Klout: Do You Have Enough Influence to Get the Job?
I’ve got this little secret. It’s totally embarrassing. And I’ve kept it under wraps since roughly the end of 7th grade. It’s the kind of nightmare scenario you just want to forget. (And really hope everyone else does, too.) They make movies about this brand of teenage atrocity and it usually ends with someone choking on a jawbreaker or drinking Drano.
I tried out for cheerleader.
And didn’t make it.
I grabbed for the brass ring in a protracted herky and fell short. Quite miserably I might add. My dreams of cheering, bouncing, and prancing the halls on Fridays in a cute little skirt were dashed on that unceremonious afternoon in the junior high gym.
At the time, what I didn’t realize (other than the judges were chosen by school board members who all had the daughters that DID make cheerleader) was that I didn’t care all that much about being a cheerleader. Other than the cute skirts. I was never really afraid of being left out or picked on or ignored if I wasn’t one.
What I was afraid of was not having influence.
Of course in the 7th grade, influence was just another spelling bee word. I didn’t sit around my bedroom outlining strategic plans to increase my influence. I just knew in my limited 13 year-old brain that if you wanted to be heard and respected, you needed to be a cheerleader.
You needed to be someone that people follow, admire, talk about, and emulate.
Fortunately, my desire for pee-wee pep rally fame was quickly replaced by the discovery of track, basketball, photography, yearbook, theatre, and the debate team. My high school career played out like the opening scene from Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. In a pubescent haze I must have thought the only way to make up for not being a cheerleader was to be everything else.
But then we grow up. And we realize being popular doesn’t define us. It’s all the other things that reflect our value.
And then we wake up and realize life isn’t nice and neat like an after-school special. This is the real world. And dammit, popularity matters.
So forget whatever they’ve told you. The world runs on influence. Which of course is fueled by popularity. And if you’re not building yours, you might as well hang with the slackers smoking behind the band hall. (That’s the world talking, not me.)
Now you might ask, “Who really cares?”
Employers are starting to consider Klout scores in the job screening process.
At a recent Klout-Up in NYC, an HR recruiter was overheard talking about how they’re starting to use Klout to evaluate job applicants. When questioned by a Klout employee, the recruiter said they were using a score of “around 30″ as a gauge of minimum influence.
Yeah. Not only are they looking at your resume, Linkedin, Google footprint, Facebook activity, and Twitter feed… they’re also looking at where you stand in the social influence hierarchy.
So you can add one more thing to the expanding number of balls you need to juggle to maintain your “personal brand.”
Who’s Doing It, Who’s Not
Do you really need to worry about your Klout score? Could it really help you get a job or possibly keep you from getting one? I interviewed a handful of leaders from the ad industry and social mediasphere.
Here’s what they’re saying:
Russell Meyer of Landor says he doesn’t make decisions based on Klout score because of how hard it would be to reduce a full range of competencies down to a single number. But he does say, “as a candidate moves from the HR department into talks with managers in departments, their on-line profile becomes much more important.” Russell said the inclusion of a Klout score in the hiring process would be specific to certain types of new hires, such as strategists and digital directors. He didn’t see junior designers or finance personnel being assessed on their online influence. But for certain types of hires, influence is something Landor examines:
“More than just a single score, we look at thought leadership across social media – blog postings/creation, response, Twitter followers, content, etc. [We] haven’t really landed on any single metric that I think we’d say is perfect, as the world seems to still be trying to figure out what ‘influence’ really means on the web…”
Russell Meyer | Chief Strategy Officer —Landor Associates
Shannon Moorman of R/GA puts a lot of stock into a mobile/social candidate’s online presence and feels the best way to identify candidates is “through their diversity and depth of engagement” in the social media community:
“Often times, we find our candidates through social media sites based on the topics that they’re following and commenting on… We feel the best way to identify these candidates is through their diversity and depth of engagement in the social media community. Do they have a blog, is it insightful and influential? Do they have a strong following on Twitter and do they discuss the latest trends and tools in this medium? Do they leverage their own social media tools for personal or professional use? Is it a way of life for them?”
Shannon Moorman | Director of Recruitment —R/GA
Saatchi & Saatchi
When I asked Tim Leake, Creative Director at Saatchi and Saatchi, New York, he was skeptical of Klout’s ability to accurately score candidates and feels the system is somewhat arbitrary. He says it’s “only good at measuring what it’s built to measure,” and doesn’t put a lot of stock into it because he sees Twitter users that he feels are more influential but who have lower Klout scores.
