5 Tips for Getting a Job

These are tough times for finding work. But there’s hope, especially if you follow these expert tips.

Back in 2007, Kathryn Rose had a job she loved, handling mortgage-backed securities for a large financial institution. Then the mortgage meltdown happened, and her department was shut down. She was eight months pregnant.

The profession she’d learned inside out just didn’t exist in the same way anymore. So Rose decided to reinvent herself.

It wasn’t easy, she admits: “It’s like jumping off a cliff and growing wings on the way down.” But Rose took a hard look at her past accomplishments, taught herself some new skills and reached out to friends and former colleagues. She started getting work—lots of work—as a social media and online marketing expert, and pretty soon was self-publishing books like the award-winning Step by Step Guide to Facebook.

If you’re unemployed, finding a new job can be difficult. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2000, only 2 percent of people looking for work couldn’t find a job within a year; by 2010, that number had risen to over 10 percent. For most people, the job search now lasts between 10 and 40 weeks—and in many cases longer.

But don’t despair; these practical tips from experts can help.

1. Give Them What They Want.
Don’t just send off your résumé and hope for the best. “Redefine yourself in terms of what the employer wants,” says R. William Holland, a job-search consultant and author of several books including Cracking the New Job Market: The 7 Rules for Getting Hired in Any Economy.

“Your résumé is not about you; it’s about what people want from you, and unless you give it to them, it will not get its 15 seconds in front of the hiring manager.”

Holland suggests highlighting words in the job description that specify what an employer’s looking for. Then make sure those keywords are “baked in” to your résumé, cover letter and all correspondence.

Keep your résumé short and sweet, no more than two pages. Sometimes that means eliminating experiences that are irrelevant to the job you’re applying for; don’t feel attached to those things.

Even if you’re returning to the workforce after an extended time away, don’t underestimate your experiences, says Ford R. Myers, executive career coach and author of Get the Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. “You should emphasize what you’ve been doing all these years: organizational skills, being able to manage projects, interpersonal skills, resourcefulness.”

If an interviewer asks about a skill you don’t have, gently steer the conversation toward a related skill you do have. “You want to convey your key strengths,” says Colleen Lauria, a talent manager and HR executive.

Though new developments in technology may favor youngsters, more seasoned applicants have other advantages. This applies for career-changers, as well: “Skills can be transferrable,” says Myers. “Technical details can be taught; intelligence, wisdom and savvy can’t.”

2. Don’t Take It Personally.
“You can’t take termination or rejection personally,” says Holland. “It used to be that if you got fired or your business went under, that was a source of embarrassment. That’s not relevant now. It happens all the time.”

This is especially important when looking toward your next job or career. It may mean having to readjust your expectations, but don’t let that affect your self-esteem. Taking a temp or part-time job can be a great way to get your foot in the door, and “do not be afraid to take a job that’s at a lower level or a lower title,” says Myers. “You can work your way up. Show up with vitality and a sense of urgency. If you’re passionate about the work, the rest will take care of itself.”

3. Look for Job Leads in Unusual Places.
Opportunities can come from some unexpected sources. Be open to them even when you’re not actively in job-search mode—an off-hand remark from a neighbor or a bit of conversation with a store clerk can be more valuable than scouring the want ads or job listings online.

“Your greatest asset is your network,” says Myers. “Older people especially have met a lot of people over time. Tap into that; you’re likely to get a shot because you know someone who’s a friend of a friend or someone’s uncle or grandmother.”

And if you’re thinking about a new career path, Rose advises, “join groups and make inroads with people so that you when you need a job, those connections are there. Foster relationships. People help each other when they care.”

4. Be Adaptable.
The economy and the job market are changing rapidly, and candidates need to prove they can go with the flow. Lauria says she’s looking to hire “folks who are adaptable to change, who can deal with situations as they come.” Even if you were in the same job for 25 years and are suddenly looking for something new, highlight how you remained flexible within the position.

That also means accepting that “everything is electronic today,” says Lauria. “You have to manage your social brand: Have a consistent presence across all your social networks.” Be conscious of what you’re posting to Facebook and Twitter—potential employers could be watching.

Dress codes are changing, too; if you’re interviewing for a job, “You don’t necessarily wear a suit,” says Holland. Be aware of the work environment and “show that you can fit in in that industry,” says Lauria. “Keep up with the trends and the times.” Most industries have unspoken dress codes: A law firm is generally more formal than an Internet advertising agency. If you’re not sure, study the company’s website or the job description (“casual work environment”) for clues.

