It’s pretty common for companies to scout out the social media accounts of prospective hires — and now a new study from Northern Illinois University says Facebook profiles are actually a pretty good predictor of job performance.

Researchers conducted an experiment in which three “raters” (one university professor and two students) looked at the Facebook profiles of 56 employed college students and later answered a series of personality-related questions like “Is this person dependable?” and “How emotionally stable is this person?”

Six months later, the researchers matched those opinions against employee evaluations filled out by each of the students’ supervisors — and found a strong correlation between job performance and scores previously given for traits such as intellectual curiosity, conscientiousness and agreeability.

Lead researcher Don Kluemper, a professor of management at Northern Illinois University, said raters generally gave favorable evaluations to students who were well-traveled, had a high number of friends, and had lots of hobbies and interests. Interestingly, photos showing the students “partying” didn’t give a bad impression, but rather made them seem extroverted and friendly.

Kluemper says his findings show that Facebook could be used as a reliable job-screening tool. People have a harder time “faking” their personalities in front of their friends, he says, so Facebook profiles could provide valuable insights into their real personalities.

[Wall Street Journal]