When a management position opens up, many companies know exactly what skills the new candidate should bring to the job. But sometimes companies get in the way of themselves, as they fail to consider what it is the candidates want.
Two years into the pandemic, how has recruiting in Germany changed for companies and candidates? In this Q&A, Stefan Diemer shares his experience and what both sides can do to create a mutually beneficial relationship.
Stefan Diemer, partner at DHR Global, has been working in executive search consulting for 30 years and finds that sometimes companies need to re-consider their objectives in order to find and attract the best candidates to suit their needs. With expectations of candidates increasing, it’s helpful to seek advice from executive recruiters to understand how to make the right “match.”
Mr. Diemer, your motto is: Match companies to personalities – don’t just “get” staff. What does that mean – do many companies pay too little attention to the needs of candidates and too much to their own?
SD: Not always, but often. The company has a problem – it is searching for a manager – and, as an executive search firm, we help them find that person. Of course, there are precise ideas of what skills this manager should have and there is a detailed job description of everything that they must be able to do. However, before we dive into the search, the company should take a step back to consider their goals and what adjustments they need to make to their process and requirements in order to successfully fill the position. What do they need to do differently to identify and attract the best candidates for long-term success? Just because something has always been done one way does not mean it’s effective today. By redefining the role requirements and looking at the needs of candidates, the chances of finding and retaining the right person is substantially higher.
What impact did or does coronavirus have on human resources? After all, interpersonal aspects are front and center there…
SD: The coronavirus had a huge impact, probably the biggest I’ve witnessed in my 30 years in this profession. Starting with the job interviews: they moved from mostly in person meetings to primarily online meetings. And they are completely different than they used to be! Now, interviews are shorter, more intense, and without small talk – you get right to the content and questions of skills or fit are sorted out faster. But many companies find that these virtual interviews are not enough, and they want to meet the candidates at least once in person. That means: Be creative! During the lockdown, for example, I once met with applicants at a highway rest stop and talked in the cold, with coffee in a paper cup and a trash can between us. Once I met a candidate at the airport with 1.50 meters between us and under the examining eyes of police officers.
Were there also advantages to that?
SD: Certainly – since if applicants are willing to do that, we learn a lot more about them and their flexibility than when they come to my office in a suit. By going out of their way to attend such a meeting, the candidate demonstrates: I want the job, and I’m investing time and effort for it. You may not be able to shake hands, but I assume that such a dedicated person will also have a pleasant handshake.
How do you manage to achieve a feeling of proximity and affiliation through Zoom or Teams? I’m not just talking about applicants, but also the onboarding, which is not always possible on site.
SD: Many companies from the Old Economy cannot imagine onboarding digitally. And that is because the bond, the tie to the company, is lacking. That is only achieved through real collaboration, collectively on site. Certainly, digital meetings are also an opportunity – but only if you use them correctly and don’t spend the whole day in them. I always say, give people time between virtual meetings to grab a cup of coffee. This helps us transition from one topic to the next and gives us time to breathe.
What else has the coronavirus crisis changed? Many people work in a home office and have time to jog in between meetings. Has the comfort zone become “more comfortable” and harder to leave?
SD: Definitely. We have found that many candidates are less willing to change. At the same time, their expectations of companies have become greater: If the company offers me this and that, I am ready to change. Dinners at nice restaurants, fun social events, retreat weekends: Only if the “perks” are appealing do the candidates begin to consider taking the job and think about whether they are a good fit for the company. Candidates view their needs first, not the company’s.
In order to consider if the job is the right fit for them, candidates should ask themselves questions that will matter in the long-term, such as the impact they could make: ‘How could I move the company forward? In a couple of years, will I be proud because I developed the company, secured jobs, or assumed more responsibility? Am I the right person for the job?’ These are the factors that create long-term impact and are appreciated by both sides – and not only the perks or incentives, which appear more attractive for the applicant in the short term.
On the other side, companies also expect more – more know-how, more flexibility. How does that fit together? How do both sides meet?
SD: (Laughs) That is exactly the problem – but the good thing is: That is precisely the reason why there are executive search consulting agencies like ours.
Meet the Author
Stefan serves as a Partner in Munich and brings more than 30 years of executive search experience in the industrial, professional services and retail sectors to his clients.