Date of Award

May 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Committee Member

Phil Roth

Committee Member

Thomas Zagenczyk

Committee Member

Alex Herzog


Social media is increasingly being turned to by employment recruiters as a method of screening out job applicants. To date there has been little research examining what ques are most salient to recruiters when making employability decisions based on their screening of social media. This research seeks to begin to fill that gap by examining signal strength of political and religious identity presentation in a social media signaling environment.

In this research we differentiate between a conventional hireability screening environment and the new paradigm of social media employability screenings by making extensive use of both Signaling Theory and the Similarity Attraction Paradigm. We also explicate how Social Identity Theory is integral to the Similarity Attraction Paradigm and study thereof. Additionally, we develop a new construct, Social Media Deviance, that helps us to explore how recruiters may view social media behaviors when performing hireability evaluations.

Using a 2x2x2 factorial design we performed a series of two experiments. In the first we examined political signaling of strong or weak strength, and in the second we examined religious signaling of strong or weak strength. These are both considered deep level similarities which may be readily available for perception via signaling on social media yet remain an unknown variable well into the hiring process via traditional methods utilizing only a resume (i.e., similarities may not be available for perception until an interview is granted).

Our significant findings indicate that Perceived Similarity is mediated through Identification and Disidentification when a job applicant signals their political views in a social media environment. This is indicative that social media may allow us to “tune out” individual’s characteristics and focus instead on group memberships. This becomes especially troubling in the presence of extensive Individuating Information, which was found to be non-significant across all political conditions.

We recommend caution in utilizing social media as an applicant screening tool. If its use is unavoidable, practitioners should take precautionary steps such as having multiple raters that cross the political spectrum.



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