The Past, Present, and Future of Talent Acquisition - Gero Hesse [Interview]

About Gero Hesse

Gero Hesse, is the Managing Director at TERRITORY EMBRACE, HR, and recruiting specialist, with a high penchant for innovation and thought leadership. He’s also among the Top 25 HR Influencers. He’s a blogger himself and runs Saatkorn.com, one of the most popular and highly regarded HR blogs. 

The Past, Present, and Future of Talent Acquisition - Gero Hesse [Interview]

Aishwarya Jain

We have the pleasure of welcoming Gero today to our interview series. I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of peopleHum. PeopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with automation and AI technologies. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.

Aishwarya

Welcome, Gero. We are thrilled to have you.

Gero

Thanks for the invitation and for the nice words introducing me. I feel very humbled. 

Aishwarya

It’s our pleasure, Gero. So you’re among the top 25 HR Influencers.

How has been a leading influencer helped you change the way people and organizations look at the changing trends in the future of the workplace?

Gero

It’s a good question because you should ask the people who nominated me. I mean, there are a lot of different lists like that. And to be honest, I feel humbled again to be on the list. But then again, there are so many people with great ideas. In my case, I’m pretty sure it’s because I run the blog Saatkorn.com, which is a German language only because I live and work in Germany and focus on the German market. 

But nevertheless, I have been blogging for 10 years. And at least in German-speaking countries, it’s pretty popular for people who are interested in employer branding, HR marketing and recruiting, which are the topics I deal with.

So if you do something like that and you’re on Facebook, on Twitter and all the other social media channels, like Instagram and so on, there’s a high chance that people feel that you are pretty innovative because you write about innovation and new ideas, and I guess that’s why I’m on the list.

So if you ask how I influence people? I don’t know. Probably through my articles and best-case examples that I provide everybody who’s interested in these topics with. So I guess that’s it.

Aishwarya

That’s excellent. And I think you’re doing a great job of motivating others, especially in Germany and you also focus on recruitment right? 

So what do you think of some of the trends in recruiting that are changing how we hire, how we approach recruiting, and what are advantages and disadvantages of these changes?

Gero

I see two big, major trends. One is technology driven and the other is attitude driven. 

“I see two big, major trends. One is technology driven and the other is attitude driven.” 

So let’s start with technology because I guess that’s the most important thing. So we’re living in a time where there is an exponential growth of technology. Artificial Intelligence is coming up, the automation of processes and things like that, and of course, it’s very, very relevant to the way recruitment works. 

So in the past, when I started like 20 years ago, it was an old paper base and you had paper resumes, and not only the HR guys but also the applicant said, ‘Oh we need paper because you really feel, is it good paper and did the applicant take care in setting up its application?’ 

But nowadays, of course, this is all digital and things change and the process has become way, way faster and way more accurate because you can imagine, with paper-based processes, of course, there are a lot of errors that can happen throughout the process. 

Applications get lost and things like that. These things can’t happen if you have an Applicant Tracking System. And if you have digitized applications. But this whole thing I just described happened, like 10 years ago, at least for the big companies in Germany. If you take a look at smaller companies, they are really looking at technology and introducing ATS tools, so that’s a big trend, and of course, you have artificial intelligence.

This is more of a newer trend to really make sure that you have automated matching processes. The technology looks at the application and checks. If this application matches to a certain degree to a certain job description and so on. 

So this is what we’re facing and technology also becomes much more affordable. The costs are not as high anymore. So I think that’s really a basic but fundamental trend and its very important. And if you look at the current situation with the Coronavirus, I’m very, very sure that. The current situation is a catalyst for more technology and more atomatization in the word of recruitment.

The current situation is a catalyst for more technology and more atomatization in the word of recruitment ” 

…because nowadays video interviews become more normal. What we’re doing right now, here. This was not possible, like 10 years ago. You are sitting in India, I’m sitting in Germany and we’re talking like we’re sitting in the office, so you can do the same thing within seconds. 

And I think this changes the whole way recruitment works. So technology is one big dryland. Pretty sure, we’re going more into detail on this topic, but in my opinion, there’s another trend that’s more attitude driven, that’s more about the mindset of people. And what do I mean with that?

