If You Want a Job at Zappos, You'll Have to Network for It The online shoe and apparel retailer, which prides itself on valuing company culture above all else, is dramatically changing its hiring process.
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For many companies, the traditional hiring process – in which job listings are posted on sites like Monster.com, inundating HR departments with a tidal wave of resumes – doesn't cut it anymore. From using big data to pinpoint desirable applicants, to assessing potential hires through crowdsourced tests, employers are updating the way they evaluate job candidates.
At Zappos, it's less of an update, more of a radical transformation. The Amazon-owned, Las Vegas-based online shoe and apparel retailer is getting rid of job postings all together. Effective immediately.
Why? Zappos's Stacy Zapar breaks it down in a blog post explaining the policy change, which cites criticisms often thrown at the traditional hiring process: too general, too spammy, a waste of time and resources. "A job posting is that bright shiny object in the room that distracts from the real conversation and networking to be had," Zapar wrote. "It's a dead-end road, a recruiting black hole where applicants go to die or leave with a negative experience and impression of your company. They're one-way conversations where your candidates don't really have a voice."
To make the hiring process less "transactional," Zappos has created a social network -- the Zappos Insider program -- where anyone interested in working for the company can join and network with current employees. The idea is that recruiters will monitor the interactions, and alert promising applicants as job positions become available. "Our recruiters are focusing on proactive sourcing…so that we know EXACTLY who we want to interview once a position becomes available," Zapar wrote.
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It's an intriguingly idiosyncratic approach and, considering its source, not an entirely surprising one: Zappos routinely makes headlines for its unconventional tactics, including paying new employees to quit and eliminating job titles in an effort to practice holacracy, a management system that rejects hierarchy in favor of distributing leadership and power evenly across an organization. What's more, Tony Hsieh, Zappos's CEO, insists that culture is his No. 1 priority for the company. He makes hiring decisions based on whether or not an applicant embodies Zappos's 10 core values, which include intangibles like "create fun and a little weirdness" and "deliver WOW through service."
Eliminating job listings in favor of social platform has obvious potential benefits. Ideally, the strategy will result in an engaged, talented applicant pool from which the company can seamlessly fill positions. More importantly, at a company where cultural fit is 50 percent of the hiring equation, encouraging candidates and current employees to interact organically allows the company to gauge whether someone is a good fit before the hiring process officially begins, theoretically saving both time and money.
But there are potential downsides as well. First off, how will interactions on the social platform work? Last year, Zappos received over 31,000 applications and hired less than 300 people, according to Zapar. Even more individuals will presumably join the Zappos Insider program (the barrier of entry is lower than sending in a resume) which means there is going to be a lot of noise. How recruiters – and current employees, for that matter – respond to, and manage the influx remains to be seen.
Related: The Experimental Nature of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh
But there's a bigger issue at stake: What about the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which prohibits employers from basing hiring decisions on race, religion, national origin, gender, pregnancy, disability, genetic identity or age? There's a reason employers are legally banned from asking certain types of leading interview questions ("Do you have children at home? How old are they? Who cares for them? Do you plan on having more?") If Zappos's new hiring strategy takes off, current employees and prospective ones will organically network and engage with one another over social media. This means that personal information – the very type of personal information that employers are banned from asking during an official interview – will undoubtedly come up at some point and when it does, it will be perused by recruiters.
Ultimately, the policy makes the hiring process less transparent for job seekers, who will no longer even know there is an open position until they are deemed worthy to apply for it. While well-intentioned, such opacity provides a shield under which bias, conscious or not, can potentially flourish.
Related: Sizing Up Candidates for Cultural Fit Throughout the Hiring Process