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First impression 2.0: competency representation on LinkedIn.

Damaschke, Katharina Christiane (2012) First impression 2.0: competency representation on LinkedIn.

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Abstract:Every organisation seeks to fill their open positions with the best candidate. Nowadays, the internet is often used to help identifying this person. Social network sites (SNSs) have developed into a very useful means for organisations to increase awareness and to gain information about, for example, job applicants by informally consulting their SNS profiles. Yet, discussion regarding the legality of these check-ups exists and opinions differ greatly among countries as well as within. Furthermore, there are also ethical concerns, because job applicants are often unaware of these informal screening methods. Apart from the legal and ethical questions, however, it remains uncertain to what degree such an online profile of a person is actually accurate. Thus the question can be raised to what extent a SNS profile represents “real life” competencies. Therefore, the question arises which elements of a SNS profile, in this case LinkedIn, are accurate indicators for which competency. This question is further broken down to form the following research questions: 4. Which competencies are generally relevant in today’s ‘recruitment world’? 5. Which LinkedIn elements serve as indicators for a person’s capacities regarding the selected competencies respectively? 6. How well does a LinkedIn profile represent or indicate the respective competencies? Method To answer these questions, three studies were performed. The first study addressed research question one and provided further input for the project. This study was broken down into two phases, where the first included a content analysis of 34 job advertisements and ten interviews with entrepreneurs to identify relevant competencies. From the combined results the six most mentioned competencies were selected; namely: teamwork, leadership, flexibility, communicativeness, assertiveness, and orderly/ analytical/ structural abilities. These competencies were defined to form seven constructs; splitting communicativeness into ‘communicative openness’ and ‘written communication’. In the second phase three interviews with HR managers were held, where the respondents were given the definitions of the seven constructs as well as three different LinkedIn profiles. The interviewees were asked to comment on which element of each profile might serve as an indicator of which competency as defined. The same procedure was used during the focus group, which consisted of four people (two male, two female). The results of each interviewee were listed separately as well as the outcomes of the focus group. Similar or equal statements were merged and the ideas of the researcher were included as well. This resulted in 74 coding elements covering ten sections of a LinkedIn profile; these are: Overview, summary, experience, education, clubs, groups, recommendations, additional elements, contact and general. The second study involved a questionnaire including 46 statements, a couple of background variables, and three questions regarding usage of LinkedIn in order to establish the competency levels of the respondents. A total of 45 useful responses to the questionnaire was received (14% response rate). The majority of the respondents was male (64%), Dutch (69%) and between 22 and 30 years of age (51%, M=34, SD=11). All constructs of the questionnaire formed reliable scales, with α ranging from .69 to .88. In study three a total of 45 profiles were coded. The final analysis included 52 elements of a LinkedIn profile; the remaining had been discarded due to zero-variance or too few respondents. Factor analysis revealed one reliable cluster (α .90), which was then included in the correlation analysis together with the other 53 elements. Combined Results The correlation analysis showed 18 significant relations with the seven constructs; at most four correlations were found with the same constructs (teamwork and orderly/ analytical/ structured). The variable ‘language use’ has a strong positive correlation with all constructs, with degrees ranging from .61 to .82. Other elements that have been shown to be significant indicators include groups and clubs 8 (both: number and number of different types), profile picture, length of summary (in lines) and number of recommendations as well as spelling errors. Discussion A total of six competencies have been found that are relevant in today’s recruitment world (see Study 1 Phase 1) and nine elements of a LinkedIn profile have shown to be indicators of these (see Combined Results). Consequentially, one could say that a LinkedIn profile is not very representative of the profile owner’s competencies. Thus, it has to be cautioned from making judgements based on such a profile. Employers should, in conclusion, not include background checks via LinkedIn in their selection process, because the question is not only highly debated regarding its ethical implications, but the representativeness of the information appears to be rather low. Yet it seems unlikely that recruiters will stop using SNS profiles in the near future and therefore job seekers should make sure to use formal language, include a picture and keep their profiles free of spelling errors. So what is the use of LinkedIn? This SNS enables persons to keep in touch with their business partners and other professionals, thus enabling them to stay up to date with recent developments. A LinkedIn member can also follow organisations, which is rather handy for job seekers as they can inform themselves about possible job openings. Since social media is increasing in importance, showing one’s interest and abilities in, for example, SNSs is important. However, having no profile can still be considered better than having a bad profile. This is the case due to the weak representativeness of a profile, which was discovered in this research. If a good profile is only slightly representing the actual competencies of the profile owner, a bad profile might in fact lead to false conclusions. It goes without saying that a good profile is always preferable and more beneficial to having no profile. Taking into account the clear professional focus of LinkedIn, it appears to be rather difficult to expand the results to other SNSs such as Facebook or MySpace, because these sites have an orientation towards ‘leisure’. Moreover, the elements visible on these sites seem less related to a person’s competencies and more to his/ her character or personality. When comparing LinkedIn to the ‘glass door’ concept used in the USA, one has to admit that a person might be described more accurately because multiple persons can ‘review’ and comment on the same individual. However, one has to be aware of the fact that these evaluations do not necessarily have to be truthful, because colleagues or competitors could abuse the system. Yet, whenever many similar views are expressed, the picture appears to be more reliable and trustworthy. A truthful picture/ opinion might therefore provide better indications on this person’s competencies than his/ her self-reported LinkedIn profile. Looking at this research one has to be aware of the fact that the majority of the data is self-reported, which might affect its reliability. Furthermore, the number of respondents is relatively small and for some parts of the coding scheme even fewer responses (5) were registered, which is why these parts were excluded from the final analysis. Another shortcoming of the project is the varying degree of agreement between the two coders; however, disagreements could be settled after discussion. Yet the guidelines as well as the coding scheme should be further refined in future research. The present project took only six competencies into consideration, but there is a substantially larger amount of qualifications a person can posses. Thus, future studies should look into which other competencies can be targeted and through what other SNSs these could be assessed. Additionally, it should be explored how HR personnel actually uses SNS profiles and other personal information about a candidate available online.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/61652
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