The way how organizations work changes a lot. Do you also protect technology, so it’s way easier to communicate via social media. By our tools and of course, the transparency becomes higher. So nowadays it’s pretty easy to find out how the company can show off a certain company.

You can read a glassdoor, in the German market *german site*. You can find out what our employees say about a certain employer, and this changes a lot of things because in the past 10-15 years ago, that was the black box. You didn’t really know how it felt to work within a certain company unless you really knew someone who worked there. 

But nowadays, you can go online, on LinkedIn, on glassdoor and find out what kind of culture they have. How do they communicate with each other, hosted communication strategy and culture and employer brand? Is it employee essential, or is it strictly hierarchical and so on? 

So this whole attitude and culture thing, in my point of view, is as important as technology and it changes a lot. It’s all the way. 

How people work with each other is less hierarchical and more, a skill and competency, and not necessarily the boss has the most or the best skills. The boss should have the skill to sort out what are the key skills of the team members and really set up a team that’s very heterogeneous and very diverse to get the best out of it in the global worlds.

But we’re facing problems nowadays. It’s really important that due to the high complexity, you have the right experts in the right position with your team and so that it also changes about so hierarchy and teams of, I’m the boss and you’re just a team member. It’s not the right attitude in 2020 I guess, and This mixes together the technology and the attitude that, in my opinion, is the big change that we’re facing in the business world right now.   

“This mix together the technology and the attitude that, in my opinion, is the big change that we’re facing in the business world right now”. 

Aishwarya

That is so insightful, and that makes a lot of sense. 

When you talk about employer branding, what do you think are some important aspects offered? What is it that organizations must actually focus on? 

Gero

I think at first, an organization should really focus on their homework because most of the companies we deal with, in my real job. So Saatkorn blog it’s my hobby and my real job is Managing Director of Territory Embrace, which is an agency running HR marketing and recruitment. 

So we talk to a lot of companies and most of the time we’re having our first talk with a potential client. They say ‘create a great campaign so that people are keen to work for us’. We say Okay, there’s more to it than just nice pictures, Nice creatives, A nice video. What’s your fundamental reason? Why should I work for you as a company? 

So, really, if you take a look at Simon Sinek and the Golden Circle, I strongly believe that “Why” is the most important question. So it’s not what you do. It’s not how you do it?  it’s why do you do this? And then you have to answer that question.   

“I strongly believe that “Why” is the most important question. So it’s not what you do. It’s not how you do it?  it’s why do you do this? And then you have to answer that question”. 

So what I mean, is it first, you should make sure that you have the right culture in place, that you really work on a new mission, that you really can describe why someone should work for your company and then, if you have answered this, then you can really work on all the HR instruments that can run on the salary, on the timetables, on the working hours, the way how you interact and so on. 

And if this set up the right way, then you can start to develop a value proposition that can come up with some very fundamental sentences that describe you as an employer and make clear why someone should work for you. 

And I don’t need it in a way, which is the second point of the most kinds. They want to have something that doesn’t hurt anybody without any edges. It must be creative. It must be cool. It must be fun. It can be hard pitched, and I always say that’s not the right point. You should give time for who you are but you should also say who you are not.

But you should also say I’m not a present employer because yeah, not everybody will apply later on. But you don’t want everybody to apply. So if you do a good employer brand, you might get fewer applications. But better fitting applications.

But it’s not about we do employer branding and ask their 10,000 applications and we have 20,000. But if they are like 19,000 that don’t fit you as a company, it’s what you are standing for with your culture. It’s 19,000 times work, recruitment process, and cost involved.

And so it would be better if you have just one Job description to only get one application. But the most fitting application, which is the utopia, of course, will never happen. But I’m strongly convinced that You should define what you are and what you are not to really make clear. So it must be authentic at the end of the day.

“You should define what you are and what you are not to really make clear. So it must be authentic at the end of the day.”

Aishwarya

Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense. It’s just being genuine about who you are and what you don’t believe in. So just said those guard reels are right so that you will get a really good culture fit to match with respect applications and 

What do you think of the challenges that HR will be facing in terms of recruitment in the near future? As you said that technology is playing a role in resolving these challenges. But are there some people challenges that also you know recruitment is facing? 

Gero

Absolutely. At first, I would say it really depends on which target group is relevant to you as an employer. So what you can see is that due to the digitization, that there’s way more competition than in the past. 

