Does the Browser You Use Matter?


This week Microsoft announced the demise of its much maligned browser Internet Explorer. As a tool, it nicely reflects the battle many of us face when we enter work each morning. While most of us have moved on to much better tools at home, our workplaces still behove us to use the MS Office suite of tools, while at the same time restricting us from installing our preferred browser.

I like to think that organisations are a little bit more enlightened these days, and at least give us the choice over the browser we want to use.  Indeed, a recent study, conducted by recruitment software company Cornerstone OnDemand, suggests that our employer might actually gain some valuable insights into our personality by monitoring our choice of browser.

The study was based on the 50,000 people or so that take the companies online job assessment test. The test, which typically takes 45 minutes, is a kind of personality test that employers use to filter applicants for a position. The applicants usually end up working in sales or customer service style positions in industries ranging from telecoms to hospitality.

Firefox vs. Internet Explorer

Interestingly, the results revealed that when the test was taken on a browser that wasn’t Internet Explorer, that person stayed in their job for around 15 percent longer than their peers who had taken the test using Internet Explorer. What’s more, those people were also found to perform better once in the job too.

Cornerstone believe that while there isn’t anything specific about the browsers themselves that marks someone out as different, the act of installing a non-default browser is indicative of a certain kind of personality.

“I think that the fact that you took the time to install Firefox on your computer shows us something about you. It shows that you’re someone who is an informed consumer,” they said. “You’ve made an active choice to do something that wasn’t default.”

This may seem a trivial matter, but given that many of the sectors served by Cornerstone suffer from incredibly high employee turnover, even small improvements can make a big difference to profitability. In call centres, for instance, it’s estimated that staff turnover is as high as 45 percent a year, with this costing huge sums in constant recruitment and training of new hires.

While Cornerstone aren’t currently using the browser of applicants as part of the recruitment process, they are looking at other means of identifying employees that will stick at their job.

Will there be a time when your choice of browser is used as part of the recruitment? Whilst it’s no doubt tempting to consider our browser choice as a proxy for our personality, it’s important to ensure that we don’t start applying the same kind of biases that this kind of data helps to eliminate.

The findings do nonetheless remind us that we’re living in a big data world whereby recruiters are looking at all manner of things in our behaviour to determine whether we’d make a good hire whether that’s our choice of browser or the kind of email address we use.

Hopefully, the more we’re aware of these things, the more we can work to ensure we don’t fall foul of them.

Which browser do you use? Do you think it says anything about your personality? Your thoughts and comments below please...

Freakanomics Radio