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Social Profiling – The New Terms of Employment

Submitted by on November 4, 2012 – 12:45 am4 Comments
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(Photo credit: Steve Woolf)

I was amused by a recent job listing for Social Strategist at Wieden + Kennedy.  The successful candidate will need to prove themselves in a harrowing public competition.  Here is a sample of the challenges that will mark the “lucky” winner:

Challenge 1 – Create the best original Pinterest board dedicated to the sport of inline speed skating (NOT roller-hockey).

Challenge 2 – Create and post an original piece of content to Reddit that then receives the most upvotes in a single week.

Challenge 4 – Get the most people to friend your mother or your father (or a parent-like figure in your life) on Facebook in a single week.

Challenge 8 – Create the most reviewed recipe on allrecipes.com in a single week using cottage cheese as an ingredient. The reviews don’t have to be good.

Challenge 9 – Upload the most pictures of your armpit(s) to Instagram during the course of this challenge. The pictures must have your face in them to verify your identity and include the hashtag #mypits.

Reading through it one realizes that the veil between job assessment and fraternity hazing rituals are thin indeed.

On a more serious level it raises a long held concern I have about social profiling – that is, using people’s popularity on social networks as a proxy for job suitability.  Recruiters in marketing and communications are increasingly putting a premium on your social footprint.  What is your Klout Score?  How many followers do you have on Twitter?  Are you a blogger and, if so, for how long?

There are admittedly a whole new set of skills needed in the connected age.   Understanding the rules about (and gaming of) information flows in networked communications is certainly important.  So is participation in the medium to understand its norms, terms of use and payoffs.   But I do worry about how I see social popularity becoming a singular threshold test.

Many valuable skills such as inquiry, listening,  systems-thinking and deep focus are also character traits – and they are not often associated with an overtly social personality.   Yet these skills are highly valuable in business.   Some of the best, brightest and deepest thinkers I know keep a low social profile.

Similarly we see the injunction that CEO’s should be on Twitter or keep a blog.   While I fully recognize the value this can bring to an organization, having worked with many senior executives I can attest to the fact that for many of them it simply isn’t in their character.    It also is not the first  characteristic I look for in an effective leader.

All of that said, I will be watching the digital shame-fest that is this job hunt to see who rises to the top of the pile.

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  • Great post Josh!
    And I fully support your arguments here. I opted out of Klout a while ago for this specific reason. Developments like the LinkedIn skill endorsements also make me concerned that the industry is staring at too many metrics that actually dont say much… other than… “you are very active in social media” .. and use this metrics to assess suitability for business.
    Thanks for the write up!! I am sure this gives you some Klout! 😛


  • joshuamross says:

    Thanks Thomas – especially coming from someone I consider a thoughtful (and popular!) participant in social media.
    I share the same concern with the recent LinkedIn endorsement system.  In their desire to own a very nebulous thing like reputation they continually lower the cost of user contribution (from actually writing a thoughtful recommendation to their new one-click endorsement system).  This in turn makes the results extremely questionable since the rewards of such a system accrue to those who simply endorse everyone in their network in the hopes of reciprocity.

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  • Olha - says:

    In a relevant conversation, I've recently been asked whether I have a LinkedIn account. When I proudly confessed not having one, the lady looked at me pitifully and said (I quote): “Oh, so you have no network”. I fell speechless at the point of conversation, but I wish I could refer to your post then.

    P.S. I checked afterwards – she had <50 connections on LinkedIn.

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