5. Stay Positive.
“When you get rejected over and over, or when you’re waiting to hear back from someone, your self-confidence takes a beating,” says Holland. “It’s bad for your health, and your ability to land a job.”

Updating your résumé for a position can actually give you a boost, he says: “It can help you remember what you’ve done that people are looking for.”

In other words, don’t lose hope! If you keep at it, says Rose, “something good is going to happen.”

Keeping Your Job

The fretting began in September, as soon as Barclays said it would buy Lehman Brothers ‘ North American banking business for $1.75 billion. Who will be laid off? We’ll soon find out.

Over the next few months, Barclays will lay off at least 3,000 employees to eliminate job duplications between the two banks. The process will likely involve so-called “stack ranking”; managers will evaluate employees on various criteria, then assign each person a score. Everyone above a certain score stays; those below go.

That scenario, or variations of it, will be repeated in the coming months as more troubled companies get gobbled up by bigger ones. But it’s not a foregone conclusion you’ll be let go. That’s where you come in.

In Pictures: Keeping Your Job

You have to have the right attitude. As a former Lehman Brothersemployee, now a Barclays staffer, says, “It’s become a very creative time here.” If you want to keep your job, convince the higher-ups you’re indispensable.

“If it’s a job you really want, it’s worth the fight.” says Michelle Winkley, director of human resources for an Internet-based company and previous HR manager at Pricewaterhouse Coopers and AIG .

The first to go: Staffers who resist change. Those are the people who complain about the new parent company and refuse to get on board–not a good idea.

Think of this as a new job. Set up meetings with your counterparts in your new parent company, particularly the managers and decision makers. Demonstrate that you’re curious about how they do business and ask how you can help. If committees being formed to make the transition smoother, volunteer for them.

Don’t beg to keep your job. Instead, explain to your bosses that you understand some people will be laid off. Ask how you can help them make the best decision even if you’re not chosen to stay. “Ultimately, it pays you back,” says career coach Linda Dominguez. “You learn, but it’s also networking. In many cases, the boss’s job is a duplication too, and that person will go somewhere else. Maybe he’ll bring you along.”

If you work in a department that doesn’t generate profit, like human resources, do more with less. If you work in a profit center, ramp up your sales.

But none of that will matter if you’re difficult to work with. Sure, technical proficiency in your job is important, but even more important is your ability to get along with others, communicate and motivate colleagues.

“Many times, when I have been a part of the discussions, the tie-breaker is behavioral and not technical skills,” says Ron Wince, chief executive of consulting firm Guidon. “Do you come to work on time? What is the quality of your work over the long term? Are you always ready to jump in with both feet, or do you have to be sought out?”

One way to show the bosses your enthusiasm is by staying current. Take classes to sharpen your skills and learn new ones. Attend conferences. Don’t be shy about letting the higher-ups know you’re doing this.

Says Wince, “Sometimes it does come down to skills, and you want to be at the top of your game.”

And be nice–it goes a long way.

E-Learning and the Impact on Employee Engagement

As learning professionals, we know the importance of learning on employee engagement and turnover.  According to the National Research Business Institute, 23 percent of employees leave for lack of development opportunities and training. The costs associated with losing talent, including money, lost productivity, recruitment expenses and training investments, have been well documented.

As important as learning and development are, for today’s workforce it’s even more important to consider how they are accessing these opportunities.  By 2014, half the U.S. workforce will be comprised of Millennials. This generation plus the ones immediately before and after, Generations X and Z respectively, live and breathe technology. They are intimately connected to the Internet, and one another, through their electronic devices. And as such, these groups are continuously learning. They expect their employers to supply 24/7 access to resources, data and colleagues via internal systems. In fact, 52 percent of employees surveyed said that a company’s use of technology was a major factor when selecting an employer (Accenture, 2009). The simple fact is – the tech-savvy employees of today will not suffer through hard-to-use interfaces and lackluster media. Want to compete (and win) the talent war?  Get on board.  This may require a culture shift in your organization and an investment in technology – better platforms, enterprise solutions – but the return on investment cannot be ignored.

