Problem: Social dating site Zoosk needed an applicant tracking system to keep pace with its growth. Lack of email and calendar integration created a slow, inefficient talent acquisition process.
Solution: The company deployed a comprehensive applicant tracking system that was integrated with social media, reducing transactional burdens and increasing referrals while reducing time-to-hire.
Like many startups, Zoosk originally used a free online applicant tracking system (ATS) to manage its hiring process. The international social dating network was in a slower-growth phase in 2009, hiring one person at a time, so a bare-bones ATS met its needs. But Jimi Alfaro, Zoosk’s recruiting manager, said there were drawbacks.
“You entered notes into the ATS, but then you had to switch to your calendar program for scheduling, and email was not integrated,” he said. “I would have to manually send individual emails to hiring managers or print copies of resumes, and sit with them to review each and every candidate.”
As the company grew, expanding to more than 70 countries and 25 languages, so did its recruiting needs. Zoosk searches for more than capable bodies to fill positions such as software engineers, quality assurance engineers, customer service representatives and designers. Alfaro said he looks for self-driven candidates who are thoughtful and keep the customer’s experience in mind.
“We look for engineers who write code this way, who are passionate about what they do and willing to push what is possible on either a Web or mobile application,” he said. “Ideal candidates want to drive their position to the next level and are constantly asking questions like ‘How can we do this better?’ and being challenged with new projects.”
While in the startup phase it was common for Zoosk employees to work 16-hour days. That time has passed, but the company retains its do-what-it-takes, startup mentality and relies on people who are willing to dig deep to find a better, more efficient way of doing things. This principle applies to the technologies it adopts as well.
As Zoosk began to outgrow its ATS in 2010, its chief executive officer, Shayan Zadeh, heard about Jobvite Hire, an ATS integrated with social media, and wanted to try it as a way to keep better track of candidates (Editor’s note: The author works for Jobvite). “A new ATS is always a barrier in terms of learning curve and adoption, but it’s easier to implement one with 40 people than with 140,” he said.
Alfaro said having an ATS integrated with social media gives the company a fast and easy way to move candidates through the workflow process, from applying to being reviewed to being interviewed and receiving an offer. The new system also allows recruiters to run custom reports so they’ll know which step in the interview process each candidate is in.
Social Media Leads to Greater Exposure
Alfaro said the biggest benefit of the ATS for Zoosk is its integration with social media. Zoosk is now getting more employee referrals because employees are using the social media features to send out job openings. There’s an icon at the top of each job posting that includes links to Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks that encourage people to share jobs.
Easily posting open positions makes the hiring process faster and more efficient. Once job requisitions are approved, hiring managers post them to the ATS. Alfaro said it takes less than one minute for this information to go to Zoosk’s career site. Job seekers can sign up for updates via the social medium of their choice, such as Facebook or Twitter, so they are instantly informed of openings. Since implementing the system in 2010, Zoosk has gathered more than 16,000 applicants into its talent pool.
Alfaro hired Olivia Tung in 2012 as an in-house recruiter. She already has filled several technical positions, including one that had been open for six months. She credits the ATS with this success, saying it easily uploads resumes, promotes jobs, invites agencies to support Zoosk’s search efforts and follows up with hiring managers if they are late in providing feedback.
Zoosk is not as reliant now on outside recruiters, which streamlines workflow and saves on recruiting costs. When Alfaro does work with outside help, the ATS captures sources and provides a time stamp to show when resumes were sent, which allows him to determine which recruiter was responsible for the hire.
Though Zoosk started out small, hiring one person at a time, its recruiting pace has increased as the company gains popularity. Zoosk had a hiring goal of 50 more people in 2012 and by early September had already hired more than 40 of them. It expects to hire another 50 to 60 employees in 2013.
Six of those hires have come from referrals, for which employees receive bonuses. All employees who are registered ATS users receive automated messages when a job requisition goes out, and some 60 percent of employees have signed up for these messages. Though Alfaro hopes to increase that number, referrals are already up almost 40 percent from last year. Zoosk also sends out a monthly email featuring a top open position to encourage referrals. These efforts have been successful in engaging employees in recruiting, as shown by a recent job opening that generated nearly 350 emails from an employee population of 125.
Technical Upgrades Provide Insight
Integration with Gmail is another useful feature. When Alfaro schedules an interview, it automatically goes to the candidate’s calendar.
“Follow-up after interviews is easy, too,” he said. “The interviewer receives an email asking them to fill out an evaluation, and it has a link to the evaluation form. Then I get an email telling me that an evaluation is in and what the next steps are with the candidate. If an interviewer forgets to complete an evaluation, I can easily send a reminder email with a personalized message. All of these features speed up the hiring process.”
The reporting capabilities also have helped Alfaro improve the hiring process. “We’re able to show in reports what recruiting and hiring activity has been going on — we can show a hiring manager how many people have been interviewed and how many candidates are in the pipeline, for instance. If hundreds of candidates apply for a position but only a few have been interviewed, maybe the job description doesn’t match what we actually need or what the hiring manager is looking for.
“This can identify bottlenecks as well. If 30 phone interviews yielded only five on-site interviews, or if most of the on-site interviewees are being rejected, we can take a closer look at why. Maybe the decision-makers are being too particular or unrealistic. We can then recalibrate the process based on the report data.”
Two and a half years after upgrading its ATS, Zoosk has streamlined its recruiting workflows and exceeded its hiring goals for 2012. Alfaro said a great ATS is a need rather than a want, for compliance purposes, to track candidate information in an orderly way and to enable the employees to become part of the recruiting process via the integration of social media.
“For some positions, the ATS has reduced our time-to-hire from four to six months down to two to four months because of the social aspect,” he said. “We see a number of applicants coming through employees’ Twitter and Facebook networks and also job sites like Indeed.com. These were not sources of talent for us in the past. All candidates were either hand-picked/sourced or applied after seeing our jobs posted on various websites like Craigslist or Monster.”
Recruiters at Zoosk look forward to a healthy, long-term relationship with its ATS as the social network continues to grow.
Kimberley Kasper is chief marketing officer for Jobvite. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.