How Our Own In-house Talent Acquisition Is Standing Out From the Crowd

SAP AG in Walldorf Germany

In 2016 SAP needed to stand out from the crowd and have its biggest year for employment branding, with actual employees telling their own life stories. Many candidates know little about us, or perceive us as a somewhat safe, bureaucratic German software company. We have to work harder than most companies to get noticed in the technology arena, especially when we compete for the exact same talent as Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

So rather than sit back, we decided to move the needle, innovating, making a difference for SAP, standing out from the crowd.

But, naysayers would say, we won ERE’s best employment brand; surely we are there already?

No, we are not. 2015 was about putting in the foundations:

  • Building one of the world’s fastest-growing talent communities (600,000 members)
  • Implementing big data solutions to measure and analyze every decision taken
  • Expanding the talent pool reach: SAP’s Autism at Work program
  • Introducing an employment brand menu to service business demand
  • Creating our humanizing “Life at SAP” social media channels

But foundations are not enough, they are beneath the surface. It’s no use having great foundations unless you have a beautiful house to build on them. We set out to build that house in 2016.

For SAP, 2016 sees arguably the most radical agenda in modern talent acquisition. Our goal is not to boast, but to share what we have done and hopefully inspire others to achieve results even better than ours. Sharing takes the industry forward, because secrecy benefits no one.

What We Did

Launched a new “humanized” EVP

An employment brand cannot be created, it cannot be manufactured. An employment brand is what our employees and candidates say about SAP in the market. It’s fluid but most importantly it’s real, authentic, and a truer representation of a company.

Our goal is to share employee stories, to bring SAP to life, to humanize SAP. That is the essence of the new SAP EVP. Our central message: Bring Everything You Are. Become Everything You Want.

This message truly encompasses SAP. You can be whatever you want to be, just be the best you are. A company with almost 80,000 employees creates many career opportunities for our employees to grow, to lead, to innovate.

Our EVP is about respect, innovation, work-life balance, and job-interest alignment. We provide our employees with freedom: the freedom to act, find balance, and pursue and develop professional interests. That’s what leads to innovation. Our employees are empowered to contribute and take action with a flexible work experience that maximizes personal performance. Career paths are built around employee interests; that’s what makes us an amazing growth company.

The mosaic image (in “beta” version) shows how we focus on the life stories of an individual. A headshot dominates, but a mosaic tells the story of that employee: as a leader at work, as a mom at home, out with work colleagues, doing charity work, and having fun. We all have bigger stories to tell outside of work, what we do there shapes us at work. Those stories need telling, as they compel people to want to explore our brand.

Real People, Real Photos: Global Employee Photo Competitions

What better way to support the new focus on life stories than using real photographs from employees? We thus started a new series, Life at SAP Employee Photo contests, held online quarterly. The contests allow employees to show us their life in and outside of SAP, and also give us access to real photos to use in various digital marketing campaigns, on social media, and on our career site.

This flipbook is a great showcase of our first of many contests. We asked employees to take a selfie, showing their Life at SAP with the hashtag #IAmSAP. We received over 750 submissions from every region, and crowdsourced the winner via a two week voting period on our Life at SAP social media channels. The voting turnout was fantastic: 4,719 votes across three social networks (Instagram, Facebook, and WeChat), with the winner from the APJ region receiving 1,426 votes (30 percent of the total votes).

Our very latest competition, #PetsofSAP, has already garnered over 4,000 entries in less than two weeks, already smashing the previous contest’s total submissions. Hosting photo contests is a big step toward ending our reliance on stock photography.

New Videos Setting the New Tone of SAP

Supporting the new SAP EVP, a series of high-impact videos have been produced in 2016. Two examples:

Real-time Candidate Assessment Feedback, the Ultimate Candidate Experience!

To truly realize our new EVP, to help us know “everything you are” and ensure you “become everything you want,” we looked at how we could help candidates, which in turn led us to explore assessment technology.  We built new assessments with leading assessment company The Chemistry Group, and greatly impacted the candidate experience in a positive way by providing candidates with a two-to-three page report that gives them feedback on whether they are a culture fit and role fit for SAP. An assessment report also goes to the hiring manager, with suggested interview questions to explore in interview, and a Day 1 training plan for the new hire to enhance key skills, uniquely linking assessments with training and development.

