For anyone with an international perspective, recruiting in Germany for the first time is an experience that will not be forgotten quickly. Germany is a complex market, large and fast-moving on one hand, alone the revenues in a market with at present more than 1 million unfilled jobs and unemployment at historic lows for several consecutive years now underscore that. However, due to the complex regional structure of the market, the still high relevance of print at least in the regional recruiting markets, the difficult situation with engaging with and motivating candidates to move, both employer as well as location, pose challenges to recruiters that explain why time to hire in Germany is often not measured in weeks, but in months.
Germany has yet to embrace social media and active sourcing as integral strategic parts of day-to-day recruiting across the board. Large companies with international recruiting needs have been exposed to the benefits of professional networking already, but often times don’t utilise these tools & services locally, ironically. The usage of RPOs for German companies is almost non-existant (with very few exceptions), on the other hand German subsidiaries of large IT firms have been using RPOs in Germany for a few years already. Both facts highlighted explain why there is massive potential for both employers as well as service providers to tap into this gap.
Leader or fast follower
Ironically Germany is seen broadly as a country with leading, sometimes even cutting-edge skills: the most prestigious automotive manufacturers almost all are based in Germany, construction and engineering knowledge is often a dominant skill Germany is known for, and as the world’s second-largest export economy Germany undoubtably has a large international presence, both physically and via connections to customers, partners, and representatives in the countries where German goods and services are sold to. Yet when it comes to recruiting media, technology, openness to new trends and the adoption of cutting-edge skills and expertise German employers often are cautious, hesitant or traditional, waiting for proven success by others, and extremely fast to adopt once someone else has proven that the innovation actually delivers value and success. This poses significant challenges to pioneers that want to charge forward, expand the boundaries, or revolutionize the current status quo. It obviously also explains to a large extent why success in Germany requires extensive preparation and both local adaption and presence.
Critical success factors
Convincing the cautious, sometimes even reserved, German that embracing something new is worthwhile takes time, requires proven success, and can be time-consuming. However, once the willingness to embrace change or pursue new paths is present the execution or migration is efficient, rapid, and seamless. The transfer from the German Facebook StudiVZ clone to the US original within months is as much an example as the rise of Monster to number one in online recruiting following the acquisition and integration of jobpilot, or StepStone’s rise to the number one slot in the near past due to a more successful local focus vs. the largest international player. Success in Germany is defined by being able to understand and satisfy local market needs first, and then the ability to leverage these internationally, which is somewhat unique. Another wonderful example of a German recruiting peculiarity is the fact that German candidates will prefer to apply via the company career page, obviously ideally in local language. Integrating the readily available background information about the potential employer is a value to the candidate, wonderfully highlighted by the extremely successful online jobs platform jobstairs, which has emerged quietly and steadily as one of the top destinations where more than fifty employers of choice in Germany jointly market their vacancies, linking directly back to the jobs on the respective company career sites.
While German recruiters undoubtedly have some catching up to do regarding use of professional networking resources, both locally and globally, and while there are significant untapped opportunities for HR service providers in a broader context, one thing would appear certain: due to the high focus on very skilled resources the German labour market will continue to struggle to satisfy its recruiting needs, both locally as well as from international sources. Likewise there is significant potential for success for employers that are willing and able to rise above the current status quo via innovative recruiting campaigns and strategies, as well as integrating better and more effectively the various elements of what constitutes an attractive employer brand, recruiting excellence, and being a great place to work in general.