A recent article on Wired.com caused a flurry of online chatter about the relevance of Klout scores in both the online and offline worlds. The piece told the tale of a VP-level marketing exec whose job prospects were flagging because of his flimsy Klout score (he was at 34 when he clued in and ultimately worked to get his score up to a solid 72). It is clear that what was originally regarded at a loose measure on one’s online influence is starting to reach a critical mass when you hear stories like this. But should something like Klout actually have any bearing on “real world” staffing and hiring decisions?

A visit to the HR department at H+K Strategies resulted in a definitive… maybe. While looking up  Klout scores is not a specific part of H+K’s screening process, a general background check of one’s social media history is. This ensures that the candidate is able to present themselves in a professional, appropriate manner online and can also serve as a gut check of one’s tact when dealing with clients, co-workers and industry peers. There have been occasions where H+K has eliminated potential candidates based on details found in a social media audit – i.e. actively campaigning against current clients – so this aspect of the recruitment process cannot be understated. In short, any employee or job seeker should be acutely aware of their online history at all times.

But what about Klout itself? Boyd Neil, leader of the social media and digital communications practice at H+K Canada, feels that assessing a person’s digital influence is inevitable, but has questions about Klout’s algorithm and the relative ease with which it can be manipulated. “The problem with a measure like Klout is that the algorithm behind it isn’t clear, and it can be gamed,” he comments. “While I don’t agree at all with Klout being used to sway a staffing decision, I do think that recruiters, especially for digital jobs, will in the future audit a person’s social web presence to gauge his or her appropriateness for a team role. For example, if an individual is going to be ‘client facing’, a recruiter may try to discover potential conflicts with client work as a basis for discussing them with the candidate. And a solid, appropriate social media presence can be an indicator of somebody’s tact, thoughtfulness and overall ability to present themselves in a professional manner. But a person’s social web presence should never be a sole determinant factor in hiring. Traditional measures like work experience and chemistry still need to play a major role.”

It will be interesting to observe how hiring practices evolve once members of ‘the Facebook generation’ find themselves in HR or hiring-type roles. The acceptability of what’s shared online may broaden over the years and there may be fewer stigmas attached to the occasional social media slip-up. However, in the interim, the modern job seeker should be hyperaware of how they’re presenting themselves online and assuming that potential employers will be digging deep in their online verification efforts.