Yves Pilet Consultancy
Employer brand management


Zappos: applying for a culture, not a job

As one of the world’s biggest online retailers Zappos specializes in selling shoes online. Now, buying shoes without fitting might sound strange at first, but Zappos was one of the first companies to make it work. And they’re on to their next challenge: attracting employees without a single job post on their career site. For Zappos the secret lies in communicating their company culture and improving the candidate experience to the fullest.

Culture over vacancies

Based on their CEO’s vision Tony Hsieh, Zappos is slowly but surely transforming their company into what he calls ‘the holacracy project’. The goal is to make Zappos run more like a city: when a city doubles in size, its productivity rises. For companies, the opposite tends to be true. The key to this approach is to put responsibility as low as possible within the organization. Next, Zappos splits the people manager from the technical manager. They simple require a different kind of skill set. This is employer branding at its best: dare to show leadership, break down roles (no managers) and become more agile as an organization as a whole. Zappos is on its way to be run a as city and productivity is rising consequently. To support this vision, the attraction of new talent should fit the business and HR strategy. As a result, the candidate experience – as shown by their career site –focuses on communication the company culture, not a specific job opening. You should fit the company, not the profile.

Zappos career site & social media strategy

Zappos is a great example of communicating the candidate experience through their career site. The corporate site (zappos.com), the career site (jobs.zappos.com) and the various social media channels that this organization exploits were evaluated and it became obvious that their approach is not the usual way to communicate with talent on the labor market.

Source: Jobs.zappos.com


Career site Zappos

Former co-founder of LinkExchange Tony Hsieh understands very well that standing out from the crowd is a good thing. At Zappos, it’s all about customer service as he explains in his book ‘Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose’ – which I highly recommend to read. Zappos' one of the few companies that understands that the overlap between the employer and personal brand is larger when the company culture – instead of vacancies – is communicated. As a potential employee, you can get a real feel for working at this company.

Improving the candidate experience

The career site of Zappos thus differs from many other companies. Zappos consciously chooses to communicate the company culture and places no concrete vacancies on the site (‘What? No Job Postings?!?’). By using the option 'Become an insider’ Zappos is able to build a talent pool of potential employees who fit the company: as a web visitor you’re able to explore eleven functional areas, from Administrative to Technology. As a result, you know at which functional area you can apply for a Zappos job without applying for a specific vacancy.

Additionally Zappos makes it a sport to develop it’s own language: the company talks about a Z'Apprenticeship, Zappos Recruitment, zapponians, zapponian spotlight and so forth. That only adds to its authenticity, a crucial part of employer branding. Zappos also uses various social media in a constructive manner:. Facebook (typically a social medium for consumers), Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest (both good for providing images), YouTube and Blogs.

Recommendations for Zappos' employer brand strategy

Although Zappos dares to communicate it candidate experience based on its company culture rather than vacancies, I’d recommend the following to improve their employer brand strategy even further:

● Promote a Zappos work day: if Zappos wants to get as many potential candidates that can experience the company culture, why not offer the chance to work a day at a real office with a Zappos employee?

● Be honest about your company culture: provide not merely the upside of the company culture, but also the downside. Not everybody should fit the Zappos culture.

● Provide a questionnaire about the company culture or develop a game that reflects the company culture. Show users how they score relative to other potential employees and current employees to indicate whether they should join the Zappos family (or not). And promote the results through public employee satisfaction sites, like Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

● Use Google+ as an additional social media tool and use real Zappos employees to maintain the different Google+ accounts.


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