Graduate recruitment: from strategy into action

The H.J. Heinz Company, established in 1869, is the most global of all U.S.-based food companies. Famous for its iconic brands in six continents, Heinz provides delicious, nutritious and convenient foods for families in 200 countries around the world.

In over 50 of those countries, the company enjoys the number one or number two market position. After the acquisition of Heinz by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital in 2013, the company restructured its global organization and made Europe one of its 5 global territories. As part of the vision to work more on a territorial and global level Heinz introduced a European HR Centre of Excellence with 3 important pillars working closely together: Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development and Talent Management.

Strategic direction

As part of Heinz’s succession planning for the coming years, the company introduced the strategic objective to ensure that 70% of all senior positions are filled with internal hires who have grown through the management ranks and live and breath the company’s DNA. In order to ensure success of this strategic workforce objective Heinz needed to create a program in order to ensure they have a high quality inflow of young professionals. Therefore, Heinz introduced a European Graduate Program to hire between 20 to 30 high potentials for both operational as commercial roles. According to the European Talent Acquisition Manager, “Our graduate program is designed to find talent who want to work at Heinz. We focus on matching the person and the company, the position is secondary and follows when someone has shown the skills and attitude we’re looking for.”

Graduate program

Heinz designed a European program to onboard 20-30 young professionals for their main locations in Italy, the UK and the Netherlands. Graduates are taken on a journey through the Heinz organization. Candidates are matched based on their passion, but not necessarily based on their background.

“We are looking for open-minded people, who can take ownership and believe in meritocracy” according to the Talent Acquisition Manager. “We expect an agile work attitude and expect graduates to take, but above all create their own opportunities within the Heinz organization.”

Sourcing the right candidates

The main challenge was to source the right candidates for this graduate program. “We asked VONQ to help us find the right number (quality) of candidates for us,” continues the Talent Acquisition Manager. “VONQ has helped us in the past and knows how to best reach our target audience. Their experience and support has definitely helped us in achieving our goals.”

By focusing on the largest universities in the three main countries; the Netherlands, Italy and the UK, supported by a creative social media campaign on both Facebook and LinkedIn and the use of niche sites, VONQ was able to ensure that more than 1500 candidates applied for our graduate positions. From all applications about 20% was non-European. VONQ was able to set up a program in a short period of time and definitely exceeded our expectations.“

Next steps

“The next couple of weeks are booked for the selection process and for selecting the 20-30 candidates we are looking for out of the 1500+ candidates. Via pre-screening, telephone interviews, video calls and online assessments we eventually want to invite 70-90 candidates for an onsite interview”, according to the Talent Acquisition Manager.

Until the start of the graduate program in June/September 2014, the graduate program team will be busy with the selection and the placement process to ensure all new joiners are ready to kick start their onboarding program.

“It’s a great experience for Heinz to run a program on this scale across multiple countries. We have definitely created a good foundation for similar initiatives later this year and for the future.”

For more about H.J. Heinz, check their website.

Ralph Brasker
Chief Marketing Officer at VONQ