“I don’t factor influence in — and don’t know of any recruiters that do either. In the creative world, I don’t think “influence” is as important as ideas. It’s important, however, for candidates to show me that they’re using the digital space and understand it. Most importantly, that they have a thirst to continue understanding it as it evolves. The digital space continues to change rapidly — so we need learners.”
Tim Leake | Creative Director —Saatchi & Saatchi
Edward Boches of Mullen had some interesting insights and shared his opinion of Klout as well as what he values when hiring. At Mullen, he says they don’t use Klout because it’s not scientific and it “emphasizes pushing out of content,” which he doesn’t see as a good indicator of all the skills needed to be good at social media in an integrated environment. Further emphasizing his hesitation to embrace Klout in the hiring process, in a recent post he says:
“While Klout is a pretty cool tool, and will no doubt evolve, it appears to emphasize the impact of one’s “push” content on Twitter and Facebook – reach, influence, re-tweeting. But it can’t identify the rest of the qualities – conversation strategy, flexibility, timeliness, and authenticity – that a smart agency or brand should look for in a social strategist.”
Edward Boches | Chief Creative Officer & Chief Social Media Officer —Mullen
Beth Harte, a respected social media leader who created and writes at the popular The Harte of Marketing Blog is also skeptical of judging employees on their Klout scores:
“I think if HR departments utilize Klout as a measure of someone’s social media ability they may be potentially disappointed in the long-run. Social media is not a stand-alone channel, it must be integrated into marketing, PR, customer service, sales, etc… Because people can promote themselves and successfully network doesn’t mean they can do the same for a potential employer. Employers need to remember that what people do on their own time is not limited by corporate culture, time or market.”
Beth Harte | Client Services Director —Serengeti Communications
The Future of Klout Scores
Currently, Klout is only gauging influence through Twitter interactions (and recently added Facebook to the mix), but according to Megan Berry, the company’s Marketing Manager (and also a writer for Mashable,) they’re working on incorporating other social media channels such as Linkedin, Plancast, bit.ly, personal blogs, and other social networks. Klout currently has 650 API partners. That’s huge.
Regardless of the potential, most hiring managers and department directors are still looking beyond influence during the hiring process, but because many of them are aware of Klout and recognize the importance of online engagement, it’s only a matter of time before Klout becomes a ubiquitous screening tool. When you have 100+ applicants for a job, how easy would it be to quickly eliminate 75% of them?
The temptation is there. As we see in every other technology space, human nature drives development. People naturally feel a need to categorize, rank, judge, and weed.
Given all of the online information about an individual, and all of the interaction and engagement between people, something that assesses and categorizes was bound to emerge. And as much as it feels intrusive (and admittedly I’ve had and still have my reservations) you have to hand it to Klout for seeing beyond the horizon and being prepared to leverage the social media community’s obsession with influence, and the human desire to be popular.
Or at least associate with whoever is.
Klout CEO Joe Fernandez puts it this way:
“We believe that every person that creates content online has influence. Our goal is to understand who they influence and on what topics. By helping people fully understand their influence we believe we can help them become better social media citizens and drive the most impact from their social interactions.”
Joe Fernandez | CEO —Klout
He also says that while Klout is aware that the number of Twitter followers or retweets doesn’t tell the full story, they’re performing “significant analysis” on each individual’s interactions, and are now doing it across other social platforms (Facebook just added, more to come).
Joe says Klout will be making the information available to users in the future to help them better understand and leverage their influence.
Whether we argue that Klout is a superficial reflection of influence or that it fails to capture the full range of talents and the basic essence of an individual, it’s going to turn into a pretty big deal as it evolves. How could it not? We have Google Rank, Alexa Rank, Twitter Grader, Blog Grader, and all manner of other graders for accounts and websites, so it’s logical that grading individuals is a natural progression of our assessment habit. Or as Megan Berry said: “It’s Google PageRank for people.”
The good news: Klout won’t just measure whether you made cheerleader. Once more of our social media activities are tapped, we’ll all have a chance to channel our inner Max Fischer.
And apparently, we’ll also be getting Klout badges to prove it.
Join the Conversation…
How do you feel about being judged by your Klout score? Does your score seem accurate?
Do you think influence should matter to a company when hiring?
What do you define as true influence and can algorithms successfully measure it?