Employee engagement improves company performance. Alex Edmans, MIT Sloan School of Management, analyzed the financial performance of a portfolio of stocks selected by Fortune magazine as the “Best Companies to Work for in America” from 1998 to 2005. By the end of 2005, these stocks “earned average annual returns of 14 percent by the end of 2005, over double market return” (Karen Renk, The Incentive Marketing Association). This is just one example of very clear correlation between employee engagement and business success factors like financial performance and customer satisfaction. In fact, Harvard Business Review counts Learning Capacity as 1 of 5 human capital management (HCM) drivers that impact organizational performance. Core practices like training, learning management systems, career development, organizational (and leadership) support of learning, and embracing innovation all contribute to improved organizational performance.

In addition, workers who engage in workplace Internet leisure browsing are 9 percent more productive than those who don’t (Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne).  And they are adding to their knowledge base every day, which contributes to the company’s business objectives. According to Maria Azua, author of The Social Factor, the old adage “knowledge is power” has been replaced by “sharing knowledge is power.”  Never before have employers been able to harness the intellectual power of their workforce in real-time, regardless of geographic boundaries, and drive results in a whole new way. In addition to the brain power we’re able to tap into, the mobile nature of today’s workforce means good ideas are happening anytime, anywhere, 24/7 which allows business to keep up with the changing market and business climate.

E-learning systems support the needs of the new workforce and drive employee engagement in a number of ways:

  • 24/7 access to training materials. Educators can add and revise materials as business needs or trends change.  And employees may contribute to content themselves. It all adds up to continuous learning and an empowered workforce.
  • Familiarity with the platform(s). Your employees are already using these platforms outside of work. They understand the technology and have made it an integral part of their lives. Therefore they have increased expectations for the systems their employers are using.
  • Connection to subject matter experts. Employees can connect with SMEs to tap into their expertise.
  • Real-time collaboration and sharing of best practices. Real-time problem-solving and collaboration are one of the primary methods that businesses are using today to resolve issues. “Two heads are better than one; why recreate the wheel” – we now have the ability to really practice what we preach.
  • Personalized learning. Organizations can more easily tie learning goals to competencies, objectives and priorities.  Employees have the flexibility to learn at their own pace and investigate other areas of interest with ease.
  • Engaging content formats. Gaming, augmented reality, webinars, skyping, podcasts – as technology changes this list grows and enables us as learning professionals to capture our audiences attention in new and exciting ways.  Partnered with classroom learning our reach is better than ever before.
  • Freedom to fail. Fear of saying the wrong thing or making a mistake holds people back – now employees can learn in the privacy of their own office, home, coffee house, etc.
  • Greater efficiency and environmental consciousness. Employees take note of environmental awareness and prefer employers who take active measures to reduce their footprint. Decreased materials usage leads to decreased costs and greater employee retention.

The options are many and even if you don’t have a lot of resources, there are easy-to-implement tools that you can utilize to get started. Consider creating a SharePoint, Google docs or wiki site to share materials, create a leadership blog or develop a community-centric intranet that is focused on areas of interest like management best practices or new product development. All of these are simple, quick ways to begin your journey into e-learning.

For an interesting case study on the impact of e-learning systems on employee engagement, read Bill Ives’ fantastic series on Booz Allen’s enterprise knowledge sharing system Hello .

Colleen Longstreet and Michelle Winkley, partners at talentdistinctions.com, a comprehensive talent management, human resources and recruiting solutions firm. Colleen can be reached at colleen@gingerhr.com or on twitter @GingerHRConsult. Michelle can be reached at michelle@talentdistinctions.com or on twitter @mwinkley.

Written for TrainingIndustry.com

The Layoff Waiting Game

In October Ann Moore, the chief executive of Time Inc., announced that some 600 people working for her would be laid off by year’s end. Immediately, staffers began having trouble concentrating on their jobs.

Wherever they went–the elevator, the restroom, out for coffee–the talk turned to layoffs and the anxiety level rose. When a manager went into another manager’s office and closed the door, furious e-mailing followed.

Work? How can they expect us to get work done when there’s so much uncertainty?

That’s a question thousands of employees across the country are asking. The first answer is, try not to get caught up in the gossip mill. Hunker down and try to keep your focus on work. It may be challenging with so many distractions, but it’s how you can show your boss that you’re committed to the company.

