Throw away your résumé

Find a Job keyboardFile this under “W” for “wake-up call.”

This week, online clothing retailer Zappos gave job seekers a kick in the pants by announcing it now prefers social networking to résumé reading when it chooses hires.

That means instead of sifting through millions of digital missives to find qualified candidates, Zappos will opt for tools that allow it to talk directly with potential hires — social media among them — and hear their responses before even thinking of reading a résumé.

Why the change?

“The problem is, our recruiters are too damn busy,” wrote Zappos senior HR manager Mike Bailen in a post on ERE.net. “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.”

Zappos last year had about 31,000 job applicants, of which only 1.5 percent of them were hired. “That’s 30,000 times a recruiter had to click and scan through a résumé and cover letter, 30,000 times a rejection template had to be sent, and 30,000 missed opportunities on doing something more meaningful,” Bailen said. Meanwhile, good-fit candidates are trampled by the crowd and may think the company has wasted their time.

So, instead of sending résumés and cover letters as introductions, Zappos prefers prospects first join one of its social networks to get to know the company better, then pursue any further interest by becoming a Zappos Insider, where visitors can strike up conversations with Zappos’s employees and managers about corporate culture.

Zappos’s idea of hiring based on relationships instead of résumés is not new to the marketplace, but this particular approach has a whiff of innovation to it, so it’s wise to think other companies will consider similar approaches — at least in theory.

Sure, it’s time-consuming to sift résumés, and keyword sifting ignores personality and character. But shifting a chunk of the hiring burden to employees and trying to establish personal relationships with applicants at the outset eats up even more of the clock.

Furthermore, the process has a privacy issue; Zappos expects some Insider dialog to take place in public.

“My guess is that Zappos will have thousands of inquiries. Some of them will be from people who are very needy and want to keep checking in,” Peter Cappelli of the Wharton Center for Human Resources told E-Commerce Times. “If the recruiters don’t have time to do that, will the regular employees? How are they going to get their work done?”

To be clear, Zappos isn’t dispensing with résumés entirely. The company still will request a printable version of a prospect’s work history as a marker. Zappos also will employ talent-acquisition technology to sort through desired qualifications and aptitudes in those histories.

But by trying what seems an audacious approach, Zappos serves up a reminder that the way we look for jobs is changing just as fast as the job market itself, and that job hunters should plan to do more than just hand out résumés and cover letters.

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David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

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