From Recruiting Coordinator to Industry Leader: The Stacy Zapar Story

August 31, 2015

Today, Stacy Zapar is one of the most well-known recruiters in the world, being the fifth most mentioned recruiter on Twitter and named the sixth best social HR expert by The Huffington Post. She also runs her own recruiting consulting and training company, Tenfold, which has done work with stalwarts like Zappos and TripAdvisor.

But it wasn’t always that way. Her career in recruiting started 18 years ago, when she took a job as a recruiting coordinator at a staffing agency, providing administrative support to a team of recruiters.

Since, her career has been a steady climb upwards, buoyed by some smart strategic decisions. Promotion to Lead Recruiter at the agency followed by in-house corporate recruiting and sourcing roles at tech companies like Intuit, Qualcomm and Gateway. Yet, if you peel back the onion a bit, you realize her success really is due to her putting real energy into the people she interacted with, particularly job seekers.

How did she do it, specifically? Well, here are the eight steps that took her there:

1. She started by building relationships with her job applicants

What made Zapar different throughout her career as a recruiter was the time she spent helping the candidates who applied to her open positions, particularly the ones who didn’t get the job. She would send feedback to every candidate who applied (whether they got an interview or not) and offer to help them network to find their next job.

“As recruiters, we are able to help people in a unique way,” Zapar said. “We know the process and can help them navigate it. It's all about treating people like humans. We aren’t selling cars here. These are actual people’s lives we are affecting – and their families' lives - and I take that responsibility very seriously."

Specifically, she would offer to connect with all her job applicants, give them career advice and resume/LinkedIn profile tips. And, often, those relationships would come back to help her, as she’d source former applicants for roles that came later down the pipeline or network with them to get referrals. Additionally, it's helped the companies she worked for, as it provided a far better candidate experience and helped their employer brand.

“I’m a big believer in the pay-it-forward, give-first attitude,” Zapar said. “I really believe that whatever you put out to the world will come back to you tenfold. That's one of the reasons I named my company Tenfold”

2. To the point she spent an hour each workday helping them

Soon, Zapar had a large network and had become a de facto mentor to so many job seekers, the task took on a life of its own. To accommodate it, she blocked off one hour per day on her calendar for many years, which she spent solely answering emails and InMails from job seekers or hopping on the phone with them. And in all that time, she's only ever charged one job seeker for her services, and even that didn’t last very long.

“I charged him for one hour, even though I ended up spending three hours on the phone with him and another few hours rewriting his resume” Zapar said. “Even though he got the job and was really happy (he even wrote me a LinkedIn recommendation!), I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about the money. So I later sent him his check back.”

Her advice varied on the situation, such as how a candidate can get an interview to the importance of having a great LinkedIn profile. People were appreciative of the advice, to the point she built a following of thousands of talented professionals around the world.

Obviously, that helped her recruit, but it also grew her influence as a talent adviser.

3. Which led her to Twitter

While helping candidates, she noticed the same five or six questions came up over and over again. So, when her company gave her social media training on Twitter in 2010, she instantly gravitated toward the social media platform.

“Within ten minutes into that initial training, the light bulb lit up and I instantly saw the value in Twitter,” Zapar said. "I saw how it could expand my reach as a recruiter and sourcer, help brand my company and also serve as a great engagement platform with all the passive and active job seekers out there."

Specifically, she used her Twitter account to answer those five or six questions she kept seeing coming up from job seekers and provide additional job search advice. Today, her tweets are also aimed at recruiters, which has helped her amass over 36,000 Twitter followers.

4. And then blogging

Her one problem with Twitter though was that she found out 140 characters wasn’t enough to thoroughly answer all of the job seekers’ questions. So, she started her own blog, where she could give longer, more detailed advice to job seekers, along with advice to recruiters, which she then tweeted out to her followers.

“Many people create a Twitter account to promote their blog,” Zapar said. “I was the exact opposite: I started a blog to have original content to share with my Twitter followers.”

Two examples of her blog posts:

stacy-zapar-blog-post-2 stacy-zapar-blog-post

5. Then leaping off and starting her own business

By 2011, Zapar had a large following on both LinkedIn and Twitter, and she was seen as one of the most influential recruiters on social media. This led to companies asking her to help them with their social recruiting efforts.

Her husband noticed this, and encouraged her to start her own business. She was hesitant at first, but he believed in her and encouraged her to the point she started her company, Tenfold, at the end of 2012.

6. Where she learned being niche is key in business

Things at Tenfold didn’t exactly take off right away. At first, Zapar was too diverse when it came to her target market, offering social media training to recruiters, marketers, college students, new grads, business executives and more.

Four months in, business was very slow and she thought about giving up.

“(My family) went several months with zero income and we had no benefits for a while, with two little kids,” Zapar said. “It was a really tough time.”

Eventually, she realized her mistake: she wasn’t focused enough. So she narrowed her focus to what she knows best – recruiting. And once she found her niche in helping companies with both their social recruiting efforts and their employer brand, training and consulting business began to heat up.

7. Conferences were the best way to get new clients

Really, though, what made her business explode was when she began presenting at conferences. Unbeknownst to her, some of her social recruiting peers nominated her to speak at South by Southwest in 2013. Not only was this the first conference she ever presented at, it was the first conference she ever attended.

Despite fighting nerves, the conference went great, and soon she was asked to speak at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect in 2013 and 2014 (she’ll speak this year as well). From her presentations at Talent Connect, she landed her two largest clients to date: Zappos and TripAdvisor.

From those consulting projects came great experience and a fair amount of exposure and recommendations, which led to more clients and keeps her business healthy today.

8. Now she takes on a new frontier, employee engagement

What did she do at TripAdvisor and Zappos, and continues to do with her existing clients? Well, while at Zappos specifically, she helped build an employer brand presence on social media, roll out a new careers page and CRM and is perhaps best know for designing and implementing their well-publicized Zappos Insider Program, where most job postings were eliminated and candidates instead create profiles and become members of the Inside Zappos program.

Her bigger goal with all of her clients is to help them present the most accurate picture of their culture to the public, so they attract the right people. That ultimately will lead to improved employee engagement, because it will allow the company to consistently hire people who excel in their environment, have a seamless onboarding transition, love their job and become top performers.

“It’s about knowing what is the true culture of the company,” Zapar said. “And who excels there and why. Which values are important to the employees who work there? What work is being performed and what kind of impact are they able to have? How is that company different and unique? And then presenting that information to the public so the right people are attracted and the wrong people self select out of the process, as early in the process as possible.”

A reflection on Zapar’s career

Looking back, it’s worth noting that Zapar didn’t build her business through cold calling, mass emails or any other classic business development strategy. Instead, she built a massive network over time by providing people –initially job seekers and now recruiters– with useful information. Now, that network often provides her with opportunities, unsolicited.

“I just share what I know, share what I love, and that’s honestly how I've gotten every Tenfold client so far,” Zapar said. “Someone has read something I've written, or heard me speak at a conference, and they’ve called me. That's it!”

Her efforts continue this October, where she’ll host a presentation at Talent Connect Anaheim entitled Stacy’s Secret Sauce: Recruit Like A Boss. There, she’s “giving away all of my top advice in a quick-fire session of tips, tricks and strategies that are proven and easy to implement when you get home.”

You can learn more about the conference and view the entire agenda and speaker sessions here.

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