In Pictures: Seven Ways To Get Ready For Layoff Time

You’ll feel better taking control, even if it’s in small ways. First, avoid gripe sessions. Of course that’s easier said than done, but it’s a way to mitigate anxiety and keep your focus on the task at hand. This isn’t the moment to be seen in a crowd of gossipers milling around the office.

The best thing for job security, though it’s not foolproof, is to try to make the boss feel as though you’re indispensable. Come up with cost-cutting measures you can suggest and ways to win new clients. Ask how you can help by taking on extra responsibilities.

Meet informally with your manager to tell him or her how much you like your job and want to stay at the company. Be enthusiastic. Explain that you’d be open to trying a different role if it made you more valuable to the firm.

Let the boss know how busy you are, too. If you’re involved in a long-term project, deliver an interim report. If you’ve completed a project, file a report about the results.

Don’t assume that the higher-ups will remember all the good work you’ve done. Gently remind them that you’ve met the goals set out in your last performance review and refresh their memory about any big projects you’ve successfully completed. Be sure you’re providing information, not overtly selling yourself. Since your direct manager may be in the line of fire, have this conversation with several managers.

Help your boss meet his or her own goals and point out solutions, not problems, says Kevin Daley, founder of the management consulting firm Communispond Inc., and head of its executive coaching unit.

Meanwhile, be assertive about looking for a new position–while keeping that job search discreet. Avoid posting your résumé on job boards like Yahoo! Hot Jobs and Monster.com.

“There’s a chance someone from your company will see it,” says Michelle Winkley, director of human resources for an Internet-based company and previously human resources manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers and AIG . “Recruiters may be laying off in one area and hiring in another.”

Instead, respond to specific ads. That will keep your job search from being available for all to see. And don’t send out an all-hands message on Facebook about your job search, especially if your Facebook friends include work colleagues. Network quietly among former colleagues, with industry leaders at trade association gatherings and with other professional contacts and friends and family.

As a precautionary measure, copy all important contact information and examples of your work off your work computer and transfer it to a personal computer. Only take what’s yours, though. Follow company guidelines and don’t remove any proprietary information.

Most important of all, try not to get caught up in the whirlwind of speculation. That’s bad for both your mental health and your work output.

The Future for Trainers, Organizational Development and Human Resources Professionals

Anytime human resources (HR), organizational development (OD) and training professionals are together in a room, someone inevitably asks the question, “So, what is the future of our roles?” After many years of effort, we finally have a seat at the table. However, the table has morphed from a long, wood plank in the middle of the room to connections between smartphones, Skype, the Cloud and other electronic devices. If we keep doing what we are doing today, will we be able to maintain our hard-fought positions?

What’s changed in the workplace?

  • The competition for talent is ON.  Manpower’s latest survey found that 52% of American companies are having trouble filling open positions.
  • With the advent of social networking, information flow has gone from top-down to coming at us from every direction. Upper management does not have the same level of control over messaging and information dissemination.
  • It is reported that now only 30% of learning happens in the classroom.
  • Companies are doing away with traditional HR constructs such as performance reviews and classroom training.
  • There is an increase in the use of contingent workers.
  • Telecommuting is more prevalent than ever before.
  • There are so many generations in today’s workforce — Baby Boomers through Gen Z, all in one place, working together with different values, motivators and learning styles.

How do we add value in this new environment?

The value of HR, OD and training professionals has changed.  We are moving from being subject matter experts to facilitators – of information and, knowledge. Our focus today is on:

  • Retaining top talent
  • Encouraging collaboration, innovation and learning
  • Creating an engaging employment experience
  • Increasing skills to meet business objectives in an ever-changing environment

With this new mission, we are starting to see the roles of HR, OD and training overlap in ways we haven’t seen before.  Companies are hiring OD professionals for HR functions, HR professionals who can also train, and training professionals who straddle business operations and development. Many HR functions are being outsourced completely, leaving talent management and development to line staff.

The competencies all HR, OD and training professionals need going forward include:

  • Utilization of e-learning and social media platforms for collaboration and knowledge sharing
  • Influence skills – creating communities of interest, facilitating conversations about learning and development and talent
  • Use of employee engagement tools and knowledge of intrinsic motivators of different generations
  • Understanding your business and how to use skill gap analysis and needs assessments to support future initiatives
  • Outstanding verbal communications and platform skills

This last point is critical – as our focus shifts we will be required to convey information and encourage collaboration in ways we’ve never had to before. Now is the time to brush up on your influencing and negotiating skills!

