LinkedIn is like a digital Marmite; you either love it or hate it. Lots of people who come to us at Brave Starts tend towards the latter.
“Do I really have to?” - “Must I?” – “I’ve not really paid it much attention.” – “There’s so much rubbish on there.”
Sure, these are some of the comments we hear. And we get it. The idea of putting your working life and accomplishments in a space that is visible to anyone is anathema to a lot of people. As Els Tobback writes, in her paper on self-praise strategies on LinkedIn, “Self-praise has traditionally been interpreted as a potentially face-threatening act, which infringes the ‘Modesty Maxim…’
LinkedIn has grown to a membership of 930 million users in 2023, in over 200 countries. More to the point for job seekers, a research article published in 2018 suggested that 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn, and 85% use it for selection purposes. This has implications for job seekers, and it raises questions about recruitment practices.
Recruiters are looking to gather data about people’s skills and personalities in relation to job roles. But can skills and personalities be accurately inferred from a LinkedIn profile?
In a paper published in 2021 in the Journal of Research in Personality, Sebastien Fernandez et al. concluded that LinkedIn offers honest signals about an individual’s personality. Their findings were based on a study of 607 participants who were graduates from a hospitality management school in Switzerland.
By separately collecting data from participants’ self-reported ‘big five model’ personality questionnaires and their LinkedIn profiles, Fernandez et al. were able to correlate LinkedIn profile indicators with reported personality traits using ‘signalling theory’ to explain their results.
LinkedIn profile indicators were the researchers’ hypothesised profile characteristics associated with each personality trait. Starting with 33, the researchers isolated a total of 12 unique indicators for four reported personality traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness. The big five trait of neuroticism was ignored in this analysis because of the difficulty of observing it. Indicators for each trait were found to be similar for men and women.
Their study found that the trait of extraversion could be inferred from LinkedIn profiles (e.g. number of connections) and that there were also indicators that signal a person’s level of conscientiousness (e.g. a comprehensive, up to date profile). Indicators for agreeableness, and openness to experience were also found to be valid, but to a lesser extent.
Fernandez et al. recognize some limitations of their study and call for research to examine if the findings of their study are replicable in participant samples with older and more diverse individuals – Brave Starts members take note.
The research team’s identification of personality indicators and their correlation with personality traits followed a robust and peer reviewed statistical methodology.
But good is a recruiter’s knowledge about these correlations – notwithstanding the gaps in the research literature that Fernandez et al. themselves acknowledge?
So, Brave Starters, faced with a recruitment and selection industry that will use LinkedIn – even if it might not know how to use it accurately - and a body of research that is reaching conclusions about the valid correlations between LinkedIn indicators and personality, we might have to develop a taste for Marmite!
Help is at hand!
Many of you have experienced our own Katie Pope’s excellent LinkedIn workshops, and if you haven’t, go to our events page and find out when the next one is. Making the most of your LinkedIn profile has been a valuable job-seeking resource for a while; recent research may prompt the application of further screening algorithms to the ever-increasing number of user profiles.
Take control. Be LinkedIn, not LockedOut.
Tobback, E. (2019) Telling the world how skilful you are: Self-praise strategies on LinkedIn. Discourse and Communication. 13(6) p.p. 647-668.
Roulin, N. and Levashina, J. (2018). LinkedIn as a new selection method: Psychometric properties and assessment approach. Personnel Psychology 72(2) p.p. 187-211.
Fernandez, S., Stocklin, M., Terrier, L. and Kim, S. (2021) Using available signals on LinkedIn for personality assessment. Journal of Research in Personality. 93