Does Facebook activity predict job performance?

Does Facebook activity predict job performance?

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I've seen a little bit of discussion in the media about Facebook being used in selection and recruitment settings. Assuming an employer can gain access to a person's Facebook profile, have any scientific studies been conducted to assess the following questions:

  • Does Facebook activity predict job performance?
  • If so, what does Facebook activity measure as seen by correlates with existing scales (e.g., personality, intelligence, integrity, etc.)?

Summary of Kluemper et al 2012

I had a read through the article by Kluemper et al (2012) mentioned in the answer by John Pick. The following summarises some key points.

After discussing the broader context of using social networks to measure personality, Kluemper et al (2012) cited the findings of a couple of existing studies:

Karl, Peluchette, and Schlaegel (2010) found that social network users high in conscientiousness were less likely to post problematic content (e.g., substance abuse, sexual content), while Amichai-Hamburger and Vinitzky (2010) found a relationship between self-rated extraversion and number of Facebook friends.

The study by Kluemper et al (2012) involved two studies. Each study involved getting ratings on around 250 participants including self-report Big 5 personality and then getting three raters to read through the participant's Facebook profile and then fill out a measure of Big 5 personality. Self-other correlations for the same personality factors ranged from .16 to .44. This supports the idea that Facebook profiles can be used to get at least an approximate measure of personality. It should also be mentioned that these self-other correlations are a fair bit lower than those obtained by Costa and McCrae (1998) when using the NEO, and a single knowledgeable other-rater (e.g., in the r=.5 to .6 range).

Meta-analyses have generally found a positive but weak correlation between Big 5 personality and job performance (e.g., Barrick & Mount, 1991). In combination with the results from Kluemper et al, this may suggest that personality measures extracted from Facebook profiles might predict job performance. However, given the relatively low self-other correlations, this still requires further empirical testing.

Furthermore, extracting Big 5 personality using three raters reflects only one rating strategy. Thus, there are many other useful measures and measurement strategies that could be explored.


  • Amichai-Hamburger, Y. & Vinitzky, G. (2010). Social network use and personality. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 1289-1295.
  • Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The Big Five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1- 26.
  • Costa, P. T. & McCrae (1988, PDF). Personality in adulthood: A six-year longitudinal study of self-reports and spouse ratings on the NEO Personality Inventory. It's not a meta analysis. N = 167 for spouse ratings.
  • Karl, K., Peluchette, J., & Schlaegel, C. (2010). Who's posting Facebook faux pas? A cross-cultural examination of personality differences. Inter- national Journal of Selection and Assessment, 18, 174-186.
  • Kluemper, D. H., Rosen, P. A. and Mossholder, K. W. (2012), Social Networking Websites, Personality Ratings, and the Organizational Context: More Than Meets the Eye?. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00881.x URL

The paper referred to in the OP's media link is free online. It reviews the literature and presents its own new studies as well:

  • KLUEMPER, D. H., ROSEN, P. A. and MOSSHOLDER, K. W. (2012), Social Networking Websites, Personality Ratings, and the Organizational Context: More Than Meets the Eye?. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00881.x

My takeaway: Yes, Facebook activity can be used to predict the Big Five personality traits, which, in turn, can predict job performance, but HR people aren't necessarily qualified to make a valid assessment. That, and the usual "but more research is warranted".

Benefits of Performance Profiling

I have seen managers in client organizations apply this process across a variety of work settings for all types of jobs, at all organizational levels – from CEO to janitor. Through performance profiling, these managers have helped their people focus on the most important things that these individuals can directly influence in their respective positions. Eight important benefits to completing performance profiles for all positions within an organization have emerged:

  1. Avoids mistaking motion for action. By defining key results for all positions, and identifying the key actions that drive them, you are clearly connecting specific actions with specific outcomes. People become focused on what they are supposed to accomplish rather than simply engaging in unfocused motion.
  2. Supports knowledge-based organizations. This orientation can especially benefit knowledge-based organizations striving to create a learning-oriented culture that focuses their intellectual capital on measurable value creation. The human capital valuation process can be effectively anchored by performance profiles that link knowledge building action to important key result areas such as product innovation and effective cross-functional collaboration.
  3. Facilitates positive exchange around challenging performance areas. Performance profiling is an opportunity for a manager to proactively work with his or her people to identify the essence of their work. This mutual review and collaborative effort works especially well in technology-based organizations where key actions and associated results are more difficult to define. The delivery of new products, for example, is often influenced by a variety of actions that are dependent on creativity. Innovation, a key ingredient in our increasingly knowledge-based workplace, needs to be defined, measured, and managed. You can begin this process through performance profiling. For example, innovation can be translated into “having X% of all revenues per year come from new or innovative products.” 3M uses this metric and puts its annual revenue target from new products at 30 percent.
  4. Can help to avoid the courthouse. Clear performance expectations are an effective defensive against wrongful termination claims. A performance profile makes your expectations explicit. It provides clarity and specificity, allowing you and your people to accurately document what is expected of them in a specific position.
  5. Improves selection decisions. With a performance profile, you can formulate specific questions to ask a job applicant, or performance activities you will require them to complete during the selection process. Your questions and activities need to be targeted to discover whether the candidate matches the performance profile for the specific position, allowing you to “weed out” applicants who lack the qualifications for a position.
  6. Improves fairness of performance evaluation. When there are clear performance expectations, surprises are reduced during evaluation sessions. It is clear whether the person achieved the specified key results. Performance based observations about specific actions outweigh “gut feel” comments based on subjective perceptions.
  7. Improves training, development and coaching efforts. Individuals’ developmental needs can be more easily identified using a performance profile. In turn, areas to pinpoint for improvement are clearer.
  8. Can be used as a tool in “pay for performance” compensation programs. Defining key results or performance outcomes can help in determining formulas for pay for performance programs.

Without clear key result areas, pay for performance schemes can be ambiguous and should be discouraged. With this powerful package of benefits in mind, let’s review the steps involved in developing a performance profile.

The Present Research

We conducted the present study to investigate whether and how group performance could be predicted by individual performance and interpersonal attraction, and whether and how directly observed interpersonal behaviors mediate the relations between these variables on the theoretical basis of the input-process-output model. Our study extends previous research because we went beyond examining the relations between the relevant variables in isolation (e.g., Chung et al., 2017 Casey-Campbell & Martens, 2009 LePine & van Dyne, 2001 DeDreu & Weingart, 2003 Hackmann, 2002 Kozlowski & Bell, 2003). Rather, we considered all of the theoretically important variables in one study. This was important to do because it allowed us to control for the effect of the other variables when examining the relation between two specific variables.

Another extension of our study is that we did not assess interpersonal behavior via questionnaire data, but we measured behavior directly (Furr, 2009 Back & Egloff, 2009). As far as we know, no prior studies directly tested observed interpersonal behaviors as mediators of the link between individual performance/interpersonal attraction and group performance. Another noteworthy feature of our study is that we categorized participants into same-sex groups, and that we used a zero-acquaintance design. 1 By doing so, we attempted to minimize the probability that possible confounders would influence the interpersonal attraction evaluations (e.g., heterosexual attraction, heterosexual flirting behavior, acquaintance, familiarity). Because the group members did not know each other before the study, all groups began their interactions in the first stage of group formation according to Tuckman (1965).

Moreover, the zero-acquaintance setting and the chronological order of the measures in our design allowed us to examine how both individual performance and interpersonal attraction affected group performance (and not the other way around). 2 Furthermore, research has shown that ratings of interpersonal attraction (e.g., Indik, 1965 Slater, 1958) and group performance (Mullen & Baumeister, 1987 Mullen & Copper, 1994 Mullen, Johnson & Drake, 1987) decrease with increasing group size. We therefore decided to assess groups with an invariable group size of four participants. Finally, tasks and interactions have been classified in various ways in the literature (e.g., Steiner, 1972 McGrath, 1984). These taxonomies have been useful for many areas of group research, but few have been relevant for investigating interpersonal attraction in groups (Beal et al., 2003). However, task interdependence was found to be a highly relevant aspect of group interactions in investigations of interpersonal attraction and group performance (Gully, Devine, & Whitney, 1995). Thus, in the present study, we focused on the prediction of group performance in a task with high interdependence (i.e., group members had to interact with each other).

A Model of Organizational Behavior and Management

A major responsibility—perhaps the major responsibility—of managers is to make organizations operate effectively. Bringing about effective performance, however, is no easy task. As Nadler and Tushman note:

Understanding one individual’s behavior is challenging in and of itself understanding a group that’s made up of different individuals and comprehending the many relationships among those individuals is even more complex. Imagine, then, the mind-boggling complexity of a large organization made up of thousands of individuals and hundreds of groups with myriad relationships among these individuals and groups.