Stay tuned for another article on, where we will dive into more details, including our now innovative new Facebook Assessment tool, matching online Facebook behaviors to jobs at SAP! Truly, a first in recruitment.  

A Weekly Humorous Cartoon Series

SAP’s EVP is about life stories. What better way to represent SAP office life than an engaging cartoon series? “Life at SAP Illustrated” showcases fun office and work-from-home stories about a group of fictional SAP employees, featured on our Life at SAP social media channels. A future ERE post will go more in depth on the cartoon series. 

A Genuine Recruitment Game

Modern recruitment is about killer content, about creating an impact, and encouraging repeat visitors, the very pillars of any game. SAP partnered with The Chemistry Group and gaming industry leader Gamesparks to create likely the first of its kind: a recruitment game that is actually fun, starring characters from the “Life at SAP Illustrated” cartoon series. We’ll dive into our game methodology in an upcoming article, so stay tuned. 

Career Site: An Exciting New Redesign

The career site is a pivotal channel for SAP, as it is our shop window to the world. In September, we launched a brand new career site to make the experience between and our career site a seamless one for candidates.

SAP_EVP_Mosaic ImageWhat excites us most, in addition to the new sleek and simple design, are a few cool new features that have launched or are launching in the coming quarter:

  • Live chat 24/7 with operators for any questions or careers advice to enhance candidate experience and communication flow with SAP.
  • Personalized tips from recruiters: we are lifting the veil, no more anonymous recruiters! Our recruiters provide personal tips to navigate the steps in our recruiting process. We also provide additional hints and tips about what else to keep in mind as you apply for a position at SAP, be it naming all allowed file formats for uploading your resume or links to additional information such as our new SAP Brand Insights Interview Pack. All hints are found in the supplemental notes for each step in the recruiting process.
  • Sharing comprehensive insights into who we are looking for at SAP. SAP is changing, becoming the cloud company. This journey translates into us looking for different candidate profiles: we want people who think big and dream big. But, what does that mean exactly? Well, we now allow candidates to assess their fit on a new site called “Ideal Candidates.” This helps candidates understand how they will work and define their own vision of success at SAP.
  • 50 diverse employee stories, promoted across the site, including videos, blogs, and quotes, helping us to humanize the SAP experience. We know our career site users don’t have the time to review every page, so we’ve built the People Finder. It allows candidates to filter all stories according to work area of interest, career status, location and specific topics, like women at SAP stories or intern stories.
  • Focus on gender diversity: gender equality is an important part of SAP’s mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Operating in an industry often cited for its lack of diversity, SAP has been working to counter this trend and be a technology company that is willing to lead by example. To showcase all our efforts we dedicated a whole page to the women at SAP.
  • A new Global Event Finder for not only the career site users, but all SAP corporate website visitors. Adding career events as a new category to the corporate event finder exposes all users to these exciting events — even passive users who were not initially looking for a career-focused event and who may not have considered SAP as an employer. This new setup will especially help to cross promote SAP’s Talent Win events (more on that below!). Although we highlight country specific events on local career pages, all users have access to all career events globally using the event finder at any time.

These are just a few examples of what to expect from the new SAP career site experience. But, there is so much more to discover for users from around the globe, with a localized experience coming soon. Do users like what they see? We will know, because relevant data will be collected with a new instant feedback tool. Creating a great career website is a journey, and we are far away from being done! 

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Insight Pack (Interview Pack)

We take for granted that candidates will research SAP online, that they will look through our main corporate site, and/or our career site. Understanding our history, culture, product, strategy, and more importantly get to know what it is like to work here and have a career is vital for a candidate. The problem is there is almost too much information to consume.

So, the employment brand team created a dynamic but informative document to consolidate all of this information in one easy-to-consume place: the Brand Insights flipbook. Recruiters use this document to engage those hard-to-please passive candidates, because the document highlights the “real” SAP, a behind the scenes look at our employees, their stories, and the impact we have in the world.

Recruiter Playbook

We have 250 recruiters. We need them to be on the top of their game.

In 2016 the employment brand team created the ultimate recruiter training guide. It helps them:

  • Articulate the SAP EVP and talk with authority about why we are a great place to work
  • Overcome candidate objections
  • Source the best candidates
  • Use all SAP’s recruitment technologies
  • Know the art of social job sharing
  • Understand the importance of diversity
  • Write the perfect job description
  • With recruiter tips and best practices
  • Coordinate and run events
  • Create a hiring plan and digital campaigns

This playbook, along with frequent training sessions, answers many of the recruiter’s questions about how the brand team can best help them meet their hiring goals.

