CLEMSON — By many accounts, political divisiveness today has reached an all-time high, which tends to affect fundamental attitudes about health care, immigration and national security, but also hiring decisions, according to researchers in Clemson University’s College of Business.Politics, hiring, research,

A three-year Clemson study involving more than 400 participants found political beliefs can play a significant role in how a hiring manager assesses a job applicant’s qualifications.

“Very little research has been conducted on how political beliefs can affect a person’s hireability, and we felt strong political convictions probably spilled over into workplace decision-making, so our study went down that path,” said Phil Roth, management professor, who was joined in the study by Jason Thatcher, also a management professor.

The researchers created two versions of a student Facebook page infused with the political leanings of either a Democrat or Republican. The pages were sent to two groups, upperclassmen business majors at a Southern university and employed MBAs. A series of hiring-related questions accompanied the Facebook pages. At the end of the survey questions, the participant was asked to identify themselves politically.

Phil Roth

“The bottom line is decision-makers have a tendency to hire their own like-minded people,” Roth said. “Based on our experiment, the study showed political similarities correlated with ratings on how a respondent liked the candidate and how they thought the candidate would do their job.”

A study by the Pew Research Center this summer, based on surveys of more than 5,000 adults, revealed a dramatic widening in differences between Republicans and Democrats on a range of issues and measures Pew has been asking about since 1994. Roth said that growing political divide can have significant implications for job applicants and hiring managers.

Hiring, politics, research

Jason Thatcher

“From a job applicant’s perspective, sending clear signals of your political affiliations on social media channels carries both risks and rewards,” Roth said. “If you get a decision-maker who has the opposite of your political viewpoint, there may be consequences. On the other hand, should the hiring manager align with your political beliefs, your chances of being hired may be enhanced.”

Likewise, the study suggests political affiliation has important implications for hiring managers.

“First, managers should be cognizant of the power of similar or dissimilar political affiliations between them and applicants or subordinates seeking promotion,” Roth added. “There is no evidence that political affiliation relates to job performance, so a decision to hire or not based on a political ideology could be construed as political discrimination.”

Roth said hiring decisions based on one’s political beliefs can not only hurt a candidate who may have been qualified but didn’t get the job, it also can impact the organization if the best applicant wasn’t hired.

“Hiring leaders might want to have their diversity training to include political affiliation as a variable that would be considered job-irrelevant. And, lawmakers might consider whether political affiliation is a characteristic that should be protected in hiring decisions,” Roth said.

The research by Roth, Thatcher and Caren Goldberg of Bowie State University was recently highlighted by a London School of Economics blog.