Despite this difficulty, however, organizations must be managed. Nadler and Tushman continue:

Ultimately the organization’s work gets done through people, individually or collectively, on their own or in collaboration with technology. Therefore, the management of organizational behavior is central to the management task—a task that involves the capacity to understand the behavior patterns of individuals, groups, and organizations, to predict what behavioral responses will be elicited by various managerial actions, and finally to use this understanding and these predictions to achieve control.

The work of society is accomplished largely through organizations, and the role of management is to see to it that organizations perform this work. Without it, the wheels of society would soon grind to a halt.

What Is Organizational Behavior?

The study of the behavior of people in organizations is typically referred to as organizational behavior. Here, the focus is on applying what we can learn from the social and behavioral sciences so we can better understand and predict human behavior at work. We examine such behavior on three levels—the individual, the group, and the organization as a whole. In all three cases, we seek to learn more about what causes people—individually or collectively—to behave as they do in organizational settings. What motivates people? What makes some employees leaders and others not? Why do groups often work in opposition to their employer? How do organizations respond to changes in their external environments? How do people communicate and make decisions? Questions such as these constitute the domain of organizational behavior and are the focus of this course.

To a large extent, we can apply what has been learned from psychology, sociology, and cultural anthropology. In addition, we can learn from economics and political science. All of these disciplines have something to say about life in organizations. However, what sets organizational behavior apart is its particular focus on the organization (not the discipline) in organizational analysis (see (Figure)). Thus, if we wish to examine a problem of employee motivation, for example, we can draw upon economic theories of wage structures in the workplace. At the same time, we can also draw on the psychological theories of motivation and incentives as they relate to work. We can bring in sociological treatments of social forces on behavior, and we can make use of anthropological studies of cultural influences on individual performance. It is this conceptual richness that establishes organizational behavior as a unique applied discipline. And throughout our analyses, we are continually concerned with the implications of what we learn for the quality of working life and organizational performance. We always look for management implications so the managers of the future can develop more humane and more competitive organizations for the future.

For convenience, we often differentiate between micro- and macro-organizational behavior. Micro-organizational behavior is primarily concerned with the behavior of individuals and groups, while macro-organizational behavior (also referred to as organization theory ) is concerned with organization-wide issues, such as organization design and the relations between an organization and its environment. Although there are times when this distinction is helpful, it is always important to remember that in most instances we learn the most when we take a comprehensive view of organizational behavior and integrate these two perspectives. That is, issues such as organization structure can influence employee motivation. Hence, by keeping these two realms separate we lose valuable information that can help us better understand how to manage organizations.

Building Blocks of Organizations

Understanding the behavior of people at work is fundamental to the effective management of an organization. Obviously, a number of factors come together to determine this behavior and its organizational consequences. In order to understand the origins and characteristics of these factors, it is necessary to have a model that organizes and simplifies the variables involved. We offer such a model here in the hope that it will bring some order to the study of this subject. The model can be considered in two parts (see (Figure)).

The first part of the model is the simple recognition of organizational inputs and outcomes. That is, organizations receive inputs from the external environment in the form of capital, raw materials, labor, community or government support, and so forth. In addition, organizations experience or produce certain outcomes, including (1) organizational goal attainment, (2) group performance and effectiveness, and (3) individual performance and effectiveness. Thus, organizations and the people in them exist in a constant state of flux, receiving and transforming inputs from the environment and returning those transformed inputs in the form of finished goods and services, return on stockholders’ equity, salaries that are paid to employees, and so forth. It is, in short, a dynamic system.

The second aspect of the model is the organization itself and all of its parts. One way to understand the complexity of organizations is to think of them simply as a set of building blocks, including:

Individuals and groups. Organizations are collectives of individuals and groups working to pursue common objectives. Their members come from various backgrounds and have varying abilities and skills, differing motivational levels, and different ambitions. Within the organizational context, these people must communicate, make decisions, show leadership, and handle power and organizational politics as they carry out their assigned activities.

Tasks and technology. In addition to variations among individuals and groups, we must recognize variations in the technology of the workplace. That is, how does the work actually get done? Technology includes both the actual design of jobs and the tools and techniques used in manufacture (e.g., robotics and expert systems).

Organization design. Putting together these factors—individuals and groups and tasks—is the subject of organization design . That is, how do we structure an organization so it effectively coordinates and controls employee behavior to facilitate performance?

