellon, another of the study's authors.
Researchers used data revealed online by actual members of popular social networking and job-seeking sites to design job candidate résumés and online profiles for their experiments. During the experiments, they also manipulated personal traits the candidates revealed regarding religion and sexual orientation, while holding signs of professionalism and work ethic constant.
Researchers then submitted applications on behalf of the candidates to real job openings at more than 4,000 U.S. employers, while at the same time collecting data that helped them get a sense of how many employers searched for job candidates online.
Next, Acquisti and Fong measured the number of interview opportunities a Christian candidate received relative to a Muslim candidate, and the number of interview opportunities a gay candidate received relative to a straight candidate.
"Our survey and field experiments show statistically significant evidence of hiring bias originating from information candidates shared on their online profiles," Fong said. "Both by itself and controlling for a host of demographic and firm variables, our Muslim candidate was less likely to receive an interview invitation compared to our Christian candidate in more politically conservative states and counties."
The researchers didn't find as much bias when it came to sexual orientation. Interview rates for the gay candidates were similar to those of the straight candidates.
Acquisti said the findings suggest that, while hiring discrimination via Internet searches and social media does not seem widespread, revealing certain traits online can have a significant effect on the behavior of employers who look online for candidates' personal information.
"Employers' use of online social networking sites to research job candidates raises a variety of notable implications, since a vast number of job candidates reveal personal information on these sites that U.S. employers can't ask in an interview or infer from a résumé," Acquisti said.
The study, "An Experiment in Hiring Discrimination Via Online Social Networks," is available on the Social Science Research Network
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.