New Events

SAP’s talent networking program is a strategic, long-term, targeted outreach to very specific talent groups. We want to inspire these talent groups to take a closer look at SAP through innovative virtual or in-person events. During these invite-only, exclusive events, SAP business leaders and recruiters give insights into SAP’s newest and most innovative products and projects, like Technology in Sports, Entertainment, personalized Healthcare, Gaming, Cyber Security, Digitalization, and all the hot topics where SAP is a recognized thought leader. For developers, UX designers, and technical talent, the hugely interactive sessions receive the highest ranks: Innojams, hackathons, or design-thinking sessions are just a few examples how to get this highly sought-after group excited about SAP.

Internally, talent networking Events are garnering excellent feedback from the business and 100 percent Net Promoter Score of attendees, measured by an online feedback survey which is sent after the event. We receive comments like this after every talent networking event: “great idea … this really changed my perception of SAP. Would like to find out more.”

The talent network program involves a change of mindset within the global talent acquisition team and for the SAP managers. While “post and pray” used to be how SAP recruited in many talent markets, the active sourcing and engaging with talent for mid-term hires is now the “new norm.” No longer in reactive mode, the talent network program requires recruiters and hiring managers to build talent communities based on 6-12 months business hiring demands. Then, using a custom source/campaign code from SAP’s own recruitment solutions RCM and RMK, recruiters measure the long-term success through source of hire analytics for every event. In addition, the employment brand team developed a step-by-step event planning guide for recruiters and hiring managers planning talent network events, to ensure events deliver truly robust experience required to impress and motivate the talent in attendance.

Talent network events are specific to local demands and talent market dynamics. Local prioritizations and cultural elements are handled carefully as well as diversity aspects. In Germany, for example, building a pipeline of female leadership talent is high on SAP’s diversity and inclusion agenda. The unique and innovative “Power to Lead” event held in Q2, which originally was planned for SAP female employees, was opened to external female leaders to attend after massive initial interest. For all 700 participants, it was an outstanding experience and received the highest Net Promoter score ever for an SAP Female Talent event.

The talent network program, just introduced this year, has been enormously successful and is now the status quo for recruiters. The success is not just tied to a well-attended event, of course, but to the number of candidates who join our talent community and who are then engaged with relevant, specific content, and job alerts. We now have almost 600,000 candidates in the talent community, making it a robust tool for recruiters and hiring managers and proving the success of the Talent Win Program.

And That’s Not All Folks … 

All this happens while “business as usual” goes on — creating dozens of digital marketing campaigns for recruiting; redesigning employee referral campaigns; redesigning graduate recruitment material and collateral; launching female diversity and LGBT campaigns.

What’s even more impressive? We did it ourselves, in house. We’re a how-to in DIY: Building an in-house employment brand and creative media team.

Results and ROI

It’s all good talking the talk. How has success been measured in 2016?

There are a number of key indicators:

  • Achieving hiring targets
  • Great Places to Work/Top Employer awards, awards for HR, Diversity, Recruiting
  • Glassdoor ratings
  • Pipeline and Talent Communities growth

Glassdoor-comparsion-graphicWell folks, we achieved every single goal.

  • We hit our hiring goals: 16,000 hires in nine months.
  • To date, 2016 has been the biggest award year for SAP, winning 110 employer and recruiting Awards.
  • Our Glassdoor rating highlights the sea change in the SAP brand perception. SAP moved from a mark of 3.7 in July 2015 to 4.1 in August 2016, and we SAP are now rated higher than many of the biggest brands in the world today. This means a lot to SAP as it is the voice of “the crowd” has spoken.
  • We’ve seen huge social media growth
  • Our best post, about CEO Bill McDermott, had an astonishing engagement 7,886 (likes, clicks, comments, shares), with a reach of 76,408
  • Massive growth in our talent community, with subscribers jumping by 1,012 percent and visits to the career site via our social channels growing 732 percent since last year
  • Total reach on Facebook was almost 1.5 million, with nearly 25 percent reach to “Early Talent” users
  • #IAmSAP Photo contest drew impressive engagement, with Instagram engagements more than doubling, from 5,000 to over 12,000, in one quarter
  • Life at SAP content on the corporate SAP LinkedIn page is consistently garnering more impressions and engagement than any other content on that page, averaging almost 150,000 impressions per post, to an audience of 700,000. That means almost 25 percent of SAP’s entire LinkedIn audience is engaging with every one of our posts.

