Looking beyond the obvious: How Deutsche Telekom wants to get candidates thinking.

“If you think that challenging the status quo is beyond our scope, don’t apply,” says Deutsche Telekom’s graduate recruitment site. This is one of the provocative ‘Don’t Apply’ messages that Deutsche Telekom has developed, as part of its employer branding strategy, to encourage candidates to think more deeply about what they want from their career, what the group can offer them, and whether they’re a good fit for each other. 

“We want potential recruits to look beyond the obvious. If you think we’re just another employer in the industry, don’t apply, but if you know who we are and what we stand for, then yes, please apply,” says Imke Kohaupt, who is working on Deutsche Telekom’s global employer branding program. 

How has this distinctive employer branding campaign been created and how are Imke and her colleagues working across the group to bring the concepts to life?

how did the global recruitment program start life?

Our business is global and therefore we need a global employer value proposition (EVP)* and a global employer branding strategy. Without the ability to project our brand and appeal to candidates across borders we’ll no longer be able to attract the tech specialists and other key talent we need. 

We started the global program two years ago with the development of the EVP – we wanted to define who we are, what we stand for and what drives and connects us across the 50 markets in which we operate. This is all encapsulated in a single sentence: ‘We shape the digital world to bring people closer together.’

how did you develop the EVP and what was the thinking behind your approach?

We didn’t want our EVP to be something put together centrally and then communicated out from there. To ensure the EVP resonates across the group and encourage people in different operations to get behind it, the project has been spearheaded by an organization-wide steering committee that cuts across silos, departments, entities and countries. 

One of the keys to making the steering committee work was finding the right stakeholders – people who know the talent needs of their operations and who can be champions for the project. The initial project work carried out by the committee took more than a year, but this time and effort has more than paid off. Bringing so many different perspectives into the project has helped the results to gain acceptance and build momentum within our organization. 

how has the EVP been translated into a strong employer brand?

We’re fortunate in having our successful ‘magenta’ corporate identity to build on. But we also wanted to add a strong and bold employer identity, because we are dealing with so many different markets and business needs.

The EVP provides a great starting point for encouraging potential recruits to think about what Deutsche Telekom is really about. Obviously, we want to invite applications, but only if the candidate has the attitude and aspirations that would fit in well with our culture and objectives. The key words we use to get this message across are ‘Don’t Apply’, which isn’t what candidates expect and therefore challenges them to look beyond what they might have assumed about Deutsche Telekom. For example, if you’re just looking for a job in IT, or you think we’re just another telecom provider, then maybe you shouldn’t apply. But if you’re prepared to take the time to get to know us, and have the ideas and ambition to help shape the digital world, then yes, we want to hear from you.

These messages can be adapted to the various experiences that define us as an employer: e.g. innovative tasks, sharing culture, personal growth, meaningful impact. They can also be adapted for local markets and different target groups such as students coming up to graduation or experienced IT professionals. This is supported by personal testimonials from people in the different targets groups, such as graduate trainees. 

you’ve just finished the global roll-out of the employer branding campaign across. What have you learned from the experience?

We wanted to get the EVP and employer brand out in the market as quickly as possible. We therefore introduced them in two waves – the first being eight European markets and then the rest of the world in the second. This has enabled us to focus resources. The second wave has also been able to benefit from the experience of the first. For example, as the testimonials are developed in local markets, it can be difficult to ensure that the messaging and photographic direction are consistent – photographers will always have their own ideas. So, one of the improvements we’ve developed on the back of the initial feedback is clearer guidance and support on the overall visual style and approach we want for our employer branding efforts. 

Project teams in the initial markets have also been able to provide examples of what has worked well – this can be especially useful for colleagues in smaller markets, who may not be able to put in the same amount of time and resources as their larger counterparts.

how are you looking to take the employer branding campaign forward and keep it fresh?

The hard work doesn’t stop with the roll-out! You must keep breathing fresh life into the campaign – the wow factor will start to disappear unless you keep reinvigorating it. 

One of the ways we’re keeping the campaign fresh is creating new content and formats for personal story telling. Staff talk about their roles at Deutsche Telekom, their individual contribution to shaping the digital world and how they collaborate with colleagues.

We’re also launching our ‘Think Bigger’ community, which seeks to publicize and forge links between all the different initiatives that people on the ground have set up to develop new ideas and foster closer collaboration. Just as ‘Don’t Apply’ helps project our culture and identity externally, the new ‘Think Bigger’ community communicates them within the organization. 

To help take this all forward and sustain the momentum, we’re starting a new organization-wide employer branding forum, which is open to all colleagues who are involved in shaping the employer experience. The forum enables us to swap notes on what we are working on, set out upcoming plans and look at how different departments and teams can contribute and benefit. A strong employer brand is much more than a marketing tool – it should be relevant to all operations, since it is a matter of common attitudes and culture.

knowledge base: what we can learn from employer branding at Deutsche Telekom

  • if you want to attract inspired people, create an employer brand that inspires them
  • bring the organization together to define what it stands for and what makes it stand out. In this way, you can develop an EVP that people will buy into and an employer brand that genuinely reflects your organization
  • keep your employer branding efforts fresh and the organization motivated behind them by looking for new ways to help people share ideas for improvement and seeking to align employees’ lived experience with the brand that projects it

*Deutsche Telekom refers to its EVP as its ‘employer value proposition’

Imke Kohaupt

Global Employer Branding Expert, Deutsche Telekom

Imke Kohaupt is passionate about creating a strong global employer brand for Deutsche Telekom. Imke loves creative projects and thinking out of the box, embracing perspectives and getting people involved. Doing things simply and having an impact is what drives her. Even after 18 years in HR marketing and communication, she is not getting tired of it since the challenges never stay the same. Working part time enables her to enjoy more time with family, friends and playing sports.

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