Zappos Case Study

A Different Kind of Shoe Company

Zappos, the online shoe seller known for its self-described “fun, zany culture” and emphasis on customer service, created a stir recently by abolishing job postings and instead inviting potential job seekers to become “Zappos insiders”.

As Insiders, those who want to work for the Las Vegas-based retailer can learn about the company and make themselves known to Zappos employees, entering into an ongoing online conversation with recruiters rather than applying for a specific opening. This means no more job notices on the company’s website or external boards like

“Our culture means everything; it’s embodied by our core values and it’s at the heart of our success. So, we want to get to know who you really are and not let our first meeting just be through a job posting. … It’s a pretty big change; we get it. But hey, we’re Zappos and we embrace change. It’s how we roll,” notes the company’s jobs webpage.

Inside the Insiders Initiative

The Insiders program encourages applicants to put themselves into consideration for employment on a Zappos team by submitting their resumes or LinkedIn profiles, to chat with their team’s ambassador-recruiter either privately or publicly on social media, and to receive company updates and online chat invitations.

They’re also invited to take creative steps to show their personality, such as uploading a video cover letter and using social media to comment on Zappos, although Stacy Zapar, the company’s recruiter said the company will equally consider those who want only private, limited interaction.

“There are a lot of ways that they can communicate with us,” Zapar said. “You don’t have to be jumping up and down and saying, ‘Look at me, look at me’ on social [media].”

While applicants do need to communicate with the company online and need access to the Internet to send their resumes, she said, that’s not new nor unique to Zappos, as many companies no longer accept paper resumes by regular mail.

“We don’t discriminate at all as an employer,” Zapar said. “We have a very diverse population. If anything, we have a wider applicant pool than we did before” because candidates aren’t applying only for specific openings, she said, wanting to dispel any notion that the company might hire only for cultural fit or only those who cheerlead the loudest for Zappos on social media.

Zappos hires 50 percent on hard skills and 50 percent on cultural fit, she said, explaining that fit       embracing change, being fun and weird, building positive team spirit, and being passionate and humble. Cultural fit at Zappos is unrelated to age, gender, race or grade-point average, and focuses instead on having a strong customer service aptitude, she added.

From an HR perspective, the change in dealings with prospective employees will enable the company to more actively identify talent for current and future openings; on the back end, little is changing, as the retailer is keeping in place an applicant tracking system, requisitions with job descriptions and equal-employment compliance processes, Zapar said. “We are cutting weeks and months out of the recruitment process,” The program should improve quality of hires, the time to fill jobs and the cost-per-hire, she said, explaining that Zappos can talk to candidates before jobs officially open up.

Recruiters Reconditioned

The change also will refocus recruiters’ interactions with applicants.

Last year, the company sent responses to all 31,000 people who applied for jobs, even though only 1.5 percent were hired, according to Zapar. There will be no rejection notices now, except for applicants who landed interviews, she said.

“We spent a lot of time looking backward” and communicating with candidates about positions that didn’t exist anymore, she said. It makes more sense, she added, to talk to candidates about current and future openings. “We are having more proactive discussions about openings that may be coming down the pike,” she said.

The idea of rejection letters is tied to the old job-posting model, Zapar said. With no postings, there’s no need for rejections.

“We’re not deleting anybody out of the system. … We want to have the widest possible talent pool we can use,” she said. “Just because somebody’s not a fit for anything we have open today doesn’t mean they won’t be a fit down the road.”

The program is a new twist on an old and smart tactic of creating a database of prequalified applicants. Otherwise known as a talent network, talent communities or talent pipeline, this strategy represents one of the biggest trends in recruiting today according to Virginia Roseman, owner of Strategic Talent recruiting firm. “I do think that it’s a good addition to the more traditional recruiting sources,” “but I think to rely on it solely leaves [a company] somewhat open to issues.”




1. a)  In what way does Zappos’s recruitment strategy reflect characteristics of a realistic job preview?

b)  What are the benefits to Zappos of taking this approach to a realistic job preview?

2. How does the company’s creative approach to initially screening applicants

3. Does the company’s approach to assessing organizational fit pose a problem from a human rights perspective? If so, how can the company reduce the danger of violating human rights while still obtaining employees who fit the organization’s culture?

4. The purpose of selection is to discriminate”. Discuss the merits of this statement with respect to Zappos’s strategy for generating an applicant pool help in assessing their organizational fit?

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