Organizational processes. In addition to people, machines, and structure, we must recognize a series of organizational processes , such as leadership, communication, decision-making, power and politics, and so forth. The processes largely determine the nature and quality of interpersonal and intergroup relations within the workplace and, as such, influence ultimate organizational performance.

Management. Finally, the glue that holds these building blocks together is the character of management. Throughout this text, we shall see numerous examples of how the degree of managerial effectiveness and prowess have determined the success or failure of a venture. We shall take a managerial view throughout our survey of organizational behavior.

There have been many attempts to provide a differentiation between leadership and management over time. While they are not the same thing, they are necessarily linked, and complementary. Any effort to separate the two is likely to cause more problems than it solves and as business evolved the content of leadership and management has changed. The emergence of the “knowledge worker,” and the profound differences that this causes the way business is organized. With the rise of the knowledge worker, one does not ‘manage’ people, and instead the task is to lead people and the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.

These five variables, then, will constitute the primary ingredients of this book. We shall proceed sequentially, beginning with individual behavior and moving to group and intergroup behavior and finally to organization design and structure. On the basis of this, we will turn to a consideration of several of the more important organizational processes. Finally, we will look to the future and examine ways that organizations can continue to develop and improve their workforces and the organization as a whole. Throughout, the roles of technology and management will be considered. Also, throughout, we will blend theory with research and practice.

  1. Discuss the role of management in the larger societal context.
  2. What do you think the managers of the future will be like?
  3. Identify what you think are the critical issues facing contemporary management. Explain.

Organizational behavior is the study of people in organizations. It can be studied on a micro level, which focuses on individual or group behavior, or on a macro level, which focuses on organization-wide actions and events. A model of organizational behavior is presented, consisting of five building blocks: individuals and groups, tasks and technology, organization design, organizational processes, and management.

Chapter Review Questions

  1. Define work.
  2. What functions does work serve in modern society?
  3. Describe the extent and nature of the challenges facing the workplace in the next decade.
  4. What can be done about these challenges?
  5. Define management.
  6. How does the nature of management change according to one’s level and function in the organization?
  7. Discuss the role of management in the larger societal context. What do you think the managers of the future will be like?
  8. Identify what you think are the critical issues facing contemporary management. Explain.

Critical Thinking Case

New Management Challenges for the New Age

Today’s news is littered with scandals, new allegations of sexual assault, and tragedy. Since 2017 and the #metoo movement, stemming from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, more and more public figures have been put into the spotlight to defend themselves against allegations from women around the globe.

Not only publicly, but privately in companies around the world, there have been firings and investigations into misconduct from coworkers, managers, and CEOs. It is a relevant topic that is getting long-overdue publicity and encouraging more men and women to come forward to discuss openly rather than hide the events and injustices of the past. Other events showcase the tumultuous and on-edge society we are living in, such as the Charlottesville, VA, attack that left one dead and 19 injured when a person drove a car through a crowd of protestors during a white nationalist gathering.

With unanticipated events on a daily business, it is important for companies to take a stand against racial hatred and harassment of any kind, and to have firm policies when such events occur. Take Netflix, for example, who in July 2018 fired their chief communications officer for saying the “N-word” in full form. This event occurred during an internal meeting in which the speaker was not directing the slur at anyone specific, but claimed it was being made as an emphatic point about offensive words in comedy programming. The “Netflix way,” the culture that is built around radical candor and transparency, was put to the test during this occurrence.

The offender, Jonathan Friedland, attempted to apologize for his misdeed, hoping it would fade away and his apology would be accepted. However, it didn’t work that way instead, the anger was palpable between coworkers and eventually led to the firing of Friedland after a few months of inaction.

Netflixers are given a high level of freedom and responsibility within their “Netflix way” culture. Blunt feedback is encouraged, and trust and discretion are the ultimate gatekeeper, as employees have access to sensitive information and are ultimately trusted for how they expense items and take vacation time.

In the insanely fast-paced streaming-services industry, it is hard to keep this culture at a premium, but it is imperative for the success of the company overall. “As you scale a company to become bigger and bigger, how do you scale that kind of culture?” said Colin Estep, a former senior engineer who left voluntarily in 2016. “I don’t know that we ever had a good answer.”

In order to keep up, sometimes the company is seen as harsh in their tactics to keep the best of the best. “I think we’re transparent to a fault in our culture and that can come across as cutthroat,” said Walta Nemariam, an employee in talent acquisition at Netflix.

