Distance Leadership and the skills that can now make it easier for managers and remote teams: We recently talked about this with our Head of Human Resources Dr. Axel Hermeier. But what are the skills that hiring managers are paying more attention to than ever before? After all, the changes in the world of business and work have opened new job profiles and changed old ones. The focus on the fitting talents seems to have sharpened.

What is increasingly important to companies in the search for talent and in the hiring process? And - vice versa: What new demands are increasingly being made of jobseekers? A look at the new challenges in talent acquisition and recruiting with Dr. Axel Hermeier.

Axel, as Head of Human Resources, you bring a lot of experience in the search for talent and in hiring processes: What do you pay particular attention to during introductory interviews?

Except for the professional qualification: on the personality.

Is there a question that you always ask in the job interview?

Yes: 'If I were to ask people from your personal environment, like your family, friends, and colleagues, about you: Which of your three top soft skills and three flops would I hear mentioned?'

Why do you ask this question?

The answers to these questions provide me with relevant insights about the personality, empathy, and reflective ability of the candidates. They provide a glimpse behind the facade of their CV.

Do talents today - after 19 months of pandemic - ask you different questions than the "usual" ones? Are they also tapping into new criteria?

Yes, they are very interested in how we as a company have dealt with the pandemic, how it has changed us and how we intend to apply our learnings today and in the future. On the one hand, they want to understand how the company works and how it acts in crisis situations. On the other hand, they want to find out about leadership and corporate culture, and how open the company is to new work, flexibility, and home office.

Do you see any additional new developments about "Generation Z," which is just on the cusp of entering the workforce?

Their demands on employers have continued to grow. Individual freedom and development have top priority - both privately and professionally. It is a challenge to reconcile this demand with the requirements of companies so that everyone is satisfied. This also applies to the consulting industry. Salary is still important. Purely monetary "benefits" are becoming less and less convincing. The negotiating position of very good candidates has been strengthened. There are many alternatives for them. And they have no problem taking other paths if the perspective doesn't suit them.

What are the effects of this development?

It tends to reduce the talent pool and thus increases competition for talent. This makes it more challenging for hiring managers and talent acquisition to find suitable candidates. This has the effect that companies are increasingly applying to candidates. I recently read in Metahr's article "Understanding STEM talent" that an above-average number of STEM graduates (64%) also expect this: they don't apply - they want to be approached specifically by companies.

When you look back over the last few years: What has changed fundamentally in the industry? Are there any interesting developments?

In the past, credit insurance was often bought selectively by companies operating internationally. One country would buy a policy from X, the other from Y. There was nothing coordinated about it. This meant that companies could not use their purchasing power to get the best possible deal on the market. However, there are now international program solutions that allow credit insurance policies to be negotiated centrally and implemented locally at the same time. Furthermore, credit insurance programs enable daily analysis of a company's accumulation of risks vis-à-vis groups of buyers and their coverage ratios.

How do savvy companies respond to this expectation?

By knowing and accepting the demands of young professionals. After all, new hires bring fresh ideas and digitization expertise to the company. Companies also have to intelligently and skillfully bring together the needs of the company and the candidates. Active sourcing is thus becoming increasingly important in recruiting - adapted to the expectations of the new generation, which knows its value on the market very well.

You talk about a "reduced talent pool." Sounds like it would make the selection process easier. Or is that a fallacy?

Not quite: The challenge now is to think "out-of-the-box," i.e., outside the usual hiring criteria. In concrete terms, talent scouts and hiring managers who manage to keep an eye out for special profiles on new channels are more likely to find what they are looking for. This is how you increase the available options for the company. However, this presupposes that the search is consciously less for the "mainstream" and more for talents with unusual backgrounds, CVs with breaks and interesting or unconventional aspects. Diversity is also changing this approach. I will not find new talent if I apply old methods in the search.

The consulting industry is undergoing change - not only due to Corona: What trends and tendencies are emerging and what influence do they have on the skills required by consultants?

Clients are increasingly demanding higher standards of consulting services. This will not change in the future. "One size fits all" no longer works: consulting firms must be able to offer customer-specific solutions. It is not enough to transfer experience - without detailed knowledge - from one industry to another. Dedicated industry know-how is a must.

Customers also increasingly expect consulting firms to act as long-term sparring partners instead of just handling short-term projects. On top of this, the speed of change has increased rapidly: Consultants must be able to combine strategy and transformation. And - not to be forgotten - the keyword is digitization: the ability to perform data-based analyses and draw the right conclusions is essential.

What qualities are more important than ever for consultants now and in the future?

A hands-on mentality! A focus speed, resilience, the ability to adapt, to develop oneself, to decide and act accurately in a short timeframe. Quoting an article by Tracey Brower in Forbes magazine, "The fundamentally changed skill set includes empathy, openness, willingness to learn, ability to trust and relate, curiosity, resilience, and commitment! "What got you here, won't get you there," they say.

Overall, the demands on all sides have grown… on the part of the company as well as on the part of clients and talents. Is that good or bad for your role as Head of Human Resources?

It's challenging, but I see it quite pragmatically and positively: The world keeps turning. My role is to meet the changing demands. To what extent are the applicants open and curious? How are they able to deal appropriately with the new challenges that we don't yet know about? How are going to be successful in the future? For me, this is the decisive point. It's not looking in the rearview mirror that helps here but looking ahead. Is the right mindset noticeable?

Okay. Let's look at the near future: You'll be at the EBS symposium in September. What are you particularly looking forward to?

Quite clearly: on the personal encounters! I've gotten to know various digital formats over the past few months - that was also good and important and necessary to get into the exchange. But now I'm looking forward even more to two days live on site, to the chance encounters that an event like this generates, and to having a good time together with everyone.

Thanks for the interview, Axel, and have a great time!

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