When Aaron Strout, vice president of new media at Mzinga, needed to fill a couple of positions last month, he threw out the rule book.
First, he posted the job openings on his blog rather than a traditional jobs board. Next, he insisted: "No résumés. At least not the kind written in MS Word." Another command: "DON'T E-mail me."
It makes sense, because Mzinga is all about social networks. The Massachusetts company provides services and software that enable online chats, comments, and discussion forums for companies like ESPN, ABC, and AOL.
Still, this could be the new face of regular job searches, as recruiters increasingly head to social networks. Strout talked with U.S. News about whether or not it worked. Excerpts:
How has the hiring process gone?
I've had probably 12, maybe 14, people reach out to me. All of them have been pretty well qualified. Some have been geographically challenged. By that I just mean we really would like to have someone local for these particular positions. So, I've had five or six interviews, and we have two candidates—one for the PR role and one for the social media senior marketing role—to one of which we're probably going to make an offer this week or next week.
How do those results compare with those of a more traditional hiring process?
I would say that we got probably one third to one half the number of responses, but all were very well qualified, and I was able to really kind of get down to brass tacks right out of the gate. By going in to LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook—which is usually how I got contacted, across all three channels, by these candidates—I was able to get a really good picture of who they were, what their writing style looked like, whether they fit the bill, even geographically, how well they sort of tied into it. So it made my job immeasurably easier.
Were most of the applicants social network veterans? It didn't look as if people could jump on LinkedIn and create a profile to apply.
I wouldn't call them veterans. Interestingly enough, there were a few that hadn't been doing social media for a long time. But you're right: Part of my thinking was that I didn't want them to be able to fake it. It made it a lot easier to separate the wheat from the chaff. And interestingly enough, because of the way I asked the question, people who didn't really know much didn't bother applying, because they realized it's too much of a transparent process to try to fake it.
Is transparency one of the key benefits to this sort of job search?
Absolutely. I wanted the transparency. The problem with traditional résumé interviewing is it's so one-dimensional and it's so easy to paint yourself as something. If I can look at your social network, I can see much more. This took a level of trust for the people who were reaching out to me. But I did say that I'm a big enough boy, that I'm OK if you talked about partying or things that you do in your personal life. I want to know who you are. I'm a human being as well, and I don't care that you do things, because I expect that human beings would do these things.
I've reciprocated. I've let everybody see who I am. You can see my Flickr photos. You can see who I am on Facebook; you can see who I am on LinkedIn, etc. So, hopefully, my transparency made people realize I was being open and honest when I was going through this process.
Was Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulation a concern, because you're looking at photographs and personal information?
It was. But it's going to be a concern for anyone, and there's got to be some sort of a way to get over that. I did offer people the opportunity to have blogged and reached out to me through LinkedIn or through Twitter. In all of those cases, you don't necessarily have to show a picture of yourself; you don't necessarily have to share your birthday.