OD, HR and training professionals need to work hard to maintain the momentum we’ve achieved in the workplace. Staying tuned into technology and becoming master facilitators will enable us to push learning and employee retention to new levels.  Become a driver of innovation and collaboration. Yesterday’s saying of “knowledge is power” has converted to “sharing knowledge is power.” How will you help your employees share knowledge?

Colleen Longstreet and Michelle Winkley, partners at talentdistinctions.com, a comprehensive talent management, human resources and recruiting solutions firm. Colleen can be reached at colleen@gingerhr.com or on twitter @GingerHRConsult. Michelle can be reached at michelle@talentdistinctions.com or on twitter @mwinkley.

Written for TrainingIndustry.com

The War for Talent

What can you do?

For most companies it’s a daily challenge: the war for talent. How do you retain your employees? What is the latest employee (engagement, productivity, satisfaction) (tool, trick, fix) insert your own buzzword here. Big business applies seemingly endless resources toward these issues but what’s a small company to do?  Can you really compete?

Yes you can. There are many advantages to working for a big company (richer comp and benefits, more structure, brand recognition, bigger budgets) but as you know there are also big rewards in the small company experience. As a small business advocate I can wax poetic on this all day but in this post I will focus on parental leave.

The U.S. is one of the only industrialized nations who do not mandate paid parental leave for its private sector employees. The media is abuzz about tech companies who are offering increasingly generous leave policies http://for.tn/1f3pFD8 and arguing about the responsibility of private employers vs. government. The debate about these practices and the potential impact on U.S. policy will continue to rage on.

But you’re a small business. What can you do to rise to the challenge?

The most important thing when considering your options is to conduct a thorough analysis. A rash decision can backfire as in the case of Gravity Payments, http://read.bi/1UiyDwr.   

Here is a quick guide to analyzing your situation and possible scenarios.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the industry standard? What are our competitors doing? What do our employees want?
  • What is our current employee demographic and who are we trying to attract?
  • How would a paid parental leave policy fit in with our other leave policies? How will it be applied equitably?
  • What would it do to our P&L? What will be sacrificed as a result?
  • What is the opportunity cost of not offering a paid leave policy?
  • How would an enhanced parental leave policy impact my employees and their families?

Once you’ve done the analysis and decided to move ahead the next step is to outline some options and financial models to explore different scenarios.

A couple of things to consider:

  • Don’t be excessive – the last thing you want to do is jeopardize your business and hurt everyone
  • Don’t announce anything to your employees until you are certain of your plan – false starts and miscommunication can cause ill will
  • Do your research – talk to your peers or put an industry task force together. Although competitors you will all benefit by sharing information.

As an employer you have a very real opportunity to impact your employees’ lives in addition to broader state and federal policies. This is an immense responsibility. While there is no right or wrong answer research and analysis are always a good place to start.

Need help? Send us a message. As always your comments are welcome.

The Return of the Union?

Gawker Media editorial employees recently voted overwhelmingly to unionize their workforce. For HR professionals and private sector executives around the US, this came as a huge surprise. Is unionization really coming to tech companies?

Probably not.

BUT, this could be a real game changer, and more importantly, it is an indication for management as to how employees want to be treated. There is a slow and steady shift from independent employment contracts, every man for himself, and sacrificing your colleagues for the sake of a better deal, to fairness and equality for all. There are a variety of reasons this may be happening—the millennial generation’s perspective on work and a post-recession economy where employees continue to be pushed to their limits among them. You can read Gawker employees’ rationale here: http://gawker.com/how-were-voting-on-the-union-and-why-1707427120.

There is a very real movement in the US toward employee-centric practices that lead to greater transparency and equity (!!!) for all, even in industries where loose employment practices were once the norm. This vote for unionization follows the recent 1% movement and minimum wage rallies taking place across the United States. Employees want security and transparency, and they care what happens to their coworkers.

This change doesn’t need to be contentious, nor does it need to create a rift between you and your staff. Collaborating with your employees for the greater good of all will result in more satisfied employees (and potentially greater profits—read the stats here: http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx.

