Embracing digital recruitment

How we created an innovative, thorough, and precise recruitment process for our trainee program, without meeting anyone in person.

The Schibsted Trainee Program has attracted young talents from multiple countries since 1997. We receive hundreds of applicants each year, but usually, only six to eight candidates make it through the loophole. The recruitment process consists of several rounds of testing, group exercises, and interviews.

The sudden occurrence of a global pandemic created an immense task: How do we give a thorough and fair evaluation of all the candidates without meeting in person? Is it even possible?

It is not the first time Schibsted has had to deal with a disruptive change happening overnight. Like the switch from print to digital news or the dotcom bubble before it, we did not merely overcome a seemingly destructive shock – but used it to improve and grow.

For instance: Our need as an employer is to recruit top talents that are best suited for the job. We should not, and do not, care for any other characteristics. We know, however, that human biases easily skew the view of a candidate. If a candidate resembles the interviewer, research tells us they are more likely to get the job.

Can we use digital tools to minimize these biases and inconsistencies? We believe so. And we are going to show you exactly what we did. Let’s start from scratch, although the most exciting part comes later.

Selection and interviews with anonymous applications

As usual, the first step in applying for a Trainee position was the application itself, with a resume and grades. However, we did not accept any cover letters, and everyone fulfilling entry-level requirements (such as finishing a Master’s degree or similar) proceeded to the next stage.

At this point in the process, the recruiter did not know anything about the applicants. Not their name, gender, which universities they attended, or their work experience.

Next, the applicants were subjected to an online test on logical thinking. Those performing above a threshold moved on. Admittedly, there is nothing novel about this particular step.

“But wait! Does that mean grades didn’t matter?” you may ask. A B from Harvard is probably more prestigious than an A from a community college? How about someone with extremely relevant experience?”

This brings us back to the problem of human bias. As an employer, you do not actually care about a grade as a letter written on a fancy piece of paper. You care about what it tells you, and especially about the applicant’s ability to learn and logically apply new information. We believe the test we used uncovers exactly that. The initial scan of the candidates’ grades and resume was merely an entry ticket. It doesn’t matter how prestigious a school the applicant went to is – their performance does.

Then, the applicants received a video-interview with pre-recorded questions. The evaluators did not see the applicants, removing factors such as body language, appearance and gender.

We used an online escape room instead of a physical assessment center

After the interview phase, a selection of applicants was invited to a digital assessment center. This is the exciting part. In previous years, the assessment center has been a physical gathering with groups solving and presenting business cases in addition to personal interviews.

There are a ton of potential biases here. For example, there are bound to be differences in the candidates’ knowledge of the industry in which the business case is set. Just by chance, some candidates might be able to infer several useful analyses by heart, while others have to create arguments on the fly. This does not only affect the outcome but the group dynamics as well.

Our new solution was a digital, online escape room game. While on a video conference, groups of four played an online game much like an escape room. They had to complete several tasks, which were only achieved by working together. Each participant had different parts of the overall clues and solutions. Observers evaluated their team dynamic and performance.

Such a tool removes the problem of prerequisite knowledge and creates a level playing field. Observers and candidates alike have stated how much they liked this way of assessment.

Schibsted is committed to a diverse workforce and an unbiased recruitment process. It would be foolish to believe we are perfect in every area, but we believe this digital transformation has sent us lightyears forward on the path to true unbiasedness. We continue to strive towards this goal.

A selected group of candidates have been invited to a final digital interview. We wish them the best of luck!

Click here to read more about the Schibsted trainee program.

Schibsted trainees, started in 2020

Schibsted trainees, started in 2019