2016 will certainly be remembered as a monumental year for SAP’s Employment Brand. What will 2017 bring?

Matthew Jeffery, pictured at center, cited as one of the world's leading recruitment strategists and leaders, is VP, head of global sourcing and employment branding for SAP. Previously, he was head of EMEA talent acquisition and global employment brand for software giant Autodesk. Previous to Autodesk, he was the global director of recruitment brand for Electronic Arts.

Kirsten Planck owns SAP’s recruiting web presence and manages the execution and delivery of recruiting and employer branding projects globally. Since joining SAP in 1996 she held various positions in SAP’s customer education, worked as a knowledge broker for Security, Portals, Mobile Business, and HR, and as resource manager for SAP Consulting and project manager in recruiting, focused on talent relationship management.

Andrea Woolley is a marketing director at SAP, the market leader in enterprise application software. She has been part of the sourcing & employment brand team for the last six years, focused on large-scale global projects to increase SAP’s employment brand global reach and impact the quality of talent hired at SAP.

As director of social and creative media within SAP’s global employer brand, Robin Dagostino leads social strategy and creative services for “Life at SAP” to establish awareness, traffic, engagement, and positive brand sentiment of SAP as an employer brand of choice. Prior to joining SAP, Dagostino was the director of digital marketing at Comcast Corporation for 10 years, and before that a marketing manager at QVC.


24 Comments on “How Our Own In-house Talent Acquisition Is Standing Out From the Crowd

    1. Thanks Jim. Appreciate you taking time to read. Hoping by sharing it helps inspires others. Sharing is caring 🙂

    2. Thanks @jimdamico:disqus. Appreciate you taking time to read. Hoping by sharing it helps inspires others. Sharing is caring 🙂

      1. Andrea, the focus on humanizing your EVP and process. For too long systems and process’s have been designed to commoditize candidates and it is wonderful to see organizations breaking those chains. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks @frangarvey:disqus Appreciate you reading the article and your nice comment. Hope all is good with you.

        1. @frangarvey:disqus happy to. Will you be at LinkedIn Talent Connect. Andea, Kirsten, Robin and I are all here. Happy to meet in person. Or happy to connect after and help.

          We share these artilces to help the industry. If they inspire one person to do something new or try something different we have achieved our goal. 🙂

          1. sorry to miss it – but exhibiting at PA Conference for Women in Phila. Oct. 6th. I will shoot you a LI – connect request.

  1. So…… Is this fundamentally about ‘aggregation of margins’ ( as that is what it sound like to me. Are you (SAP) basically firing off on every possible cylinder, across multiple platforms and through that achieving your goals? With in some regions of SAP already a generally high referral rate, what has any initiatives been able to achieve in addition to this through the programs? Finally and being in the IT ‘game’ is this simply what any large company having to do in order to be able to compete for the best talents, and is there any correlation with efforts versus the quality of talent that is being brought in, in short is SAP getting any different people to what they did 3 years ago?

    1. Hi Jacob.

      First off thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Appreciated. Your passion for consuming articles and information is extremely admirable. You have built a tremendous knowledge.

      I think there are a number of things at play here. As you know SAP are a B2B brand and competing for tech talent vs some of the ‘well known’ consumer brands e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft. That adds more complexity in a competitive talent market.

      You and I both agree that poor recruitment is easy. Post jobs on a job board, brief an agency, rock back and wait for the response. Great recruitment is tough. Its an art. So those that decry the Global War for Talent should reevaluate that there is a Global War for the BEST Talent.

      Throw in the challenge of moving to the Cloud, (which is a different mindset to on premise software), we have to ensure we are firing on all cylinders to attract new Cloud Talent. Hence we are working hard to raise the quality bar.

      I am happy that our ‘Attract’ model is working extremely efficiently. A Talent Community of 600,000. SEO optimized to such a degree we are getting a huge number of visitors to the career site. But it is about quality. And measuring that quality, (e.g. salespeople, how many are making 0-25%/25-49%/50-74%/75-99%/100-124%/125%+ of sales target within 6/12/18 months. Thats a great benchmark for quality of hire.

