If you prefer a Job at Zappos, You need to Network for this

For most companies, the original hiring process – where 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 just how 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 gets gone job postings altogether. Effective immediately.

Why? Zappos’s Stacy Zapar breaks it down in a post explaining the policy change, which cites criticisms often thrown at the original hiring process: too general, too spammy, a waste of time and resources. "Employment posting is that bright shiny object in the area that distracts from the true conversation and networking to be enjoyed," Zapar wrote. "It’s a dead-end road, a recruiting black hole where applicants head to die or leave with a poor experience and impression of your company. They’re one-way conversations where your candidates don’t genuinely have a voice."

To help make the hiring process less "transactional," Zappos has generated a social networking — the Zappos Insider program — where anyone thinking about working for the business can join and network with current employees. The theory is that recruiters will monitor the interactions, and alert promising applicants as job positions become available. "Our recruiters are concentrating on proactive sourcing…so that people know EXACTLY who you want to interview once a posture becomes available," Zapar wrote.

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It’s an intriguingly idiosyncratic approach and, considering its source, no entirely surprising one: Zappos routinely makes headlines because of its unconventional tactics, including paying new employees to give up and eliminating job titles in order to practice holacracy, a management system that rejects hierarchy and only distributing leadership and power evenly across a business. Also, Tony Hsieh, Zappos’s CEO, insists that culture is his No. 1 priority for the business. He makes hiring decisions predicated on whether or not a job candidate embodies Zappos’s 10 core values, such as intangibles like "create fun and just a little weirdness" and "deliver WOW through service."

Eliminating job listings and only social platform has obvious potential benefits. Ideally, the strategy can lead to an engaged, talented applicant pool that the business can seamlessly fill positions. Moreover, at a company where cultural fit is 50 percent of the hiring equation, encouraging candidates and current employees to interact organically allows the business to gauge whether someone is a superb fit prior to the hiring process officially begins, theoretically saving both money and time.

But there are potential downsides aswell. To begin with, how will interactions on the social platform work? This past year, Zappos received over 31,000 applications and hired significantly less than 300 people, according to Zapar. A lot more individuals will presumably join the Zappos Insider program (the barrier of entry is leaner than turning in a resume) this means there is likely to be a whole lot of noise. How recruiters – and current employees, for example – react to, and manage the influx remains to be observed.

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But there’s a bigger issue on the line: How 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 grounds employers are legally banned from asking certain types of leading interview questions ("Have you got children in the home? How old are they? Who cares for them? Do you intend on having more?") If Zappos’s new hiring strategy will take off, current employees and prospective ones will organically network and build relationships each other over social media. Which means that personal information – the type of private information that employers are banned from asking during the official interview – will certainly come up at some time and when it can, it’ll be perused by recruiters.

Ultimately, the policy makes the hiring process less transparent for job hunters, who will no more even know there can be an open position until they are deemed worthy to use for this. While well-intentioned, such opacity offers a shield under which bias, conscious or not, could flourish.

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