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ZAPPOS: Another Hoop for Job Applicants to Jump Through
Wednesday, May. 28, 2014
Zappos, the Amazon-owned online retailer, is removing their job postings from traditional job boards and even the company website. Instead, job applicants will have to join Zappos Insiders, a social network for applicants to interact with current employees and demonstrate their fit with the company. Applicants will be sorted by personal interests and skill sets, be placed in pipelines (e.g. Sales or HR), and will participate in digital Q&A’s and contests. Critics have argued that participating in a meaningful way would require significant time and energy with no promise there would be a return on your time. Zappos argues the new system will allow them to keep a pool of qualified and available applicants at the ready, and will reduce the volume of applications: last year, Zappos received 31,000 applicants, hiring about 1.5% of that number. Zappos hopes that the social network approach will allow their recruitment team to work more purposefully, and give prospective employees a better platform for differentiating themselves. Is requiring job applicants to participate in a social network an abuse of power, or a way to let truly interested and qualified applicants stand out in the crowd?
Kirk: Depending on how Zappos manages the social network, it could very likely be both exploitative and abusive toward applicants. For one, there is a significant power differential between employers and job applicants, as there are so few jobs available. To quell this dynamic, an increasing number of universities now prohibit personal videos, sample projects, and batches of cookies so they do not start an arms race amongst applicants. My fear is that this will set off such an arms race; not to mention, what happens when an applicant is applying to more than one company? Zappos would do better to describe its needs in such detail that applicants could sort themselves out and not waste their time even applying.
Patrick: I’m with Zappos on this one. We all can agree that the job application process needs a makeover, and if anything we should treat “Zappos Insiders” as an experiment and wait to see what happens. In theory, this system will allow both applicants and employers to get a better sense whether it is a fit, resulting in more efficient hiring practices. The arms race is a concern, but the currency in play is time, as opposed to money, which everyone has equal access to. And let’s not pretend that searching for a job is a bed of roses as is.
A Framework for Thinking Ethically (Markkula Center)
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