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An Experiment in Hiring Discrimination via Online Social Networks

Researchers: Alessandro Acquisti, Christina Fong

Research Area: Privacy Protection

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence and self-report surveys suggest that U.S. firms are using Web 2.0 and social networking sites to seek information about prospective hires. However, little is known about how the information they find online actually influences their hiring decisions. We present two controlled experiments of the impact that information posted on a popular social networking site by job applicants can have on employers' hiring behavior. In two studies (a survey experiment and a field experiment) we measure the ratio of callbacks that different job applicants receive as function of their personal traits. The experiments (a survey experiment and a field experiment) focus on sensitive traits that are either unlawful or risky for U.S. employers to enquire about during interviews, but which can be inferred from applicants' online presences. Both the results from the survey experiments and those from the field experiment provide evidence of potential hiring discrimination via social networking sites.