In 2013, Heineken won a Bronze Lion Award at Cannes with its film, The Candidate, an internship contest that attracted 1,734 entries. Stephen Hall speaks to Alfonso Auñón Garcia, global head of talent acquisition and global head of procurement at Heineken, about its latest campaign, an interactive video called Go Places.
The old hiring process is beginning to look dated. CVs and application forms are individually crafted, and then sent to anonymous inboxes where they’re frequently either robotically responded to or completely ignored without feedback. It can leave candidates frustrated and made to feel that they have wasted their time.
As the youngest members of the millennial age group become established in the world of work, the most social media-savvy and technologically literate cohort in history is growing particularly frustrated by the recruitment process and companies are beginning to realise that times are changing. Millennials have well-publicised set preferences for flexible working and are instigating the birth of radical new office structures and timetables, while YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are driving changes in the hiring process.
Heineken has taken notice. In 2013, the 154-year-old brewer won a Bronze Lion Award at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity for The Candidate, a film that put potential interns through a series of tests. Following this success, it created ‘Go Places’, a recruitment campaign that targets millennials; it’s a viral video process in an interactive multiple-choice format, produced by Amsterdam-based Cloudfactory.
During the experience, hopefuls can learn about the business and decide if the brewer is the right place for them. It features genuine employees and is introduced by a charismatic, silver-suited character.
When applicants hesitate, they are spurred on to go faster. Scenes flip at quick-fire pace; one minute hopefuls are in a matrix-like room, the next they’re in Taiwan, and after that in Mexico. It deliberately deviates from typical office interviews, and working at the company is made to appear to be an adventure in which sociability and excitement are intertwined.
Alfonso Auñón García, global HR business partner for procurement and the global head of recruitment at Heineken; explains that the catalyst for the campaign was to find candidates who are curious, innovative and driven to learn.
"Heineken is looking for people who are ready and willing to be challenged, to be stretched and not moulded, and
to go places with the company," García says. "It’s about ambition, or going the extra mile."
To engage these ambitious minds, the brewer has created a piece of media where people can find out more about Heineken’s working environment and ethos. The interview aims to attract a new breed of employees that Heineken has labelled ‘pioneers’.
"The video is a unique piece of communication," García explains. "This is really an interview where interviewees immerse themselves in the Heineken world for about six minutes and 12 questions, and while they are immersed, they encounter an interviewer who will ask questions where they have the opportunity to choose for themselves."
The company then compiles the answers from interviewees; this leads to one of eight character profiles including ‘initiator’, ‘mediator’ and ‘traditionalist’. The concept is based on the enneagram model of personality types, a description of the human psyche developed from the ideas of Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichazo. This method has so far attracted more than 350,000 applications.
"Because of social media, people spending more than 30–45 seconds on a piece of communication is quite remarkable," García says. "In Heineken’s case, 60% of the 350,000 people completed the full interview, which is about six minutes long. From there, there’s been a social media rate and a sharing rate of around 12%, which is also quite large."
He reveals that the campaign has increased applications by a factor of three; this has boosted the brewer to number one, in comparison with the ten companies that Heineken match against with the help of Linkedin. Although he arrived at the company via the more traditional method of referral, García explains there were two things that set Heineken apart during that process.
"One is the culture. From the moment I stepped into the office and when I was going through the office to get to the meeting room, I went to a bar with beer pumps and I saw lots of people having a coffee around the bar, so that kind of relationship through the organisation is something that appealed to me a lot," he recalls.
"Another is being given the space to do things, which is not that common in many big multinationals now, and this also really appealed."
Wealth of opportunities
According to García, there is also a wealth of opportunities to make a difference at Heineken. These factors could be key to attracting a new generation of employees perceived to be interested in finding meaning and working within a different kind of atmosphere, without the strict regiments of some big corporations. Although Heineken seems to have appealed to millennials with Go Places, García believes there is no magic recipe for enticing this often-elusive age group.
"During this campaign, Heineken aimed to do something unique," he explains, "and yet it was also about staying true to the company’s culture and being authentic. The campaign was very successful for most millennials because more than 60% of the people getting in touch with Go Places were from that generation.
"The engagement level, completion rate and the conversion to application are very high. Is that what millennials are looking for? I’m not sure. Heineken doesn’t want to show to the world that it is people behind computers, because it is a business and a brewer, and wants people to see that. That, I think, was appreciated by millennials."
Despite the fact that there are many distinctive employer brand campaigns from a range of companies aiming to attract contemporary candidates, these don’t always come across as genuine, which millennials – acutely tuned in to social media and advertising – are conscious of.
García reasons that for big companies like Heineken to create this authenticity and to be successful with modern-day audiences, it’s essential to differentiate and to be able to connect with prospective employees emotionally.
"When Heineken was thinking about the production of the campaign, there were a few things in the discussion
that were talked about," he recalls. "For example, should beer bottles and the brewing process be shown, or not? But Heineken is great at beer and brewing, and if they weren’t shown, how would that come across? Then, of course, it was decided to stay true to Heineken’s path and this is what the company is now demanding of people."
The unique philosophy of this recruitment drive has won several accolades with The FWA, Awwwards, SpinAwards and Eurobest.
The campaign has caught the attention of audiences and journalists, but García’s ultimate aim is to emphasise the prestige associated with joining Heineken.
"It’s about fame, passion for quality and heritage," he enthuses. "Heineken has been a family-owned brewer for 150 years, and wants to continue to [build upon] that legacy.
"The sense of coming to Heineken is a prize for employees; if you can prove that you can bring your big ideas to life
and make a difference, the spirit of adventure is present every day."