If you ask my team, they will tell you that I love change and innovation. In the last couple of years I’ve helped push our team to new heights in sourcing, pioneering, and exploring new HR technology, building in efficiencies and finding unique ways to connect with potential candidates. When I look back at all of those “innovative” initiatives, I now realize that I was just iterating on a fundamentally broken process.
Recruiting has become a walking contradiction. We care about the candidate experience, but we spend five to seven seconds looking at a resume. We are dedicated to get back to all candidates in an effort to provide great service, but the vast majority of candidates get a rejection email. We consider ourselves marketers, but we blow up social newsfeeds with job postings and send generic templated InMails. We care deeply about company culture and quality of hire, but we strive to fill positions as quickly as possible. We know employment brand and company brand are one and the same in the eyes of candidates, but we still allow candidates to slip into a black hole and ignore their existence.
What’s our purpose? What’s our value add to the company? I want our recruiters to build long-term, sustainable relationships with people. I don’t want our first interaction with someone to be over a rejection email template. I want our team to deliver the same WOW experiences that have made Zappos … Zappos. The problem is, our recruiters are too damn busy. Too busy to build real relationships, too busy to WOW our candidates, and too busy to strategically seek out thought leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs who will advance our business and drive our culture forward for years and years to come.
But why? What could be more important than seeking out, identifying, and building relationships with amazing people doing amazing things. Last year, we received more than 31,000 applicants and hired about 1.5 percent of all those applicants. Our recruiting team and hiring teams were constantly on their heels trying to keep up with the volume. Applicants would apply for multiple roles, weren’t qualified, or weren’t a culture/team fit. We’ve been committed to getting back to every single applicant (which surprisingly is a differentiator in this recruiting world we live in).
What this means is that we had to reject more than 30,000 unqualified applicants. That’s 30,000 times a recruiter had to click and scan through a resume and cover letter, 30,000 times a rejection template had to be sent, and 30,000 missed opportunities on doing something more meaningful. What’s even more crazy is that we had over an 80 percent bounce rate from our careers site last year. Thus the majority of people who might have a great skill or were the perfect culture match couldn’t even find the appropriate opening at the appropriate time and left our career site most likely never to be heard from ever again.
After a few sleepless nights, lots of brainstorming, and some liquid courage, we decided the answer is to shut off job postings. Yes, you read that right. No job postings. Let’s not let our first interaction be through a crappy job description and a lifeless resume. Let’s remove the front door that keeps us catatonically busy. And most importantly, let’s put people first. The knee jerk reaction to this no-job-posting model is always “that’s crazy” and “how are you going to capture and connect with job seekers?”
Capturing and connecting with job seekers is still important. In fact, the word “connecting” is taking on a whole new meaning. Anyone coming to our new careers site will see information about each department — our employees, the department’s unique culture, and which roles that department typically fills. Job seekers will have an opportunity to make an introduction to that department rather than apply for a specific position. The whole concept is to “take a look Inside Zappos.” Job seekers will get to take a look “Inside Finance,” “Inside Merch,” etc. If they look inside and like what they see, they can introduce themselves and become a “Zappos Insider.” Without the ability to apply for specific roles, we will no longer need to send inhumane rejection templates. Instead, we can begin to focus on long-term engagement.
Job postings are so one-sided. We ask the candidate to sum up their existence on a sheet of paper and quickly rush to judgment without giving much in return. In our model, we want to be super transparent and accessible. Zappos Insiders will have unique access to content, Google Hangouts, and discussions with recruiters and hiring teams. Since the call-to-action is to become an Insider versus applying for a specific opening, we will capture more people with a variety of skill sets that we can pipeline for current or future openings.
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With our renewed focus on relationship building and two-way interaction, our recruiters will have the ability and insight to pair up Insiders with potential roles for Zappos. By removing the redundant nature of screening, reviewing, and rejecting candidates, we will redirect that energy into creating proactive pipelines of talent. When our managers have an opening in the future, we’ll already have Insiders pipelined, prequalified, and ready to be interviewed. Instead of posting openings to job boards, we will be marketing openings and headhunting in a very targeted and direct fashion. We will use our existing employees for referrals, run targeted ad campaigns, and aggressively headhunt on various channels. These actions will provide a feeder into our Insider pool. All of our energy and resources will be directed in a purposeful and meaningful way.
I’m excited to move away from the transactional and redundant nature of recruiting that exists today. Let’s live up the promises we make to ourselves, our hiring teams, and most importantly, our candidates. Going forward I’m committed to innovate rather than iterate … no matter how crazy the idea appears to be.