I know, I know—you treat your employees fairly, and everyone is 100% satisfied and engaged. But for those who aren’t there yet, private sector employers who abolish unfair practices and eliminate the mystery behind corporate decision-making will be the ones who will win the talent war. Where do you start?

  • Create a compensation policy and share it with your staff – All of them

Too often, employers are afraid to share wage data because they think employees will know too much. But they should know starting salaries, criteria for pay raises and salary differences in functions and industries. If you don’t provide salary increases every year to everyone, tell them why. It’s perfectly legitimate, but if you aren’t willing to talk about “it”, the “it” seems unnecessarily shady. Think about all of the information that is available on the internet. If you don’t provide the data that is relevant to your company, your employees will pull data from other sources and assume it applies to you too.

  • Be consistent

Don’t do for one what you aren’t willing to do for all. This doesn’t mean you can’t reward your top contributors with flexible schedules or incentive pay—it does mean that you should be able to justify your decisions with facts. If you follow Tip #1 above, your employees will already know what they need to do to be rewarded the way they want.

  • Set clear business goals

Being employee-centric doesn’t mean you lose sight of your business goals. Clearly define your vision, mission, and key results. Employees need to understand them if they are to succeed.

  • Prioritize recruiting

Recruiting is the single most important function of the business. Find the people who will succeed in your organization and listen to their needs

  • Be transparent

Ok, now I’m just repeating myself. But in the absence of information, employees make up facts. Don’t let that happen to you. If you are making a decision that that you can’t explain to your team, it may be the wrong decision.

  • Incorporate employee ideas

Create an employee committee that is empowered to share its ideas and concerns without fear of reprisal. This one sounds easy, but in reality it isn’t. Corporations (and executives) have egos, and no one wants to hear about their warts. However, isn’t it better to hear about the issues from your top contributors while they are still working for you?

These tips may seem pretty basic, yet many employers, especially in certain industries, aren’t ready yet. What do you need to convince your executive team it’s time to embrace employee equity and corporate transparency? 

How To Stay In Touch With Recruiters

Many jobseekers feel uneasy about keeping in touch with recruiters, feeling as if they are being a pest.

As a former executive recruiter, I appreciated candidates who kept in touch in an unassuming way – i.e., they let me know the latest news about them and their market, but didn’t always have a request or need.

Here is what other recruiters from a variety of industries advise about how jobseekers can stay in touch:

Build the relationship before you need anything

Xavier Roux is a Partner at Redseeds Consulting, recruiters for the management consulting industry:

“Strong candidates cultivate good relationships with recruiters when they are NOT looking for a job so that they can get help when they are.”

Don’t be afraid to follow up about a specific position that interests you

Andrew Hendrickson is Managing Partner & Principal Consultant with OPHR Group, recruiters for technology and new media:

“If you are very qualified you should feel comfortable making 1-2 cold or follow-up calls no matter what stage you are in the process, but keep in mind too many will result in your being disqualified….

[Send] a follow-up action plan once you understand a hiring manager’s expectations. This works especially well for people in sales and marketing or any job that requires results. If you are considered a top prospect sending a high-level yet well thought out 90 day action plan can put you above your competition.”

Contacting via social media is okay, when you have done research and come prepared

Jennifer Sobel is a Recruitment Manager at Disney ABC Television Group:

“Many job seekers are desperately trying to use social networking tools to search for jobs, which is a great idea. However, they are using the tools all wrong. I must get 10-15 “LinkedIn” requests per day from people searching for a job at my company. Their requests usually sound something like this “Hi, I don’t know you but would love to work at Disney ABC Television Group. Are there any openings for me?”… I would urge each job seeker to only reach out when they have identified an open position that they meet the minimum qualifications for….Not having your research done beforehand comes off as lazy and it doesn’t give a recruiter any reason to help you.”

Being helpful is a two-way exchange

Sarah Grayson is a Founding Partner of On-Ramps, recruiters for the social sector:

“It’s always impressive to me when candidates refer us other strong candidates and go out of their way to stay in touch…. It shows me that they know how to network and value relationships.”

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart® (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and other leading business authors) of “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” from Two Harbors Press, 2010. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for leading companies in media, financial services, consulting, technology and healthcare.

Do you have Klout? Do you need to?

An established executive I know remarked recently that he’d just received his first résumé with a Klout score. This got me thinking about whether this is the future of talent assessment: a full lifetime of experiences condensed into a made-up number.

