Ensuring future talent succeeds at Vodafone

Written by
Catalina Schveninger

14 Dec 2016

14 Dec 2016 • by Catalina Schveninger

When you recruit over 25,000 people a year and have more than 900,000 candidates on your applicant tracking system, you need some seriously innovative tools to help ensure that the process is as smooth and effective as possible. And that’s just one of the challenges facing Vodafone’s global head of resourcing and employer brand, Catalina Schveninger.

A graduate of GE’s HR leadership programme, Schveninger spent her first decade in HR in various divisions of the international conglomerate. A period spent as the HR director at T-Mobile in the Netherlands introduced her to the telecommunications world and subsequently led to her first role with a global remit at Vodafone in 2014. It’s no small challenge she faces. 

Becoming an employer of choice

“In addition to the sheer numbers involved in our global recruitment, we know that as a potential employer we have some way to go to change some ingrained perceptions, transform our image and make us a potential employer of choice. When it comes to graduate recruitment, for example, the competition is fierce and we appreciate that, right now, we are not at the top of most graduate’s hit list of potential employers. In fact, in some countries we operate in, we might not even on the list,” admits Schveninger.

“Vodafone has been around more than 30 years and is not a new-new company. However, while we are the second largest mobile operator in the world in terms of revenue and number of subscribers, we are much, much more than that. We are genuinely leading the way and pushing boundaries in many technology areas such as cloud solutions and the Internet of Things. We’re doing some seriously cool, cutting edge stuff and we need to communicate that in order to compete for the top talent.”

Technological visionaries

With challenges like that, it’s little wonder that when it comes to its own resourcing, Vodafone has a well-established principle of partnering with likeminded, technological visionaries who are breaking exciting new ground in recruitment technology.

“While we are working with many of the new players in areas that range from video interviewing through to psychometric assessment, applicant tracking and gamification,” Schveninger explains, “we have some key criteria that we insist on. Our partners must be genuinely innovative, mobile based and, crucially, have the vision and technology that can scale globally. We’re strong advocates of the ‘one company, local roots’ concept but are looking at a highly fluid workforce so our candidate experience must be consistent – wherever in the world they apply from. And, to be honest, not many of these new companies can either take the pace or can meet all of those demands.”  

Applicant matching using personalised technology

One emerging technology of especial interest for Vodafone when it comes to graduate recruitment right now is that of applicant matching. With that in mind, the company has partnered with a new British start-up called Headstart App that is focused on helping organisations identify and recruit the best student talent.

This new development means that organisations such as Vodafone don’t have to rely solely on qualifications and work experience to filter applicants. Rather, applicant matching creates a detailed ‘fingerprint’ for every applicant utilising neural networks and deep learning. This ‘fingerprint’ considers personality, interests, skills and demographic background as well as traditional criteria such as qualifications and experience. This allows candidates to apply quickly and simply for multiple jobs as themselves - via just one, highly personalised application - rather than applying as an artificial representation of what they think a company – such as Vodafone - is looking for multiple times over. Machine learning algorithms continually work to match applicants with the best ‘fit’ internships and entry-level jobs, pulling data from multiple online sources and contextualising it based on their background and experiences to offer intelligent predictions on suitability.  

Maximum inclusion

Vodafone fully expects to realise other benefits through the effective implementation of new technology such as applicant matching. “Aside from offering us commercial benefits through this method of recruitment, another advantage the system will potentially offer Vodafone is a significant improvement in diversity and inclusion levels,” claims Schveninger.  

The company is keen to ensure maximum inclusion of all minorities and, in fact, is justifiably proud of the work it has done already in this area. “Effective applicant matching will continue this process,” says Schveninger, “by helping to educate and guide our recruiters to reduce subconscious bias utilising contextual algorithms to make the process fairer and more inclusive. In this context, the focus is purely around determining and identifying suitability for a role and real time analytics mean that we can tailor and amend requirements as the cycle progresses to continually ensure a best match.

“We are passionate about giving youth the opportunity to be at their best,” explains Schveninger. “Tools like applicant matching will enable us to attract the most talented graduates and match them with exciting job or rotational programme opportunities. We decided to pilot and support Headstart App in the UK market initially as we believe in the great potential this disruptive piece of tech has and we love the passion of the founders.

“Campus recruitment hasn’t changed a great deal over the last two decades that I have been doing it and it has to evolve and live up to this digital generation’s standards” concluded Schveninger. “Vodafone is very keen to hold hands and work with exciting new companies that can demonstrate the ability to help drive that change. Besides, if organisations like ours don’t support innovative new ideas and the people behind them, then who will?”