How Zappos uses Twitter to find Employees

Twitter for Talent: Zappos' use of social networking to attract and engage employees

Posted May 26th, 2009 by Kevin Morris for

At a time when managers and PR departments are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to approach employee use of social media (think: Wall Street Journal), online footwear retailer stands out as one company that just might have got things right.

Photo Credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid,

I first learned of Zappos when I watched a speech CEO Tony Hsieh delivered at theBusiness Innovation Factory (BIF) about their "customer-centric approach to killing the competition". Since then, Zappos has received the praise of media, customers and employees alike, even after laying off 8% of their staff. (At the time of the speech Tony had *only* 10,000 followers on Twitter. He is now at 600,000+). One of my favourite parts of the presentation is Tony's statement that the brand is simply an extension of the company culture, and providing a compelling customer experience completely depends on hiring employees who fit that culture.

One of the keys to that culture is Zappos Core Value #6, Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication. By Zappos opening up and sharing what goes on in a regular day at the company, customers and potential employees are invited to experience the corporate culture without ever making an appearance on the payroll. If a prospective employee likes what they see, they might make a great Zapponian, especially if they share similar values with CVF ('Core Values Frog'). Giving prospective employees a sneak peak into the culture of the company might explain why only 3% of new hires take Zappos up on their famous $2000 incentive to quit after training.

I was interested in how Zappos identified and hired people in the first place. I got in touch with Zappos Recruiting Manager, Christa Foley (currently twitter rank #4 ) to learn how Zappos uses social media to identify and hire quality people, and further encourages new hires to use those tools once part of the Zappos team (430+ employees are listed on the Zappos twitter page). I've included some highlights of our conversation after the jump.

How is Zappos using social networks for recruiting purposes?

We're using Twitter very heavily and to some extent, Facebook and LinkedIn. We're not using Facebook and LinkedIn as much as I'd like us to be so we're working on some strategies to use these networks more effectively in the future. For Twitter specifically, we're in a really lucky position because we have such a big group of employees on Twitter, over 400, and then, of course, Tony has an ungodly amount of followers on Twitter, something like over 500,000 at this point. So you definitely could say we're pretty active in the Twitter world.

It wouldn't fit within our culture to be salesy/pushy so we're not using Twitter to promote Zappos just for the sake of promoting Zappos. We're using it for what I think it was intended, which is a social network that we all enjoy. I've got a team of four people in recruiting and we're not blasting on Twitter every job opening or constantly directing people to our jobs page. To me, that feels like spamming, which I think goes against what Twitter was meant to be used for. I know spam happens online in general and you definitely can see that on Twitter too.

For us, we use much more of a passive approach to recruit on Twitter. Whether, through the following that various employees have or certainly through Tony's followers, there seems to be a buzz about Zappos which helps us identify possible candidates.

How are you finding potential hires on Twitter?

We use the search function on Twitter and search Zappos mentions on a daily basis. Anybody who mentions 'wow I'd love to work at Zappos' or 'just read this article about Zappos and it seems like it's a cool place to work' or 'I wish you guys were in New York' , basically any loose references to maybe wanting to work at Zappos, we reach out to those folks.

I usually follow them and if they don't follow me back in a couple of days, then I'll @reply to them so I can let them know how to find our openings and apply. But more often than not, if you follow someone, they'll follow you back especially if they've just mentioned Zappos, and I have "Zappos Recruiting " in my profile. In that scenario, I'll direct message them about our site. So a lot of my Twitter activities are via direct messages versus public replies.

What's different about hiring in social networks versus traditional job boards?

I would say the quality of people, at least from an industry and skill-set standpoint, tends to be higher. When we post on a major job board, we may get 500 applicants but a large percentage of them won't be qualified or they are outside of the salary ranges posted for the jobs, or they don't want to move or those kinds of things. Whereas I think when you're using something like Twitter or Facebook or Linked In, someone connecting with you via these avenues has probably done their research or knows about your company more than just 'I want to be an AP clerk and there's 20 positions open in my city on Monster so I'm going to apply to all of them. '

How have social networks benefited employees once they are working in the company?

Twitter for us is also a really good way for employees to connect. We have a Zappos Twitter page, , so employees can see just the Zappos employee feed . It's a great way to connect with people you share common interests with where you may not have otherwise. We have a very friendly, open environment but with over 700 employees in our Vegas office, while you would always say 'hi!' in the hallway to everyone, before Twitter you may not realize that person also loves to hike, has children the same age as your children, loves the same restaurant you do, etc.. I think as a company from a culture standpoint, Twitter has helped us tremendously with being another avenue for people to connect. This is important to us because one of our core values is to Create a Positive Team and Family Spirit where you don't view your co-workers as simply coworkers but where you connect with them on a personal level. .

Why has Zappos been so open about employees using social media, where other companies have been fairly resistant?

I think because we were fortunate enough to embrace it early on and see the many values it offers and how it helps enhance our culture. We believe that if you get the culture right, most other things fall into place. I think that maybe with other companies, their fears with social media are about what employees might say or how their activity might negatively impact their company's brand. We have embraced social media and encourage our employees to do so too. And as far as our direction to employees about what they can or cannot say, we don't really have a policy on this. If we did a good job with hiring for culture fit and training new hires about our culture, it's a non-issue. So maybe you have reason to worry about what people are saying, or how they're representing your company if everyone isn't aligned to the company vision and culture.

By no means do we have it all figured out. Everything that we do is a work in progress. It's almost more of an art in some regards than a science but I think our culture, openness and transparency aligns itself well with the basic premiss of social media.