I’m being a bit dramatic, but my immediate reaction was negative; I am a relationship-based person, and that’s how I conduct business. I place people in roles where I think they will be successful on both a personal and a professional level. That simply can’t be determined by looking at a number. (I feel the same way about cultural-assessment testing, by the way.)

However, as I took a closer look, I realized that while the Klout number specifically doesn’t mean much for individuals (I’ll explain why in a minute), the concept behind it is meaningful. For purposes of this post, I’m only talking about Klout in relation to personal influence, not brand influence, which is an entirely different topic.

Klout calls itself “The Standard For Influence.” It claims to measure your influence by analyzing your social media activity, your network, and who engages or acts upon your content. Makes sense on the surface, but what I’ve found during my research and my own informal, non-scientific survey is that Klout’s measurements are random and their labels (Influencer, Specialist) are not meaningful because there are no consistent definitions for these terms.

As a matter of fact, I just received a message that I am a Klout “Addict” because I visited the site three times in the last week. Really? One person I spoke to said Klout deemed her an “Influencer” after she posted a single time about a topic. Another said Klout considers her widely influential even though she only ever posts on Facebook and only on personal matters. The executive I mentioned earlier actually considered the fact that the person included their Klout score on their résumé as a negative, since it isn’t a meaningful term just yet. Many of the reviews I’ve read indicate that the Klout rating system can be gamed, their algorithm is not transparent, and their criteria are too random at this stage to provide a true measurement. It is a work in progress and is striving to become the FICO score of social media influence, but we aren’t there yet.

What I found even more interesting in my research was how many professionals don’t even know what a Klout score is. My nonscientific survey included HR, recruiting, and various executives in the media, entertainment, and technology spaces. Of course, most executives knew about Klout, but of the HR and recruiting folks, more than half didn’t know about it and those who did, line executives and HR folks alike, said it was meaningless to them as a selection mechanism at this time.

Should you ignore your score? My answer sits somewhere between yes and no. I wouldn’t pay specific attention to your Klout rating at this time, but I would keep an eye on the company, because it is one of the more visible players in the field of folks trying to measure the impact of social. And social is only going to keep growing.

However, you absolutely should be paying attention to your social presence, and that is Klout’s underlying message. As the social web evolves, there will be ever more opportunities to present your personal brand and engage your audience. What’s more, organizations are regularly turning to your activity on the web to assess what you have to say, who you are engaging with, and your industry presence. Are you on top of your game, do you understand your field, are you trending with the influence-makers, and do you have something interesting to say? This is a very tangible approach to talent assessment, and one I champion. We are beyond the days of cautioning against posting those party pictures from last year’s Vegas trip (I think). This is really about monitoring your activity, making sure your posts are intelligent, meaningful, and put you in good light to future employers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Send me an email at colleen@gingerhr.com.

Google and the Unexpected Consequences of Social Media

Google’s company culture has been an example for many businesses. Tech companies try to copy it; more traditional companies can’t quite buy into it. As a leader in the Internet space, Google encourages collaboration through many avenues, including the use of social media. This has suited Google well—but what happens when the unplanned happens?

On October 12, 2011, a Google employee posted a rant that was critical of Google+ externally. The employee immediately took it down and explained that the rant was intended to be an internal document. This could have been disastrous for the company. In situations like these, there can be damage to the brand, and confidential information can reach unintended people. In this rant, the employee pointed to the lack of Google+ use by a senior executive, which could have hurt the public’s perception of the product.

What would your company have done in this situation? Would the employee be fired? Would your company be able to react quickly to the publicity from this event?

Google handled it in a manor consistent with its culture. Google has an open culture and, therefore, did not freak out about one person’s opinion being shared publicly. They had an effective PR strategy for downplaying the event. Lastly, they did not fire the employee because they believed him when he said that it was an accident that the message was posted publicly.

Lessons can be learned from this event:

  1. Be ready to react to a social media incident.
  2. Evaluate all the facts of what happened before letting an employee go.
  3. Make sure your top executives support your social media endeavors.
  4. Always check to whom you are sending emails before hitting the send button.

This is another incident that shows that social media comes with many rewards, but companies still need to be ready to handle the potential negative effects. This example was an unfortunate mistake that had little effect of the company, but this is not always the case.

Kudos to Google for its handling of this situation.