Let’s look at all the digital talents that are interesting for almost all companies, because our digitization is of course, not only something that’s relevant for HR and recruitment. It’s relevant in general. In the past, for instance, automotive companies would compete in terms of talent with other automotive companies. 

They would not compete with media companies or IT companies. But nowadays due to the increased importance of technology, competitions everywhere. Because all companies are looking for the digital trail and therefore the automotive companies compete with media companies, compete with Google, compete with Facebook, compete with small companies with big companies, the whole competition really, really changes. 

And that’s something that most employers didn’t understand yet, they still think we have a certain group that’s relevant. It’s not the case in terms of digital talent; they are all relevant for all other companies as well. So that’s one facet. 

If you look at these types of groups, of course, digital talents are not the only topic, target groups are relevant unless there are other things as well. And I think it’s really important that you know your charted group in detail if you’re looking for people because the way how to get applications also changed a lot in the past. Like 20 years ago, it was all over a newspaper, so that’s almost that. 

It’s all online. It’s all digital, then you have the drop-off. I would not bet on the super success of drop off in 10 years from now, because there will be other things. I strongly believe in Google for drops, for instance, and I strongly believe also in the performance present model. 

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It’s like you only pay for the highest, it’s a different business model of course, and it’s also again a technology trigger. So if you would take a look now at the recruiters or at the profession of recruitment, this changed a lot.  

As a recruiter, nowadays, you must know the strategy of your company. You really must know the hire tools that are relevant. But you also must know what kind of media does the target group you’re interested in yours? Is it Instagram? Is it Snapchat? Is it YouTube? Facebook? Is it a company’s website? Is Dropbox? Whatever. Because all the old channels are not gone at all. They’re still there. 

So the number of channels really growing exponentially as well. And you have to be an expert in this. But then again…

“You also have to be a good salesperson for your company. And that means you must know the strategy better, but you also must know the aim right? “

Why should someone work for this company? You have to be able to tell this story, and you have to tell it in a way that people believe you. So it’s way more complex, the drop off recruiting than like, five or 10 years ago. There’s also more technology involved in both. 

And so I think it also becomes a very crucial role for companies. I don’t really know much about India but in Germany and a lot of other Western countries, we have the demographic change, so there are not so many people born and therefore this less talent on the market.

And so the competition is even bigger because there are fewer people coming up. So that’s also another point that makes movement more difficult and more crucial because in the past they were always enough applications. But at least here in Germany, here, certain positions where nobody applied. I guess in India. It’s a different case, though. That’s certainly not the global thing. 

Aishwarya

Yes, that’s true in India, I think we just have too many people applying, and it becomes difficult to select good talent from so many applicants.

Gero

But if that’s the case, and again it’s just a different perspective. Then again, technology has, to really, sum down the big amount of applications to a smaller amount that you can really have a close look at. So again, technology is important. 

Aishwarya

Absolutely. I mean having a chat board on the career’s page, just for filtering of candidates, asking them some preliminary questions, and getting it down from a list of 100 resumes to about 10. A Chatbot definitely helps.

And we do get a lot of applications from that. And the ingestion, it’s smooth into the platform as such and that really helps recruitment. You’re right,  that’s where technology really helps. 

Do you also believe that since a job and recruitment is now, you know, such a complex and gray area, Do you believe that there should be a bifurcation between sourcing then, you know, candidate experience than recruitment and then HR, do you think that should be a bifurcation? 

Gero

I strongly believe that. I mean, in my opinion, that’s the side effect of the whole professionalization of recruitment that I just described. The job changed or not, and therefore it becomes much more complex and really makes sense to look at different steps in the problem in the process.

So, for instance First, you have the sourcing part to find the right candidates. Then when they apply, you have candidate experience, you’re gonna make sure that the candidates really have a great experience and this is so funny because it’s the same and it’s so easy.

“First, you have the sourcing part to find the right candidates. Then when they apply, you have candidate experience, you’re gonna make sure that the candidates really have a great experience and this is so funny because it’s the same and it’s so easy.”

Everybody is used to buy things, for instance, at Amazon and the buying experience at Amazon is great. It’s so easy. Everybody comes and it’s fast. And they help you. it should be exactly the same as recruitment. 