      Employment Branding has never been so important. Few are getting it right. Look at Social Media pages today. Some huge numbers of followers. Impressive. But then look at engagement rates. When you see a Facebook page with 500,000 followers and 3 ‘Likes’, 2 ‘comments’ and zero ‘shares’ what does that imply to you. Broadcast media. No engagement . Thats still the norm out there. Have a look today.

      Engagement is a fascinating art. Thats why we are experimenting with areas like cartoons and games. And interesting we are seeing huge engagement levels. But behind those positive engagement levels people are then clicking through to the careers site and applying for jobs. The data is really fascinating.

      In terms of all IT firms doing the same. I would offer that few have done what we have done to push the margin. The new assessments which are a huge innovation from how we have previously employed them is something to behold. There is an article pending next week that you may find interesting; throw in the FB predictor app, the cartoon, the game, new EVP, thats a huge agenda in a year.

      Interesting that sharing this information always presents a challenge. Is it showing off? ‘Look at us’. We see it as sharing. If we keep quiet whats the benefit to the industry? We need to all innovate and push on. Its easy to moan and carp about things, tougher to deliver and reveal what you, as a company, is doing. if one person reads this article and is inspired to try something different. That makes us happy 🙂

      1. Thank you Matthew, so I could make more comments and I have now re-visited the videos you refer to in article. Are they fundamentally that much different to what so many other large companies doing, smiles, diversity, dynamic and photogenic footage and pumping music and superlatives galore, hmmmmm ! where is it different ?

        1. Thanks Jacob. Animated videos like ‘The Path’ are not the norm in the industry right now. Hopefully it resonated with you.

          I am intrigued what you think of the cartoon and game. Thats certainly not the norm.

          I have been looking at your company and your channels at Laird. That makes fascinating viewing given your opinions. I would love to see you present what you are doing and share your learnings & innovations 🙂 Would make a great article.

          1. Thank you, but no thank you Matt, Laird is 3 years behind where it could and should be and slowly working my way towards that level, but tons to be done, so nothing really to share for a long time to come, just good solid basic recruitment getting superior people at least cost.

          2. @jacobstenmadsen:disqus I think the turnaround stories are the best.

            As a person that is bold and has put themselves out in the market as a Recruitment Revolutionary, therefore on a pedestal, I think there is a huge public interest in what you are personally doing. Hence a story of what you have achieved in your time so far; your innovations in the role; your dreams and ambitions for Laird would be compelling reading. Sometimes the journey is the story.

            Jacob as a man who likes to judge others. You are VERY direct that others aren’t doing enough to move the industry forward, that others are less bold in leading the Recruitment Revolution than you, I would applaud you to reveal your story and allow others the opportunity to judge you as you have judged them. 🙂

          3. Pedestal, what pedestal and where ? I am running a 700+ member Facebook group that is meant to try and make a change. FYI I have never used the word ‘revolution’, but ‘evolution’ – there is a huge difference ! To date limited engagement/responses.
            Apart from that I make the odd comment when I see relevant, that is all, and I see no reason why anyone cannot make any comments or have opinions as they like.
            As for Laird, nothing to report, still nowhere near being of any interest to anyone and structure and complexities not lending themselves to tell about (9000 employees, 7.000 of these in China and most being blue collar)

          4. @jacobstenmadsen:disqus I totally agree Compadre. Constructive opinions are great. Safe to say that many of your views tend to be critical about the industry and what is happening. I don’t think that misrepresents you does it? That is why you set your Facebook Group up to help make a change.

            I think when judging companies and people and providing critical feedback does place someone directly on a pedestal. Passing judgements on others places someone in the spotlight. That then begs natural questions like ‘What are you doing about things’. ‘What are you doing in your company’. When critical of innovations ‘what innovations have you been bringing to market’. Thats a natural thought process.

            Hence the power of what you are doing at Laird. Sharing how you are making a difference will inspire others in similar positions with similar challenges. Its a great story to tell Jacob. i urge you to think again and share your story and achievements so far and your goals for the future, (roadmaps are inspiring and promote people to think). Well I find them inspiring 🙂 Thanks for actively contributing and being direct with your feedback. Appreciated.

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