Interview: How SAP is Using Cartoons, Video Games and More to Change Recruiting Standards

September 19, 2016

I recently sat down with Matthew Jeffery, VP and Head of Global Sourcing and Employer Branding at SAP to learn more about how they are changing the recruiting statues quo. Specifiaclly, In our interview he shared how they are using things like cartoons and video games to engage their audience and creating new processes to improve candidate experience.

He had a lot more to share and below is an edited version of our conversation. You can listen to the full interview here.

Richard George: Welcome, Matthew. Can you tell us about some of the latest things you’ve been working on?

Matthew Jeffery: It’s been a big year for us so far. One of the key things we’re seeing is that it’s a very competitive talent market out there.

SAP is B2B a focused brand and when we go out onto a university campus we’re up against a lot of consumer-facing companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Some of those brands are a lot more readily at the forefront of people’s perceptions. As a result, we have to work a lot harder to say, “We’re a great place to work” and stand out.

That’s why no stone goes unturned this year. We’re relaunching our employee value proposition (EVP), we’re relaunching our career site with chat functionality, and we’ve launched a cartoon, a new types of assessments to improve the candidate experience, and we’re even soon launching a fun recruitment game.

You have to take risks in this industry and you have to challenge the status quo. When we first talked about launching a cartoon, they were some raised eyebrows at SAP! We want to be investing in what creates the most engagement and repeat visits on social channels.

RG: Is that specifically to attract graduates or the famous Millennials, or is that a broader sort of structure across the company?

MJ: It’s across the whole company. You don’t have to be a Millennial to enjoy a cartoon, so we’ve launched ‘Life at SAP’; a weekly, illustrated cartoon on our Facebook and Instagram channels. The key thing is showing ‘Life at SAP’ in an engaging and fun way. When you get 500 or 600 people clicking, liking sharing and commenting, it shows that you’re going in the right direction in terms of drawing your audience back and, eventually, becoming brand ambassadors.

Some of the big corporates out there proclaim they have brilliant social media and social recruiting. They have huge communities, maybe even a million followers plus, but they don’t have the engagement. Five people clicking like or two people commenting doesn’t represent an engaged community. We don’t have the biggest community out there, but we probably have one of the most engaged and the cartoon has really helped us in that regard.

RG: There’s obviously a lot of change in the industry. What are some of the things that you found that stayed consistent in your career?

MJ: While a lot of companies are trying to find the silver bullet and jump on the latest innovation, the very basics of recruitment don’t change: providing a great candidate experience, building a relationship with a candidate and ensuring they have a great interaction with your company.

If you look at the typical candidate experience today, they will go onto a corporate website, invest 20 to 25 minutes of their precious time before putting in an application. Generally, the standard response is an automated email that says one of our recruiters will come back to you if you have the right skills and experience. Often that candidate could be sitting in a database for the next six to twelve months and never hear from that company again.

That’s pretty criminal.

When it comes to interviews, candidates could invest anything from five to 10 hours doing research on a company website, social media channels and looking at company reports. They then go in for an interview for one-to-three hours. At the end of that, they’ll hear back from a recruiter saying “Sorry, you’re not the right fit for our company, but good luck.” Is that really the candidate experience we truly want to aspire to in this industry?

That’s something we’re looking at and challenging the status quo at SAP.

This is where technology can help candidate experience. Soon we are launching a new assessment process so that when someone applies to an entry-level of graduate role at SAP, they get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an interview the moment they click ‘apply,’ along with additional information on why we made the decision. Isn’t that what a candidate deserves? We’re expanding on this philosophy to help all candidates get that experience.

If you’re a candidate and you apply for a graduate role at SAP, you’ll get back a two-to-three page assessment report of whether you’re the right fit for us and whether you’re the right person for that role. The candidate’s reaction should be: “Wow. I’ve had instant feedback. I’ve got a two to three page report I can look at.” Boom! That’s surely the candidate experience that people should aspire to. Even though they got a ‘no,’ that's more preferable than sitting on a database hoping a recruiter will call them in six months time.

A great experience doesn’t have to rely on technology; it can be a smaller company and just a recruiter making sure they look at how they provide candidates with the best feedback they can to make sure they walk away with a good impression. In this digital age, people will leap on a LinkedIn article and say what they think of a company and how they’re performing. They will go on sites like Glassdoor and leave their feedback. In the social and digital age, we have to make sure that our candidates get the best experience they can.

RG: You mentioned LinkedIn in articles, is that part of the strategy that you have: encouraging your hiring managers and leaders to share content on the platform?

MJ: It is. We’re lucky that (SAP CEO) Bill McDermott is one of those thought leaders that publishes on LinkedIn. Again, it’s key that LinkedIn is so much more than what it used to be in the past: it’s a publisher of great content.

We encourage our teams to use LinkedIn Elevate to encourage people to share and get involved in content as well. We use LinkedIn Recruiter to source and reach out to the best talent which is fantastic, but content is king in this day and age and it resonates and goes into the subconscious of the person reading it and that’s great for any employer brand out there.

RG: What got you started in recruitment?

MJ: I didn’t leave university thinking “Oh, I must be a recruiter.” In many ways that’s one of the main problems in the industry, because it’s a great career destination. I started in a marketing background and went into NatWest on their graduate scheme. From there, I really wanted to try and use my interpersonal and I fell into recruitment. You can really build a long lasting and enjoyable career and meet great people.

More than that, our function directly affects the success of a company. If we hire average salespeople, they’ll get average targets. If we hire average developers, they’re going to produce average product. That means then the bottom line is affected.

If we hire great people, which is our aspiration to do and what LinkedIn is there to help us do, then that’s when our company is really truly benefiting. If we don’t perform, our companies don’t perform and that’s why we need to elevate our role and our profession and our industry far higher than where it’s  currently seen in the business world.

RG: We’ve just done some research into the role of fulfillment plays in helping professionals make career decisions. What fulfills you?

MJ: Constantly evolving and always learning. We’re always trying new things. Particularly at SAP, I’m allowed to innovate and that’s a key thing. Launching the cartoon, launching a game.

Is that traditional recruitment? Probably not. It’s all about humanizing the brand and driving engagement. I love looking at what other companies are doing. You mentioned Virgin Media. It’s always good fun to see what they’re up to. I keep an eye on a lot of companies out there.

And particularly that’s why I love going to LinkedIn Talent Connect to hear about those stories and about people trying something different. It may not all work, but you’ll live and learn from those experiences and that’s what keeps me in this industry.

To listen to my full conversation with Matthew, check out the Soundcloud recording

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