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LinkedIn Profiles Contain Fewer Lies Than Resumes

2012 March 1

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.orgResearchBlogging.orgNew research by Guillory and Hancock[1] reveals that personal information provided on LinkedIn may contain fewer deceptions about prior work experience and prior work responsibilities than traditional resumes.  However, LinkedIn profiles contain more deceptions about personal interests and hobbies.  This researchers believe this may be because participants are equally motivated to deceive employers in both settings, but perceive lies about work experience on LinkedIn as more easily verifiable.

To explore this issue, the researchers conducted an experiment in which 119 undergraduates were randomly assigned to either create a resume, create a public LinkedIn profile, or create a private LinkedIn profile.  None of the research participants reported having a LinkedIn profile already.  The researchers then presented the undergraduates with a job advertisement and subjects in the resume condition told that the best resume would receive a $100 incentive.  All participants then were interviewed and provided a worksheet to explain any ways they had been deceptive.  The researchers explained that lying on resumes and job materials was common (which seems to be true – as many as 90% of job-seekers lie on resumes, according to one conference paper cited by the authors) so as to put research participants at ease when writing about their behaviors.  This information was then coded by the researchers by type (a taxonomy they developed): information about responsibilities, abilities, involvement, and interests.

From the data, on average, participants lied 2.87 times, and the maximum was 8.  The researchers then tested prevalence of lying in general and found that lies did not differ by condition.  However, lies by category did differ by condition: more lies about responsibilities appear in traditional resumes, while more lies about interests appear in LinkedIn profiles.  The researchers attribute these differences to differing goals in self-presentation given the constraints of the medium.  When on LinkedIn, claims about professional accomplishments are perceived as more easily verifiable, so deceptive behavior shifts to something that can’t be easily verified (from specific responsibilities to interests).

The unbalanced monetary reward is a bit of a concern.  We may simply be seeing an effect of one condition receiving cash for participation.  This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the participants really were creating LinkedIn profiles.  That effort was not necessarily research-based; participants were actually trying to represent themselves for potential employers.  But the extent to which they would have been incrementally motivated by cash in the LinkedIn conditions is unknown.

Footnotes:
  1. Guillory, J., & Hancock, J. (2012). The Effect of Linkedin on Deception in Resumes Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0389 []
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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Rune Fy permalink
    March 1, 2012

    Well, but I strongly suspect there to be a difference between the behavior of 18-20 year old undergraduates and mature, work-experienced adult professionals.

  2. RHoltslander permalink
    March 2, 2012

    Interesting. Fewer but not zero deceptions. It is ever thus.

  3. March 5, 2012

    Should “When on LinkedIn, claims about PERSONAL accomplishments and interests are perceived as more easily verifiable”

    Be “When on LinkedIn, claims about PROFESSIONAL accomplishments and interests are perceived as more easily verifiable”?

  4. March 5, 2012

    Ah, good catch – I see how that could be confusing and have updated it.

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