Over recent years, attracting suitably qualified employees has emerged as a major success factor. Dr. Stephan Schmid, Partner and expert in the Strategy & Transformation division of hkp/// group, explains the background and the potential of candidate-focused recruiting. He also outlines the benefits of an agile approach to design, taking hkp/// as an example.

Mr. Schmid, why is recruiting such an important issue?
Stephan Schmid: More than almost any other issue, recruiting has a very direct and long-lasting impact on the way companies perform. Putting people in the wrong jobs results in high costs. On the other hand, those who come out on top in the battle for talent enhance their innovative capacity and competitiveness. Many companies realize they need to fundamentally rebalance their recruiting policy to remedy problem areas effectively.

When it comes to recruiting it seems, companies are acting in a far more bold and creative manner than in other HR processes. Is there a reason for this?
Stephan Schmid: Companies perceive fewer risks and restrictions when they are dealing with outside candidates rather than their own workforce. Above all, though, the demographic and digital transformation is completely changing the world – jobs now need to find candidates, not the other way around. Companies realize this new world calls for new approaches, and we at hkp/// group realize it too.

How is the hkp/// group responding to evolving requirements in the recruiting area?
Stephan Schmid: When it became clear that our old procedures were no longer providing enough talented individuals, we completely reset our recruiting operation. We started with master’s degree holders, our biggest target group, and adopted a consistently candidate-centered approach. The same goes for the way we now undertake recruiting projects with our customers, ensuring best practice by means of blueprints while embarking on a distinctive route that is right for the company.

What is the distinctive route for the hkp/// group?
Stephan Schmid: We have now parted ways with traditional interviews. Candidates discover us digitally and can ask themselves what they think of consultancy at hkp/// group – if it is really something they would enjoy, and if they would be successful here. Also, does the salary match their expectations? The digital approach continues with recorded video sequences introducing the candidate to various future colleagues, who can also answer their questions via video.

Has this communication method been well received?
Stephan Schmid: It is not only the candidates who love this efficient and highly relationship-oriented process of familiarization via smartphone – managers are also enthusiastic about the idea because in no time, there is enough feedback to determine the next stage. Only the final step is unchanged – the candidate commits to a one-day hkp/// experience in our office Frankfurt, working on a project with future colleagues in a close simulation of reality. Those candidates who are presented with a signed employment contract on the same evening are not alone in being delighted.

The new application process was implemented almost a year ago. What has changed since then?
Stephan Schmid: In terms of quality and quantity, our candidate pipeline has changed out of all recognition. We have received far more applications and recruited noticeably more talented people. What’s more, all of the newcomers are still with us. This is partly down to the new process, which graduates are now talking about.

What else is driving the positive development?
Stephan Schmid: In the process of realigning our recruiting, we decided it was not something that can be organized in passing. Companies of our size, by which I mean those requiring 25 or 30 new entrants per year, need a division specializing in recruitment that is versed in classic measures as well as social media communication. Now we have that too.

Has the process also accelerated?
Stephan Schmid: When it comes to competing for the best people, speed is key to success. The digital approach has been the main factor in speeding things up – we can hold several video interviews at any one time. Within two weeks of applying, a candidate can go through an intensive process of familiarization and be offered a contract. Nor do we compromise on quality in our selections, which actually has a magnetic effect on the most talented individuals.

So everything is going well?
Stephan Schmid: Going well, but it’s not perfect just yet. We are fully aware that this is an agile process of learning and optimization, so we were quick to start out with a minimum-viability product rather than a perfectly formed basic solution. Now we are continually and pragmatically developing that product on the basis of feedback from candidates and internal users. For example, we have cut down the hkp/// experience from two days to a single day and adjusted our communication with candidates to make them much more receptive to video interviews in a short space of time.

In concrete terms, what other big steps need to be taken?
Stephan Schmid: We continue working on the finer points, as I mentioned. As for the broader tasks, the video platform still needs to be incorporated into the recruiting tool on a technical level. We were prepared to accept this shortcoming in order to go live as soon as we could.

What would you say to other companies seeking to optimize their recruiting process? What are your three main conclusions?
Stephan Schmid: Firstly, you need to rethink recruiting completely and switch the focus to the candidate experience. Secondly, take an agile approach – try out a prototype as soon as you can, go live with it and develop it on the basis of practical experience. Thirdly, stick with digitalization. If you want to attract digital profiles – and who doesn’t? – you will only be successful if you reject the old tools and processes.

Mr. Schmid, thank you for the interview.