And if you really focus on this, you see how tricky this is to have a fast process that everybody understands where people get help at the right points and perhaps at first they get help via chatbots and if that doesn’t work out, then perhaps there is a phone line with somebody.

We have a human, so this is important and then you have recruitment and then you have onboarding, which is also very important because you lose people at any stage of the process which always costs money. And, yeah, it’s not so nice. 

Aishwarya

Yes, absolutely.

And Gero you believe in a partnership-oriented leadership style. What about it makes so different from the styles that most organizations practice nowadays? And how will it help in creating a customer-centric work culture? 

Gero

I tried to explain in parts off it already. In the beginning, when I spoke about the attitudes thing, I think we live in a time that’s very dynamic. So things change very fast, due to the fast development of technology, there are younger people who grow up with completely different media perspectives than older people and of course, they expect to get the same service also in recruitment like I just said with the recruitment process.

So I feel the leadership start. If it’s strictly hierarchical it’s all efficient these days because you really need experts in different fields and us the boss. 

You can never be an expert on all the different steps in the process. So your main role is in my interest, it should be able to discuss with your people the experience part. That’s what I look for, to be able to really discuss things and develop the right solution together and really make sure that the team is set up in the right way that the team gels with each other. 

And it’s also a team effort that will achieve certain goals because the way the world today is too fast. It’s so complex, it’s too global. To really work with an old fashioned leadership style in my opinion and also and Eastern Germany people. 

Most of the people don’t want to work for old fashioned bosses anymore. And due to the situation over here with a democratic change, companies have to change because otherwise, they don’t get applicants anymore. But again, I’m sure that differs from land or from region to region. At least here in my part of the world, it’s clearly developed. You have also this new future of work trend with more flexibility. 

Still, for instance, at the moment due to the corona shut down. We all work in home offices and if you are not having a trust-related company culture. It’s really difficult because you can’t control the employees anymore. They are at home. You can’t see if they work or not like in the past in the office. So you really have to trust the people, and now it comes full circle, I said a few minutes ago. 

It’s so important to answer the “Why”. Why should I work for you? It’s not because I pay you some money. Yeah, ofcourse. We get money to work on me, but there must be a higher sense, something where people could really feel the need to make work to a certain extent better with the work that they are doing. 

It’s so important to answer the “Why”. Why should I work for you? It’s not because I pay you some money. Yeah, ofcourse. We get money to work on me, but there must be a higher sense, something where people could really feel the need to make work to a certain extent better with the work that they are doing.” 

And if that’s the case, I strongly believe that most people are motivated to achieve good things, and they want to be proud of themselves. So if you have this trust-related partnership leadership style, I think people have experienced this feeling the best way.

So that’s why I think it’s really important. But it’s a personal opinion, and I’m pretty sure that there are other people as well,  the world is kind of full and big, and there might also be places for old fashions, strictly hierarchical. 

But in my opinion, I don’t know if you need that, for instance, in the military or so it’s really you have to do certain things in a certain way. If you don’t do it that way people will be killed or something.

But if you have a different environment where it’s more about creativity and more about the best process, more about finding out new ways, experimenting in a fast way. So, like, try failure. Try again. Find right away. I guess the leadership partnership or even a leadership style always works better. 

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Aishwarya

Absolutely. I think the fear part of it is now moving out of the scenario and it’s much more friendly, it’s much more creative and there is constructive productivity that’s happening nowadays. And the partnership leadership style really fits in well and importantly, very importantly, you also pointed out that the why is the most important question in this, which also makes a lot of sense. 

And when you talk about technology and you talk about these ATS systems, what do you think should be the primary focus of the ATS system? What is it that customers or organizations really look for in a good ATS system? 

Gero

Oh, that’s a huge question because there are so many different aspects that you have to look at. Let’s start within a certain corporation. You know what kind of target group do they want to hire, So you need an ATS that API’s that can be linked to certain platforms such as Linkedin, Google, or certain job ports or social media to make sure that you can publish your Job descriptions.

So this should be there. You should have multiple things to it where you can really make sure that your job descriptions are on the right platforms.

You should have all kinds of communication tools included in the ultimate process. So, for instance, somebody sends an application that this person gets right away in answer, and a matching engine would be great and still that you can again see if a certain application really matches a certain job description.