Netflix has stayed true to their cultural values despite the pressures and sometimes negative connotations associated with this “cutthroat” environment. Their ability to remain agile, while displaying no tolerance for societal injustices, puts them at the forefront of new-age companies. It is a difficult pace to stay in line with, but it seems that they are keeping in stride and remaining true to who they are, for now.

Does Facebook activity predict job performance? - Psychology

Hopefully, you don&rsquot need an extra reason to enjoy your hobbies, but if you happen to be one of the many professionals who are struggling to keep their constant busyness from encroaching on their favorite activities, a new study might give you a motivation boost to keep up with your pastime of choice.

The research out of San Francisco State University looked at how creative activities like knitting, cooking, painting, photography, gardening or what-have-you affect work performance. In a two-part study the team of psychologists asked 341 professionals about their pastimes and also asked them to rate both their level of creativity at work and the level to which they support their colleagues. Another group of 92 Air Force Captain also gave information about their afterhours pursuits and had their evaluations of job performance examined.

"We found that in general, the more you engage in creative activities, the better you'll do," said the study&rsquos lead author Kevin Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State.

Knitting Your Way to Better Performance

The analysis showed that those who engaged in a creative hobby performed between 15-30 percent better at work. The team offered several possible explanations for why this might be so. Taking time to indulge in your favorite creative pursuit might help you recharge before heading back to work, or could also be a means to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, knowledge that will benefit you professionally as well. Those who engaged in a hobby also reported greater feelings of control and mastery.

Whatever the mechanism, the authors acknowledge that part of what may be going on is simply a selection bias. Those that choose to do these sorts of hobbies are simply more likely to be creative types and bring though skills to work with them, rather than the hobbies causing greater creativity.

An Office Bakeoff?

For this reason (and because coercion is a lousy motivation strategy), the researchers stress it&rsquos a bad idea for managers to push their people into developing afterhours hobbies because of the study results. "One of the main concerns is that you don&rsquot want to have someone feel like their organization is controlling them, especially when it comes to creative activities," Eschleman said, "because intrinsic motivation is part of that unique experience that comes with creative activity."

Instead, the study offers others suggestions: "Large organizations, such as Zappos Inc., incorporate employee artwork into office decorations. Other similar activities commonly found in organizations include food cook-offs, cross-discipline education opportunities, and costume contests during holidays. A more cost-effective and less intrusive approach for organization is to inform employees that creative activity may help them recover from the workplace."

Does Facebook activity predict job performance? - Psychology

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7. Organisational support

Workers want to know their organisation cares about them: that they are getting something back for what they are putting in. This is primarily communicated through things like how bosses treat us, the kinds of fringe benefits we get and other subtle messages. If people perceive more organisational support, they experience higher job satisfaction.

Remember: it’s not just whether the organisation is actually being supportive, it’s whether it appears that way. The point being that appearances are really important here. If people don’t perceive it, then for them it might as well not exist. That’s why great managers need a politician’s touch.

Considering Creative Self-Efficacy: Its Current State and Ideas for Future Inquiry

Steven M. Farmer , Pamela Tierney , in The Creative Self , 2017

Big 5 and Other Personal Traits

Several studies have shown that openness to experience is positively related to higher levels of CSE ( Hsu et al., 2011 Karwowski, Lebuda, Wisniewska, & Gralewski, 2013 Shin et al., 2012 Strickland & Towler, 2011 ). Concerning the other Big 5 factors, Hsu et al. (2011) found that CSE also related to conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extraversion, whereas Karwowski et al. (2013) found a positive connection for CSE with conscientiousness and extraversion, and a negative association with neuroticism. In a meta-analysis assessing the relationship of the Big Five personality traits with creative self-beliefs, including CSE, Karwowski and Lebuda (2016) found relations between CSE and all five, with the strongest relationship with openness, and quite weak relations for CSE with agreeableness and neuroticism. The meta-analysis also showed CSE to be strongly related to plasticity (a metatrait combining openness and extraversion).

Concerning other personality traits, Chong and Ma (2010) found a positive pattern between CSE and the trait of polychronicity (preference to be engaged in two or more tasks or events simultaneously), while another study reported that individuals presenting with an overall “cautious” personality tended to have lower levels of CSE ( Choi, 2004 ). The positive psychology traits of optimism ( Gupta & Sing, 2014 Hsu et al., 2011 Li & Wu, 2011 ), hope, and resilience ( Gupta & Sing, 2014 ) also demonstrate a positive link with being more efficacious about one’s creative capability.

