Why Zappos's New Hiring Techniques Are a Complete Waste of Time
Zappos has plans to hire 450 people this year, but you wouldn't know it by reading LinkedIn or Monster.com or even the company's website. The online clothing retailer has done away with job postings. And instead it's asking potential candidates to sign up for its own new social network called Zappos Insiders. Basically, if you want a job at Zappos, you'll need to sign up for the site, prove your social-media prowess, and then ask for an interview.
To quote management guru Alison Green: "Zappos replaces job postings with something that sounds like it will become a massive time suck for all."
The company's reasoning, according to Zappos's social recruiting chief, Stacy Donovan Zapar:
Job postings are a conversation killer. A job posting is that bright shiny object in the room that distracts from the real conversation and networking to be had. 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. They're that sore thumb sticking out as we make this evolution back to old-school, relationship-based recruiting.
Now, I totally agree that online résumé systems are recruiting black holes, but that's not because of job postings. It is because most recruiters stink. Yep. They don't know much about the jobs they are recruiting for, and so they are just playing a matching game. This is why I'll tell candidates to skip over the recruiters, if at all possible, and get to the hiring manager personally. Networking works better than submitting a résumé online. No doubt.
Chitchat, Not Networking
What Zappos is proposing, however, is not networking. Networking involves people making personal connections, and is built upon meeting people whom you know and trust and who know and trust you. This is not that. This is strangers talking to strangers. It's like picking people up in a bar.
And this isn't doing away with the black hole, either. It's creating an even bigger black hole. At least when candidates apply to a job posting, they know what they're getting themselves into. (Or they know at least a little bit about it, as job postings tend to be horrible as well.)
In this case, candidates "apply" by signing up to Zappos's program and chatting with "insiders." First of all, who has time for chatting with every applicant? And because the people aren't even applying for specific jobs, candidates waste time applying for positions that aren't available and "insiders" have to take the time to talk with people who will never, ever, not in a million years, be hired to work for Zappos. This is progress?
Well, it might be for Zappos. Because remember, working for Zappos is cool. People are deeply emotionally invested in its brand and may be willing to sink time into trying to land a job there. Most people, however, take jobs with companies they aren't deeply emotionally invested in. Why? Because most companies don't evoke that.
So, if you try this with your startup, you'll end up with your recruiters tying up all their time talking to the people who have nothing better to do than apply to companies blindly because, remember, there are no posted job descriptions.
Zapar says that job postings are conversation killers. I'd say the opposite is true. If a person wants a new job, having a job description is immensely helpful as a conversation starter. It's a rare candidate who has 100 percent of the job posting's required skills and nothing else. That's why we conduct interviews rather than hiring on the basis of recruiters matching things from Column A (job description) to those in Column B (résumés).
Hiring is all about conversation. It's like a date, not a beauty pageant.
SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.