So then, of course, if you work in bigger teams, you must make sure that the way your team is structured, people really see what colleagues did with a certain applicant. So let’s say you have people who share the job, and they were on the same application of course. 

They must know what’s going on. 

So you have all the communication information of experience as well and then if you look at the candidates experience, you should have something where people can say I’m interested to work for this company and this is my background. So please send me job descriptions. Once they occur in the system and so on. So there’s another thing and  I always suggest at first it makes sense really to sit down and look at your own process and your own needs, write this all down and then really check our different ATS systems. Take a look at test surroundings that most of them provide us and test it for a week or so, and find out if it works.

I always suggest at first it makes sense really to sit down and look at your own process and your own needs, write this all down and then really check our different ATS systems. Take a look at test surroundings that most of them provide us and test it for a week or so, and find out if it works.

So that would be my suggestion. There’s way more. It’s a question. It’s so big because there are so many functionalities these days. It’s way different than 10 years ago. So also, with all the artificial intelligence things, you really have to check if these things really work properly and so on. So it will be a long list of functionality that is for sure. 

Aishwarya

That is true. 

Do you also see functionalities especially AI-based, like a resume parser being used in a place like Germany? Are people really finding that useful? 

Gero

Yeah, I think two years ago it was almost felt like no recruiter was needed anymore because AI will do all of this. But that was like two years ago. There was so much enthusiasm, and nowadays I think it’s come in a very realistic way. So technology will always help us to make processes faster and more transparent.   

“So technology will always help us to make processes faster and more transparent”. 

But of course, you need a recruiter who works with technology and also with a candidate, In my opinion on technology is always here and to a certain extent, of course, will make things in an automated way that we’ve done before manually, such as pre-screening of applications, is the application is everything. 

All the information you need to make a decision. This can be done automatically. There’s no person needed to check this, and this is good because it’s more involved. And you could use the time that you spend doing this kind of work now to really look at the two or three or five candidates that are really interesting. 

Then spend more time with that and I think nowadays after this big enthusiasm there came to a more realistic approach and the machine does not do everything but can really have to think to make things more accurate and fast. And then you can focus on your human attitude and your human touch more on a say internally. 

Aishwarya

So also organizations, especially in Germany. They have a kind of increased adoption of technology, and they’re willing to spend so much on recruitment. And are they okay with, you know, allocating budgets to technology for this? Or is there still some resistance that this is something we don’t want to invest in? 

Gero

No, there is. Resistance is really gone. I think perhaps it was like five years ago, but nowadays people are really open. The only thing I mentioned is they are more realistic a few years before, like one or two years before there was a lot of fear in the recruitment, group of people to lose their job. 

This is not the case anymore. It’s more like, Yeah, but we can be faster, better with technology. But we would still need humans to really use these machines. That’s why we don’t need 10 recruiters anymore, but eight also. Yeah, but that’s OK. I think people are really open to working with new technology. 

Aishwarya

Well, that’s really good to hear and I think that’s where the future is going, is what you’re saying, right? 

Gero

So in the future, there will be more technology and of course, as a recruiter you have to understand that energy, all the metric matching engines and stuff like that to relieve them properly. So if you’re not interested in recognizing technology recruitment might not be the right job for you. 

Aishwarya

Absolutely. 

So, Gero to wrap this interview up, I’m going to ask you last question, which is, if you have any important soundbites that you would like to be above us with? 

Gero

Yeah, I have lots of soundbites probably, but most of them are relevant to the German market. And I’m pretty sure that most of the people who are listening to this program are not from the German market but international, 

So if you’re interested, just take a look at my blog Saatkorn.com, Check out my podcast. But if you were not speaking german, then I can’t suggest it because you won’t understand it. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure talking to you, big fun, and yeah, so perhaps I’ll invite you back to my podcast and blog to do the interview by myself because I’m also interested in what’s going on in India, I have to say.

Aishwarya

Oh, thank you so much, that’s very kind of you and I had a pleasure talking to you as well, I think it was a great learning experience. And it was a very engaging conversation and a good way to look at different scenarios geographically as well to understand markets. So thank you so much.

Gero

You’re welcome. You have a nice day. All the best. 

Aishwarya

You too take care. Stay safe. Stay healthy.