How LinkedIn Profiles Reveal User Personality
Despite the business focus, professional profiles leak personal information.
Posted Dec 12, 2017
We all have colleagues who can really work a room at a networking event, swapping business cards faster than a blackjack dealer, and making friends and connections at lightning speed. Online, just like in person, business networking incorporates personality traits that are discernable through user profiles, particularly traits like extraversion and self-presentation.
Accordingly, although online business platforms are not designed to function as dating sites and are designed primarily for professional interaction, they also reveal personal information about the person behind the profile.
Image Management on LinkedIn v. Facebook
José van Dijck in “‘You have one identity’: performing the self on Facebook and LinkedIn” (2013) notes that Facebook is geared toward personal self-presentation whereas LinkedIn is tailored for professional self-promotion.[i] Yet, he notes that both platforms share similar principles of connectivity.
Most of us appreciate these distinctions, and mindful of social rules of etiquette, we showcase ourselves differently depending on our goals, and the social media platform we are using. Interestingly, however, even when we try, we have a hard time hiding our individuality. Research indicates that even professional profiles reveal personality.
The Personality Behind the Profile: Extraversion and Self-Presentation
Van de Ven et al. in "Personality perception based on LinkedIn profiles" (2017) examined whether people can accurately infer a business-related social media user´s self-rated personality traits based on the profile they create on job-related social networking sites.[ii] They acknowledged similar research inferring personality from other social media platforms such as Facebook and endeavored to expand their research to job-related social networking platforms.
Van de Ven et al. found that job-related social networks, despite containing relatively standardized information, do in fact “leak” information about the personality behind the profile. Specifically, they found that analyzing LinkedIn profile information enabled inferences of the profile owner´s extraversion and self-presentation. They did not, however, find that job-related social media profiles predict any of the Big Five traits other than extraversion.
The researchers recognized that such analysis is important due to the fact that many companies rely significantly on such information in the employment recruitment process, noting that prior research shows that 92 percent of companies in the United States use social networking sites to prescreen job applications. They note that such review includes not only a candidate´s prior work history and training but also personality characteristics.
Van de Ven et al. point out that previous research indicates a link between extraversion and well-being, emotional attachment to the company you work for, and job performance of sales executives and managers. They recognize that self-presentation is linked with ambition and proactivity—both significant predictors of performance on the job.
The Person Behind the Persona
Van de Ven et al cite prior research that demonstrates how sites like Facebook showcase the actual personality of a profile owner, as opposed to an idealized persona. This is an important finding given the amount of time we spend “getting to know” people online. The researchers note that factors predicting personality include details gleaned from the type of pose or clothing choice in a profile photo, as well as the groups to which a user belongs.
These factors arguably operate on sites like LinkedIn as well. Although users no doubt perceive less flexibility in selecting an appropriate profile photo given the business focus of the site, LinkedIn provides ample opportunities to join groups. This is an excellent way to interact with like-minded professionals. Vocal group members who post relevant content gain credibility within their respective areas of expertise, revealing even more of their personality.
Motivation For Using Facebook v. LinkedIn
In a study by Chang et al. entitled “User trust in social networking services: A comparison of Facebook and LinkedIn” (2017), the researchers examined the link between social media platform usage and privacy concerns.[iii] In addition to findings related to user behavior when faced with potential privacy breaches, their study also cited research that outlined several distinct differences between motivations for using the two sites.
They note that Facebook is associated with group and community interaction while LinkedIn is primarily designed for professional networking. They observe that people use Facebook mainly for finding and communicating with friends, while LinkedIn users are seeking opportunities for self-promotion, job-related affairs, group activities, and other activities related to professional networking.
Yet through providing professional networking opportunities, sites like LinkedIn have personal value as well. Although LinkedIn is not a dating site, many people who have connected in a business context discover they share personal interests as well. And individuals interested in learning more about a prospective paramour find LinkedIn to be a valuable way to connect online while getting to know someone offline.
Personality Pervades Professional Profiles
The takeaway appears to be the recognition that even when posting on business networking platforms, to some extent, our profiles reveal our personality. This affords future employers, provided they are complying with existing laws regarding what they can and cannot review, a broader portrait of the personality traits of potential new hires, and provides prospective partners a glimpse of the person behind the persona.
[i] José van Dijck, “‘You have one identity’: performing the self on Facebook and LinkedIn” Media, Culture & Society 35, Issue 2 (2013): 199–215.
[ii] Niels van de Ven, Aniek Bogaert, Alec Serlie, Mark J. Brandt, Jaap J.A. Denissen, "Personality perception based on LinkedIn profiles", Journal of Managerial Psychology 32, Issue: 6 (2017): 418-429
[iii] Shuchih Ernest Chang, Anne Yenching Liu, Wei Cheng Shen, “User trust in social networking services: A comparison of Facebook and LinkedIn,” Computers in Human Behavior 69 (2017): 207-217.