Hiring Success

Bringing Design Thinking to TA: How Bosch Delivers an Award-Winning Candidate Experience

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Go behind the scenes on how Bosch leverages a framework typically reserved for the world’s best engineering teams to earn  “Best Application Process” from the Trendence Institute.

Article Highlights

  1. The Challenge of Global Talent Competition
  2. The Goal: Holistic TA Transformation with a Candidate Focus
  3. Leveraging Best-of-Breed Product Development
  4. Bosch’s TA Transformation Story: 3 Years, 72 Countries
  5. Closing Thoughts

“Bosch aims to be an attractive employer internationally. The application is an important element in the formation of opinion. Therefore, we are very pleased to have taken a big step towards an outstanding application experience with our now globally available recruiting system. The candidate was always the focus of our attention – both in terms of process design and technical implementation.”

—Christoph Kübel,  Former Member of the Board of Management  and Director of Industrial Relations at Robert Bosch GmbH

The challenges that come with a lengthy application process are a two-way street. Candidates must navigate through a number of forms and multiple systems, adding to the complexity and anxiety that comes with applying for a new job. At the same time, recruiters have to deal with multiple documents, talent drop off and stringent compliance standards. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Bosch has shown us that the application can and should be a great experience where both organizations and talent come out as winners.

At the tail-end of 2020, Bosch was recognized with the “best application process” from the German Trendence Institute based on: degree of innovation, strategic approach, level of digitization, and measurement of success. For Bosch’s talent acquisition (TA) team, this award was a culmination of a three-year effort to reinvent their recruiting process and make Hiring Success a competitive advantage. 

The Challenge of Global Talent Competition

Bosch has been a leading global supplier of technology and services for over a century; they’re practically a household name. Yet, even with this powerful brand recognition, competition for key talent demographics remains fierce. Beyond the traditional competitors, today’s global talent war includes new rivals like Daimler, Porsche, Tesla, and Google that have joined in the ring.

At the outset, Bosch’s TA team knew that their best opportunity to differentiate themselves against the competition was to deliver a candidate-centric recruiting process, one that would elevate their employer brand in the eyes of candidates while simultaneously accelerating their hiring velocity across the entire organization. For a recruiting function with a presence in over 70 different regions, multiple localized processes, and varying recruiting technology stacks, it was clear they had their work cut out for them.

Holistic TA Transformation with a Candidate Focus

Bosch wanted their recruiting process to reflect their corporate culture: a business driven by people-centric innovation.

Bosch wanted their recruiting process to reflect their corporate culture: a business driven by people-centric innovation. For their TA team, that translated to bringing a candidate focus through digitalization. Specifically, they wanted to leverage a wide array of approaches from AI to social media to deliver an experience that felt tailored to them while also engaging them through the channels they use the most. With the additional governance of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Service Level Agreements (SLAs), the TA team wanted to ensure this experience was consistent across all teams & regions.

After all this ideation, TA at Bosch decided the best approach would be a phased-rollout to encourage iteration and global synergy. Some of the key success factors they identified included:

Leveraging Best-of-Breed in Product Development 

With this new mindset, Bosch adopted user-centric methods throughout the project to ensure their new system and process was indeed user-friendly. The elements of design thinking coupled with accompanying all configurations & processes with a user experience team served as a north star for the TA team. While a design thinking framework such as this is typically reserved for tech product teams, Bosch’s TA team took a page out this playbook to develop their own product—a consumer-grade candidate experience: 

  1. Candidate Experience Mapping: Bosch conducted over 90 international candidates to understand what the candidate journey looks like today. During this stage, Bosch learned the importance of speeding up their application and implementing immediate application confirmation notifications. In fact, it was these conversations that led to the “candidate-first” philosophy of their tool.
  1. Hiring Manager & HR Experience Mapping: The next step was to conduct personal interviews with the goal of optimizing collaboration and selection processes among the hiring teams. The key takeaway from this stage was that transparency was of the utmost importance. In fact, the ability to communicate with key stakeholders across the recruiting process factored heavily into their TA suite selection process and is what eventually cinched the decision to go with SmartRecruiters
  1. Product-Style Design Sprints: Frequent sprints with internal and external candidates, hiring managers, and recruiters allowed the team to quickly iterate on potential MVP-like (minimum viable product) solutions.
  1. Candidate Feedback on System: Candidate interviews with the assistance of prototypes & user tests enabled the team to validate their new solutions and fine-tune the overall experience.
  1. Hiring Manager & HR feedback on systems: While candidate feedback offered insight into the applicant journey, interviews with hiring managers & HR informed the team about the technological aspects and process internally. The team used test runs of new processes directly in the system to gather direct, hands-on feedback. The key learnings here were different teams allocated responsibilities in accordance with best practices & regulations of their respective location. To support such localization, the TA team assigned all recruiters, HR, and hiring managers to the same standard role, allowing the regional teams to allocate responsibilities as they see fit. This avoided potential headaches for the TA team as they no longer had to centralize & manage all roles while giving the local hiring teams the flexibility to recruit more efficiently.

Bosch’s TA Transformation: 3 Years, 72 Countries, 1.9 Million Candidates

To that extent, the TA team repositioned recruiting as a joint mission and strategic partner for business and HR. Instead of arbitrarily posting job openings and hoping for suitable applicants, the goal was to proactively attract and target potential candidates. 

As an outcome of their product development workstreams, Bosch was able to narrow their top priority. The mindset of “Candidate First” became the overarching guiding principle for TA transformation. To that extent, the TA team repositioned recruiting as a joint mission and strategic partner for business and HR. Instead of arbitrarily posting job openings and hoping for suitable applicants, the goal was to proactively attract and target potential candidates. 

The new TA process and technology provided an internationally standardized recruiting process that could be verified by KPIs (time-to-hire, feedback times to candidates, candidate quality, etc.) including a new candidate-centric mindset for HR and executives. In the end the TA team at Bosch was able to define key wins in talent attraction and engagement, and much more! In just the course of two years, Bosch’s TA team achieved:

Closing Thoughts

Bosch’s project motto “Candidate First” and the consistent, strategic approach are some of the reasons they received the award. The short rollout time of just three years and the success of the 72 countries was also highlighted by the Trendence Institute.

The exquisite coordination, collaboration, and execution involved are made all the more impressive by the sheer scale of the project. The company attributes much of its success to the people-centric approach—after all, hiring is all about people—that prioritized the experiences of internal and external stakeholders thus ensuring a consistent project approach with our strong team focus across all departments and international borders.


Ani Sapru

Ani Sapru

Ani Sapru is a Senior Product Marketing Manager @ SmartRecruiters

Kaya Payseno

Kaya Payseno