Business challenge

To avoid losing out in the fight for top talent, Novartis Germany wanted to boost its appeal as an employer. How could it convince more top talent to join its own workforce, rather than rival firms?


Novartis Germany developed a new unified recruitment process designed to better address applicants’ needs and desires, using the IBM Kenexa BrassRing on Cloud talent acquisition system.



on skills of candidates helps applicants identify the vacancies that best suit their aptitudes

More suitable

applications received, allowing Novartis to pick from a wider pool of talent


insight into the recruitment process enables continuous improvement

Business challenge story

Working hard to find the right applicant for each job opening

To develop leading-edge medicines that lengthen lives, reduce suffering, enhance people’s quality of life, and in turn fuel its commercial success, Novartis must attract and retain highly-qualified staff. But attracting and matching the right people to the right positions is no easy task, especially for a large company like Novartis.

“The IBM Kenexa solution plays an important part in attracting highly talented employees.”

—Christian Ullmann, Head of HR Labor Relations & Employer Branding, Novartis Germany

Christian Ullmann, Head of HR Labor Relations & Employer Branding at Novartis, explains: “A period of acquisitions left us with a challenging situation of multiple HR strategies, systems and processes across our 14 legal entities. Nearly each site was managing recruitment individually using different channels.

“Since HR staff were mainly aware of vacancies in their respective divisions, they were not in a position to inform candidates about the full range of opportunities that Novartis Germany can offer them as an employer. To strengthen our ability to attract highly-qualified staff and prevent top talent from deciding to work for our competitors rather than us, we needed to adopt a more applicant-centric approach to recruitment.”

Transformation story

Teaming up with IBM Kenexa

Partnering with IBM Kenexa, Novartis Germany decided to build an online careers portal that allows candidates to gain a deep insight into the Novartis world, get an authentic impression of Novartis as an employer of choice and search all suitable vacancies before applying at Novartis, using the IBM Kenexa BrassRing on Cloud talent acquisition system.

Using the software, which is highly configurable and scalable to the size and scope of Novartis’ complex recruiting needs, the Kenexa team, together with Opus Marketing and Novartis, developed a recruitment process designed to deliver the best possible candidate experience.

“We had been working with the IBM Kenexa for around ten years, so we were confident that, together, we would find a good solution for our careers platform,” recalls Christian Ullmann.

Today, each candidate uploads documentation such as their resume to the Kenexa system. To make the process as straightforward as possible, Novartis Germany asks candidates to provide only information essential to the application.

By applying patented resume data extraction and parsing, the solution automatically recognizes certain pieces of information, such as the person’s name and address, and pulls them into the corresponding fields in the online form. Candidates only have to check the formatting before submitting their application.

All applicants have the opportunity to get in touch with a Novartis application consultant, who serves as a single point of contact towards the Novartis world and who explains the various opportunities available throughout the company.

“This creates a big benefit for our customers,” elaborates Christian Ullmann. “Applicants can simply address their questions and get individual recommendations on which job, legal entity or department would suit them. In addition to that, each division’s HR team now receives far more suitable applications and can pick from a wider pool of talent. This helps us to find the best possible match for each position across our enterprise, while ensuring that candidates only come into contact with jobs that best match their skills and desires.”

Results story

Continuous improvement powered by analytics

Novartis Germany is harnessing the power of analytics to continuously improve its recruitment process, using the Kenexa solution and Google Analytics to analyze how the candidates engage with the company’s careers portal and all subsequent steps up until the person starts work.

Christian Ullmann continues: “We really strive for a unique Novartis customer experience, to streamline the recruitment process as much as possible. To do this, we analyze how pathways and content are perceived by which customer group using which device. We then use this data to create new, and adapt existing, pathways to deliver specific, relevant content.

“For example, we have found that applicants use a wide range of devices to access our careers site and that there are significant spikes in traffic from smartphones or tablets in mornings and evenings. As a result, we based our site on responsive design to give users the best display for their screen size. Today, our applicants get optimal content, delivered in optimal format. This change alone has greatly benefitted the customer experience and user-friendliness of our application process.

He continues: “The Kenexa solution captures and correlates all relevant data at every step of the recruitment process. Reports show how applicants found vacancies, so we can work out which type of people tend to apply via which channel. For example, we found out that many students and graduates primarily inform themselves about Novartis jobs using our careers site. Insights such as this means we can now tailor the type of positions we advertise through this channel to suit its audience. This gives us a higher chance of sparking their interest in working for us, and means that we receive more applications from suitable candidates.”

Additionally, the firm investigates how long candidates spend at each stage in the application process, so that it can identify bottlenecks and take corrective action. This helps applicants find the jobs most suited to them as quickly as possible. Recruiters can also see whether any candidates terminate the application process early, and find out whether this is due to an error such as a faulty online form.

The user-friendliness of the careers platform was demonstrated by sharp uptake – with 23 percent of candidates using it just seven months after its launch – and a recent potential park ranking, where thousands of potential applicants are interviewed and given direct feedback. Novartis Germany climbed nearly 70 positions in just one year to reach the top 30 in German Careers sites. This is outstanding feedback and shows that the market acknowledges Novartis’ efforts on customer centricity, recognizing that it leads to a top-notch applicant experience. Christian Ullmann comments: “Since we are now providing a better candidate experience, we are receiving increasing numbers of job applications. By including information about the Novartis’ culture and values, potential applicants have the chance to check whether Novartis’ corporate culture would match their own principles. What’s more, applicants will soon be able to take a test simulating typical work situations at their specific target group, giving them a real insight into what kind of situations may arise at work and enabling them to check how they would react and whether they would fit into Novartis’ corporate culture. This is as important for the applicants as it is for Novartis – by presenting an authentic picture of Novartis, applicants are much better able to further assess their suitability.

“The IBM Kenexa solution plays an important part in attracting highly talented employees, who in turn underpin our commercial success.”


About Novartis Germany

Novartis, a global healthcare company, is a major player in Germany’s pharmaceuticals market, employing around 8,000 people and generating annual revenues of approximately EUR 3.5 billion.