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| 6 minutes read

Overcoming the early career talent shortage in the DACH region

Insights from top early career talent leaders

Recruiting early career talent in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH) is a real challenge for businesses. Not only must they navigate the changing attitudes and behaviours of young talent, they also need to create attractive and effective early career programmes in a world where talent is moving quickly. 

As well as the behaviour shifts, in most major locations the number of young people is declining. For example, 10 years ago there were over 1 million 20-year-olds in Germany. Now there are just 800,000.

At a time in which skills shortages are rising, businesses are looking at early career talent with great hope. There’s an urgency to get them in, get them trained up, develop their skills and retain them. And here’s the challenge – how do you do this in a shifting market? How do you make sure you keep young people working for you once you’ve invested time and money to train them?

AMS and Talint Partners held a roundtable with some of the DACH region’s leading talent acquisition professionals. They discussed the changes in the early career talent market and the impact these were having on their early career programmes.  

Adding value through diversity

More and more companies are competing for candidates. The talent pool is getting smaller and there aren’t enough candidates to go around. Widening the net for talent in the DACH region has become critical if organisations want to fill their early career roles. One of the reasons the German talent market is so competitive is the requirement for German-speaking candidates. Many of the roundtable experts agreed this is a problem,as finding these candidates is challenging. What’s more, German speakers with the right skills know they’re in demand, so they are increasingly more expensive.

Many companies in the region have decided to make English their working language, so they can attract more people and fight the talent crisis. As one expert said, “German is nice to have, but English is a deal-breaker.”

Organisations must also look at removing barriers and lowering the bar to entry. It’s important to broaden the scope of the candidate pool; to consider those who don’t usually fall within the business ‘norms’. People with different backgrounds and skillsets, for example. It’s about not expecting everything on the shortlist when looking for skills and training hiring managers to avoid unconscious bias.

As one of the experts said during the discussion, “it’s not about meeting all the criteria. If they are 80% there and we can develop them for the further 20% then that’s fine. Because if we don’t take them, one of our competitors will. And we’ll lose the opportunity to bring early career talent into the company.”

Businesses in Germany are starting to wake up to this new way to recruit. 

One of the AMS experts at the roundtable noted that, five years ago, German hiring managers were reluctant to try something different. German businesses valued things other countries were moving away from in order to broaden the net of talent, like degree-grade or technical exercises. But, as things have got tougher, some organisations in the region have started getting creative and are now relaxing entry requirements.

This has only been made possible with hard facts, because German business is built on a bedrock of data. Data that shows how diverse candidates are retained and perform well is important. As one TA expert said, “it’s about being realistic about what you are looking for and having the evidence to back it up. After all, people can’t argue with data.”

So, in filling your early career roles, it’s critical to work with the hiring community and educate them on why your organisation is broadening the talent pool. It’s also important review your end-to-end assessment and selection process, to ensure its not having an adverse impact on potential candidates. Together, these changes will support hiring manages to recruit effectively.

Embrace a more remote approach

One of the biggest challenges the experts spoke about was the shift to remote working. Many early career candidates now demand this when joining a business. Working from home three to four days a week is a given.

And it’s not just the freedom to work anywhere; some candidates also want to work less. Early career talent is asking to reduce the 40-hour week. Some want to work 20 hours.

Flexible working is here to stay, so businesses need to be flexible too. For TA and early career leads, having these discussions with stakeholders can be difficult, especially if they work in a heavily face-to-face environment. Plus, it’s not the traditional way to bring early career talent into the business. As another of our roundtable experts said, “understanding how to manage interns and graduates when they’re remote working is a real challenge.”

One thing’s certain, though: remote working allows employers to recruit from a wider and more diverse talent pool, which can make it easier to find the right candidate. With current shortages, this could make a positive difference.

Purpose, value and culture

Many of the experts spoke about the importance of the way businesses brand themselves to attract candidates.

Early career talent want to work for a business with purpose. It’s why more and more young people are keen to join start-ups. They get better autonomy, learn a lot more and see the impact of their work – something larger businesses are sometimes not very good at.

Many businesses have now started approaching students before they reach university. They’re talking early and building relationships to get students excited about their business. They’re inviting them to the company, showing them around and telling them why it’s a great place to work.

This isn’t just getting them excited; it’s also presenting a career path. One expert noted that everyone who joins their business really values their career development plan. And it’s not just in the short term. They explained, “we aren’t just having to sell them an opportunity to join a career path at an initial stage, but long-term. I use the term lifetime career.”

Businesses need to up their game if they want to keep talent. Building long-term career paths and re-skilling opportunities creates an attractive proposition for early career talentand helps to maximise their role in the organisation once they’ve joined. Finding ways to articulate this to the early career market will help organisations attract more candidates.

It’s time to use technology

Another topic the experts discussed was the shift from human intervention to using technology to identify and assess new talent.

None of the expert panellists were truly embracing technology to funnel new talent into the business. They felt the German market is still very traditional, with a lot of face-to-face when it comes to recruiting early talent. But some businesses are beginning to move their early careers recruitment online.

One of the AMS experts said they’re now working with several German organisations who are using a digital process for attracting and recruiting graduates. As well as applying online, candidates now go through an online assessment and get digital feedback reports, so the whole process is automated. This helps bring in a much broader pool of talent and makes sure it’s a fair process for everyone.

Some businesses have gone even further. They’ve introduced the option of virtual final-stage assessments or interviews, giving candidates the option to engage online or face-to-face, offering more flexibility.

As for utilising technology for events, the AMS experts said there weren’t many businesses in the DACH region doing large virtual webinars. But they’re helping to run small webinars that have been successful in attracting candidates, as well as keeping them warm post-offer. Extremely cost-effective, they allow students to interact with businesses and hear what it’s like to work there.  

Technology is certainly making a big difference in engagement between employer and staff. It’s helping to broaden the talent pool, allowing businesses to reach candidates that haven’t normally been found through the more traditional methods. Although this is a big change for many in the region, utilising a more digital approach to attraction and assessment is another way to create a strategy to overcome current challenges.

Need help in solving your talent shortages? Speak to one of our experts about how AMS can put together award-winning early careers programmes and strategies to help your business. 


early careers and campus, candidate attraction, diversity equity inclusion, talent acquisition, flexible working, employer brand, technology