Your Facebook Profile Can Predict Your Job Performance


It can take as little as 10 minutes for someone to go through your Facebook profile and predict how you’ll perform in the workplace.

In a new study to be published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers asked a university professor and two students to spend 10 minutes looking through the Facebook profiles of employed college students. They were then asked a series of personality-related questions about those students, like whether they thought the students were dependable or emotionally stable.

Six months later, the researchers obtained performance reviews of those students and compared those reviews with the earlier Facebook evaluations. The result: a high correlation between the perceptions drawn from Facebook profiles and their performance at work. In fact, the Facebook evaluations proved to be more accurate than traditional personality tests companies often use to gauge prospective employees.

“I think one of the differences is that you change the frame of reference. You’re asking the rater, ‘Is this person a hard worker?’ On a personality test, the employee would be asked, ‘How hard a worker are you?’ One of the criticisms of self-reporting personality testing is that it can be faked. On a Facebook page, that’s a lot harder to do.”

The study’s results call into question the sorts of personality tests human-resources (HR) staffs have used to evaluate candidates for years. If a 10-minute assessment is all it takes to determine good workers from poor ones, why wouldn’t all employers do that?

Well, a lot of them already are. An estimated 70% of recruiters and HR staffs have turned down candidates after they’ve found negative information about them from sites like Facebook.

But what’s interesting about this study is that it didn’t just focus on the kind of information that wouldn’t disqualify someone for a job. It also focused on positive personality traits that employers would want in an employee, like if he or she is social, curious, has interesting hobbies or a sense of humor. Photos of students going out and partying didn’t necessarily hurt them and sometimes even boosted their ratings because it showed that they were extroverted and comfortable in social settings.

However, as more employers consider using social-media sites to evaluate job seekers, more companies could find themselves in legal limbo. The legality of using sites like Facebook in hiring is often unclear in many states, which is why many employers hire outside companies to run social-media background checks on candidates. Those companies give employers only the information that can legally be used in evaluating prospective employees.

So if you’re job-seeking, assume that a potential employer is looking you up online. Before you post something, think: Would I want my future boss to see this? But then again, don’t just post photos of you sitting around your apartment reading in complete solitude. Those photos showing you out and about may actually help you.

Here's Google's Secret to Hiring the Best People

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

An employee walks through the lobby of Google's Washington headquarters, Jan. 8, 2015. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” was the tagline for a Head & Shoulders shampoo ad campaign in the 1980s. It unfortunately encapsulates how most interviews work. There have been volumes written about how “the first five minutes” of an interview are what really matter, describing how interviewers make initial assessments and spend the rest of the interview working to confirm those assessments. If they like you, they look for reasons to like you more. If they don’t like your handshake or the awkward introduction, then the interview is essentially over because they spend the rest of the meeting looking for reasons to reject you. These small moments of observation that are then used to make bigger decisions are called “thin slices.”

Tricia Prickett and Neha Gada-Jain, two psychology students at the University of Toledo, collaborated with their professor Frank Bernieri and reported in a 2000 study that judgments made in the first 10 seconds of an interview could predict the outcome of the interview.

The problem is, these predictions from the first 10 seconds are useless.

They create a situation where an interview is spent trying to confirm what we think of someone, rather than truly assessing them. Psychologists call this confirmation bias, “the tendency to search for, interpret, or prioritize information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses.” Based on the slightest interaction, we make a snap, unconscious judgment heavily influenced by our existing biases and beliefs. Without realizing it, we then shift from assessing a candidate to hunting for evidence that confirms our initial impression.

Typical, unstructured job interviews are pretty bad at predicting how someone performs once hired.

In other words, most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4 percent of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds. “Tell me about yourself.” “What is your greatest weakness?” “What is your greatest strength?” Worthless.

Work Rules: Insights from Google that Will Transform How You Live and Lead,

Equally worthless are the case interviews and brainteasers used by many firms. These include problems such as: “Your client is a paper manufacturer that is considering building a second plant. Should they?” or “Estimate how many gas stations there are in Manhattan.” Or, most annoyingly, “How many golf balls would fit inside a 747?”

