Company Recruitment

The New Art of Attraction

Germany Anti-Islam Protests Amazon
Amazon wants to show a new generation that working there is about more than just deliveries and picking stock. Source: AP

Innovative products and digital services, a start-up mentality and stylish workspaces with a muesli breakfast bar – millennials have a very different idea of what makes for an attractive office environment.

Germany’s Generation Y workers, who are just now hitting the job market, have high expectations for their careers. They want job security, above-average salaries and work that’s defined by excitement and ingenuity. Companies that want to have young talent must be competitive by offering perks.

A new survey conducted by consultancy firm Universum has revealed which employers are most fancied by German employers. Over 40,000 students were recently asked to select the five companies they would like to work for after graduation, choosing from a list of 144.

Surprisingly, only about a third of students said they wanted to start their own business. Even fewer, one in 10, wanted to work for a startup or found one. Most wanted to work within large, established companies, where they could reap the benefits of secure jobs and significant opportunities to gain experience.

Unsurprisingly Amazon, Microsoft and Google were among the most sought-after employers. Tech companies give their employees a lot of responsibility right from the get-go, making ascending the corporate ladder visible. For example, after just three months working at Amazon Germany’s headquarters in Munich, Samantha Geburek was put in charge of a massive project for the US retailer: Facilitating how corporate clients would be able to pay on the new Amazon Business platform.

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The Ludwig Maximilian University graduate had tackled a similar topic in her final business exams, but in more traditionally-minded companies putting such trust in a newcomer would have been unheard-of. “Right from the beginning, I had the opportunity to help shape projects,” said the 28-year-old, who has been working for Amazon since March 2016. “I was able to try things out – and am still able to – without fear of mistakes. That is part of the corporate culture here.”

Amazon is a global heavyweight, the world’s largest Internet retailer with more than 340,000 employees, but still manages to maintain an ethos more akin to a young tech company. At 23 years old, it’s using that startup spirit to attract fresh blood.

“To be able to develop something yourself without the entrepreneurial risk – that’s what young people like,” said Jutta Rump, human resources professor at the Ludwigshafen University of Applied Sciences.

Opportunities at Amazon are diverse, whether in the planned multi-billion-dollar takeover of Whole Foods or the development of virtual assistant Alexa. “For many, Amazon is almost synonymous with the future,” said Ms. Rump. “If somebody works at Amazon, they feel confident they are fit for the future.”

The online retailer has more than 11 logistics and distribution centers in Germany. At its research center in Aachen, IT experts are working to expand Alexa’s voice control capabilities. In Berlin, they are experimenting with artificial intelligence while client inquiries are dealt with in Regensburg. In Munich alone there will be 400 employee vacancies this year.

Most job applicants come via word-of-mouth, according to Amazon Germany’s human resources head, James Argento. The native New Yorker told WirtschaftsWoche that employees receive a bonus for recommending successful candidates. He wants to do away with the notion that the Amazon workforce is mostly unskilled laborers, by presenting his case at universities and by also recently starting to offer guided tours through the Munich office.

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Microsoft, about a 10-minute walk away from the Amazon office, uses similar recruitment tactics. It is Amazon’s main rival for young economists, engineers and computer scientists in many ways. All trainees at Microsoft are given a permanent job after their induction program. Working from home is also encouraged, offering work-life balance as an added benefit of secure employment.

Office facilities include 11 roof terraces, a fitness studio and an open plan concept. There are workplaces for 1,100 employees, and about 800 others are based in home offices. Digital nomads are free to come and go as they please, whether to conduct meetings with state-of-the-art equipment or seek out a quiet zone. Looking for a colleague? Just check the Microsoft app, Find Me, for his or her whereabouts.

But it is not as though Microsoft or Apple have the pick of the litter. In Universum’s survey, tech companies were still largely overshadowed by automobile companies. German carmakers BMW, Audi, Daimler and Porsche were the top four choices among future economists and engineers, but also showed up in the top 20 lists of computer scientists and even natural scientists.

Car companies have high salaries and exhilarating work, from the development of electro mobility to self-driving vehicles. “The emissions scandal had hardly any effect on their appeal,” said Tina Smetana, managing director of Universum for Germany. “The conditions offered by carmakers are still perceived as very good by students.”


A version of this article originally appeared in Handelsblatt’s sister publication Wirtschafts Woche. To contact the author:

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