As one of the leading online retailers in the Netherlands, bol.com has a constant need for skilled software engineers. Finding this rare breed of professionals is challenging enough – a challenge that is rendered even more complex because bol.com has a corporate culture all its own, for which not everybody is a good fit. While smart software tools go some way towards resolving this challenge, the human touch remains crucial.
Bol.com’s Talent Acquisition Director Jaap Rip and IT Director Menno Vis about recruitment at bol.com
Skilled IT professionals are virtually impossible to find, but surely for a company like bol.com it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for the Amazon of the Low Countries?
Rip: “People do tend to think that, but it’s actually a misconception. Sure, we may receive a few thousand job applications with very little effort, but that doesn’t mean that all or even most of those applicants have what it takes to work for bol.com. So we end up having to turn down 99.9% of those people, who also all happen to be bol.com customers. Since this is what we’re trying to avoid, we are highly selective in terms of whom we invite to apply and who goes through to the selection process. We’d rather go from five candidates to one, than from 50 to one.”
What channels do you use to find these elusive IT workers?
Rip: “We’ve got our own careers site, for starters, where we’re keen to share as much of our employer value proposition as possible: what sort of company are we, and what can you expect when you decide to work for us? We try to get across something of the unique corporate culture of bol.com, which tends to be tricky, because you need to be there in person to really experience it. Anyway, we set the bar high from the get-go, to create a type of self-selection process, where people ask themselves: Am I the right fit? Do I want to apply for a job here?”
Vis: “We also use the networks of our own IT people and tech recruiters as effectively as possible. In that sense, attracting, selecting and retaining people is really the shared responsibility of HR and IT. We’ve also been pleased to notice it’s very easy to involve IT workers in this process, as they, of course, also recognise the importance of being surrounded by the best and the brightest.”
Rip: “That’s right. We also have a company-wide employee referral programme, where we ask our employees if they know any qualified people in their extended social circle. As we want to encourage them to share their input, we explain to them how they can work with our recruiters to open up their network. We then reward them with a referral bonus if they end up referring a candidate. We have been doing this successfully for many years, as we’ve found that people who join the company through the employee referral programme tend to perform even better than those who apply off their own bat because they are looking for a new job. We focus mainly on passive job seekers that way.”
You mentioned being quite selective in the recruitment process. How is that reflected within the company?
Vis: “Our aim is to keep the funnel from candidate to new hire as short as possible. We use all sorts of tools for this purpose, including assessment software and an applicant-tracking system. This system allows you to set up a ‘digital slide’ of sorts, including a solid communication system, where you avoid a situation where managers email each other Excel spreadsheets containing the names and contact details of job applicants. The assessment software is evaluated on an ongoing basis, since we are becoming increasingly aware of the skills and personal traits someone must possess to be successful in our company. It means we get to interview higher-calibre candidates, which is motivational for both sides: the interviews are more successful and more enjoyable for both us and the candidates, with a greater likelihood of a match.”
Rip: “It’s like this: bol.com’s corporate culture has certain characteristics which are important criteria for success, and which we really cherish. We cannot lose sight of these characteristics during the application process because we happen to have a haphazard selection process. This is why our recruiters read all CVs and do not use any automated selection tools. So, yes, we keep the funnel small, while treating all candidates the same. We need to stay mindful of the fact that applying for a job is an emotional process.”