Things couldn't be better for Zappos: ever since they were acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion, the online fashion retailer has been growing like crazy. And to help further balloon their workforce by 28 percent this year, the company has rolled out a system forcing applicants to become "friends" with Zappos employees:

Zappos, based in Las Vegas, plans to hire at least 450 people this year, but candidates won't find out about those jobs on, or the company website. Instead, they will have to join a social network, called Zappos Insiders, where they will network with current employees and demonstrate their passion for the company—in some cases publicly—in hopes that recruiters will tap them when jobs come open.

Engaging with recruitment tools when applying for a tech job is nothing new. Candidates are generally expected to fill out an application on clumsy systems like JobVite. They put in for a position, wait for a week or two to see if they hear from HR, and move on. But that process "is too 'transactional,'" claims Zappos's head of talent acquisition. And transaction is taboo when you are trying to exchange labor for wages.

Instead, Zappos's 31,000 yearly applicants are expected to spend what could be "months" in limbo, sucking up to employees on Twitter and oozing unpaid passion for the brand, never knowing if they'll be among the 1.5 percent of candidates blessed with a position.

What's more? Zappos's recruiters, liberated from the burden of sorting through applications, will spend their time turning candidates into contestants.

Recruiters instead will spend time pursuing candidates in the Insiders group with digital Q&As or contests, events that they will use to help gauge prospective hires' cultural fit. Freed from sorting through applications, recruiters will also have more time to spend on targeted outreach, Mr. Bailen said, such as following up on employee referrals.

If slogging around a bespoke social network sounds like a degrading interview process, imagine the Zappos Insiders system being deployed across the entire economy. The Baffler's Noah McCormack paints a grim picture:

We'll need no longer worry that the unemployed are idle: they will have full-time jobs engaging in contests with one employer, doing an online Q&A with another, connecting publicly with some corporations' actual employees, and privately with those of another. Those who already have a job and wish to leave it will get to experience the joy of working two jobs. Trying to get hired will now be just like having a "knowledge economy" job, with months or even years of your life spent in front of the computer—except you won't get paid. In a way, this is the ultimate fulfillment of the cult of the job creator.

Gamifying unemployment better come with Klout points.

[via WSJ, photo via Zappos]