Performance on these kinds of questions is at best a discrete skill that can be improved through practice, eliminating their utility for assessing candidates. At worst, they rely on some trivial bit of information or insight that is withheld from the candidate, and serve primarily to make the interviewer feel clever and self-satisfied. They have little if any ability to predict how candidates will perform in a job.

Full disclosure: I'm the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, and some of these interview questions have been and I’m sure continue to be used at the company. Sorry about that. We do everything we can to discourage this, and when our senior leaders—myself included—review applicants each week, we ignore the answers to these questions.

In 1998, Frank Schmidt and John Hunter published a meta-analysis of 85 years of research on how well assessments predict performance. They looked at 19 different assessment techniques and found that typical, unstructured job interviews were pretty bad at predicting how someone would perform once hired.

Unstructured interviews have an r2 of 0.14, meaning that they can explain only 14 percent of an employee’s performance. This is somewhat ahead of reference checks (explaining 7 percent of performance), ahead of the number of years of work experience (3 percent).

The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29 percent). This entails giving candidates a sample piece of work, similar to that which they would do in the job, and assessing their performance at it. Even this can’t predict performance perfectly, since actual performance also depends on other skills, such as how well you collaborate with others, adapt to uncertainty, and learn.

People who score high on conscientiousness are more likely to feel responsibility for their teams.

And worse, many jobs don’t have nice, neat pieces of work that you can hand to a candidate. You can (and should) offer a work sample test to someone applying to work in a call center or to do very task- oriented work, but for many jobs there are too many variables involved day‑to‑day to allow the construction of a representative work sample. All our technical hires, whether in engineering or product management, go through a work sample test of sorts, where they are asked to solve engineering problems during the interview.

The second-best predictors of performance are tests of general cognitive ability (26 percent). In contrast to case interviews and brainteasers, these are actual tests with defined right and wrong answers, similar to what you might find on an IQ test. They are predictive because general cognitive ability includes the capacity to learn, and the combination of raw intelligence and learning ability will make most people successful in most jobs. The problem, however, is that most standardized tests of this type discriminate against non-white, non-male test takers (at least in the United States). The SAT consistently underpredicts how women and non- whites will perform in college. Reasons why include the test format (there is no gender gap on Advanced Placement tests, which use short answers and essays instead of multiple choice) test scoring (boys are more likely to guess after eliminating one possible answer, which improves their scores) and even the content of questions.

Tied with tests of general cognitive ability are structured interviews (26 percent), where candidates are asked a consistent set of questions with clear criteria to assess the quality of responses. There are two kinds of structured interviews: behavioral and situational. Behavioral interviews ask candidates to describe prior achievements and match those to what is required in the current job (i.e., “Tell me about a time . . . ?”). Situational interviews present a job-related hypothetical situation (i.e., “What would you do if . . . ?”). A diligent interviewer will probe deeply to assess the veracity and thought process behind the stories told by the candidate.

Structured interviews are predictive even for jobs that are themselves unstructured. We’ve also found that they cause both candidates and interviewers to have a better experience and are perceived to be most fair. So why don’t more companies use them? Well, they are hard to develop: You have to write them, test them, and make sure interviewers stick to them. And then you have to continuously refresh them so candidates don’t compare notes and come prepared with all the answers. It’s a lot of work, but the alternative is to waste everyone’s time with a typical interview that is either highly subjective, or discriminatory, or both.

There is a better way. Research shows that combinations of assessment techniques are better than any single technique. For example, a test of general cognitive ability when combined with an assessment of conscientiousness is better able to predict who will be successful in a job. My experience is that people who score high on conscientiousness “work to completion”—meaning they don’t stop until a job is done rather than quitting at good enough—and are more likely to feel responsibility for their teams and the environment around them.

Sure, it can be fun to ask 'What song best describes your work ethic?' but the point is not to indulge yourself with questions that trigger your biases.

The goal of our interview process is to predict how candidates will perform once they join the team. We achieve that goal by doing what the science says: combining behavioral and situational structured interviews with assessments of cognitive ability, conscientiousness, and leadership. To help interviewers, we’ve developed an internal tool called qDroid, where an interviewer picks the job they are screening for, checks the attributes they want to test, and is emailed an interview guide with questions designed to predict performance for that job. This makes it easy for interviewers to find and ask great interview questions. Interviewers can also share the document with others on the interview panel so everyone can collaborate to assess the candidate from all perspectives.

The neat trick here is that, while interviewers can certainly make up their own questions if they wish, by making it easier to rely on the prevalidated ones, we’re giving a little nudge toward better, more reliable interviewing.

