War on talent


Growing companies in the Central District are eagerly in search of new talent. How do they attract those young high potentials to Rotterdam? There are vastly different “harvesting” strategies. One implements artificial intelligence, another finds a way around the classic route of recruiters.
“Auke, I’ve got a challenge for you. How would you like to run a business with me?” This was a question Chris Beemster, co-founder of tech and design company We Are Reasonable People (WARP), asked his old music buddy Auke Ferwerda. The end of 2011 is nearing and business for Beemster is booming. WARP is on the verge of booking massive growth (877% in the past three years) and Auke is the man for the job. The organisation runs on freelancers, but in order to achieve the kind of success these two have in mind, a close-knit team is a must. The first step is to let go of all freelancers and begin the search for new talent for the WARP tribe.
Silicon Valley
This is no small challenge, because where do you find good people? Beemster and Ferwerda first turn to recruiters, but the company was growing so quickly that the recruiters couldn’t keep up with the demand at WARP. “We decided to recruit people ourselves”, says Ferwerda. The Netherlands turns out to be too small, so they take their scope global. WARP is looking for the same kind of talent as the big boys in Silicon Valley. But why would they leave home for an unknown brand name in Rotterdam? The answer cannot be found on their pay check. “The generation of today mostly wants to know they’re making a difference with their talents”, explains Ferwerda. “That’s something we can provide. For multiple reasons. We are a relatively small organisation in which you get a lot of responsibility. Also, we set the bar quite high. I’m not allowed to say much about what we’re actually working on, but what I can tell you is that its cutting edge. Comparable to the level in Silicon Valley.”
Applicant storm In a nutshell, WARP builds smart software solutions for its clients. The added value is that WARP also has the necessary design skills in-house. Here, design doesn’t only mean that their solutions are aesthetically well put together. The real value lies in user experience design: how do you make a solution in such a way that it really benefits the user? “It sounds logical, but the process can sometimes lose sight of the end user,” Ferweda reveals. WARP presents itself with these strengths on all kinds of online platforms. Its reputation is growing, and WARP is managing to put itself in the spotlight among young talent. The result: a tremendous surge of application letters from all directions. Ferweda: “At times, we’ll receive over a hundred applications per week.”

Family feeling
The WARP tribe in the Groot Handelsgebouw now consists of more than forty people from 21 different countries. The working language is English. Beemster and Ferwerda made a conscious choice for this diversity. “We don’t believe in simply opening up a jar of talented developers from a single country. This leads to isolation. Now we are moving forward as one big family. Above all, colleagues know what it’s like to leave their homeland and build a new life here on their own. A context of understanding and trust makes it possible to grow roots.”
Purpose is key
Further down the street, an established name like Unilever is facing the same challenges of finding new talent. A good salary and corporate logo on your business card are mere details for this fresh, new generation of high potentials. “The first questions typically asked during interviews are concerning our social responsibility and the possibilities for training and personal development”, explains Martine Zeegers, vice president HR at Unilever Benelux. Purpose is key. “Especially the millennials want to be relevant in this world. They want to work with a company that not only focuses on creating value for its shareholders, but that also positively impact society. To enable our employees to make a valuable contribution themselves, we provide a one-day training for everyone in which they can define their own unique purpose statement.”
Unilever The Game
Unilever has been recruiting talent already for fifty years for their internal training programmes. This corporate’s approach to attracting trainees has changed considerably over time. The classic recruiter interviews are making way for artificial intelligence and video interviews.For trainees, the CV no longer plays a role. “We make use of computer games to test the candidates for their insight, creativity and intelligence. Next, they are asked to make a video in which they answer a few questions. The software processes this data and looks, for example, at how the candidate comes across. Does he show confidence? Is he uncertain?” Based on the data collected, certain candidates are invited for an assessment day at our offices. At that moment, the assessors have not yet seen anything of the candidates. No CVs either. The only thing that matters is if the candidate has completed a study programme. Psychology, chemistry, business studies… that’s irrelevant.
Thanks to AI, our application procedure no longer takes weeks and we are able to send candidates a decision almost directly after the assessment day. Zeegers: “Speed is important for the candidates since they are usually applying for multiple positions. Recruitment based entirely on artificial intelligence, however, would be taking it too far. For now, we still have recruiters watching the video applications. Assessment days will continue to be hosted by our senior leaders.” After all, feeling a personal click requires that human factor…
19 november 2019
Melissa Ablett

COLUMN: Melissa Ablett

14 november 2019
The O-team

The O-Team

5 november 2019
Rotterdam Climate District

RCD as Rotterdam Climate District