Examples of interview questions include:

• Tell me about a time your behavior had a positive impact on your team. (Follow-ups: What was your primary goal and why? How did your teammates respond? Moving forward, what’s your plan?)
• Tell me about a time when you effectively managed your team to achieve a goal. What did your approach look like? (Follow-ups: What were your targets and how did you meet them as an individual and as a team? How did you adapt your leadership approach to different individuals? What was the key takeaway from this specific situation?)
• Tell me about a time you had difficulty working with someone (can be a coworker, classmate, client). What made this person difficult to work with for you? (Follow-ups: What steps did you take to resolve the problem? What was the outcome? What could you have done differently?)

One early reader of this book, when it was still a rough draft, told me, “These questions are so generic it’s a little disappointing.” He was right, and wrong. Yes, these questions are bland it’s the answers that are compelling. But the questions give you a consistent, reliable basis for sifting the superb candidates from the merely great, because superb candidates will have much, much better examples and reasons for making the choices they did. You’ll see a clear line between the great and the average.

Sure, it can be fun to ask “What song best describes your work ethic?” or “What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?”— both real interview questions from other companies— but the point is to identify the best person for the job, not to indulge yourself by asking questions that trigger your biases (“OMG! I think about the same things in the car!”) .
We then score the interview with a consistent rubric. Our own version of the scoring for general cognitive ability has five constituent components, starting with how well the candidate understands the problem.

For each component, the interviewer has to indicate how the candidate did, and each performance level is clearly defined. The interviewer then has to write exactly how the candidate demonstrated their general cognitive ability, so later reviewers can make their own assessment.

Upon hearing about our interview questions and scoring sheets, the same skeptical friend blurted, “Bah! Just more platitudes and corporate speak.” But think about the last five people you interviewed for a similar job. Did you give them similar questions or did each person get different questions? Did you cover everything you needed to with each of them, or did you run out of time? Did you hold them to exactly the same standard, or were you tougher on one because you were tired, cranky, and having a bad day? Did you write up detailed notes so that other interviewers could benefit from your insights?

A concise hiring rubric addresses all these issues because it distills messy, vague, and complicated work situations down to measurable, comparable results. For example, imagine you’re interviewing someone for a tech- support job. A solid answer for “identifies solutions” would be, “I fixed the laptop battery like my customer asked.” An outstanding answer would be, “I figured that since he had complained about battery life in the past and was about to go on a trip, I’d also get a spare battery in case he needed it.” Applying a boring- seeming rubric is the key to quantifying and taming the mess.

Remember too that you don’t just want to assess the candidate. You want them to fall in love with you. Really. You want them to have a great experience, have their concerns addressed, and come away feeling like they just had the best day of their lives. Interviews are awkward because you’re having an intimate conversation with someone you just met, and the candidate is in a very vulnerable position. It’s always worth investing time to make sure they feel good at the end of it, because they will tell other people about their experience—and because it’s the right way to treat people.

In contrast to the days when everyone in Silicon Valley seemed to have a story about their miserable Google experience, today 80 percent of people who have been interviewed and rejected report that they would recommend that a friend apply to Google. This is pretty remarkable considering that they themselves didn’t get hired.

In every interview I’ve ever had with another company, I’ve met my potential boss and several peers. But rarely have I met anyone who would be working for me. Google turns this approach upside down. You’ll probably meet your prospective manager (where possible—for some large job groups like “software engineer” or “account strategist” there is no single hiring manager) and a peer, but more important is meeting one or two of the people who will work for you. In a way, their assessments are more important than anyone else’s—after all, they’re going to have to live with you. This sends a strong signal to candidates about Google being nonhierarchical, and it also helps prevent cronyism, where managers hire their old buddies for their new teams. We find that the best candidates leave subordinates feeling inspired or excited to learn from them.

We also add someone with little connection to the group for which the candidate is interviewing—we might ask someone from the legal team to interview a prospective sales hire.

We also add a “cross-functional interviewer,” someone with little or no connection at all to the group for which the candidate is interviewing. For example, we might ask someone from the legal or the Ads team (the latter design the technology behind our advertising products) to interview a prospective sales hire. This is to provide a disinterested assessment: A Googler from a different function is unlikely to have any interest in a particular job being filled but has a strong interest in keeping the quality of hiring high. They are also less susceptible to the thin-slices error, since they have less in common with the candidate than the other interviewers.