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When it comes to hiring and retaining the best talent within Silicon Valley, the competition is fierce. Companies across the Bay Area are fighting for candidates’ attention, making it a daily grind to remain relevant; but also retaining that top talent is a whole other ballgame.

For SAP, that’s where the Silicon Valley Next Talent program (SVNT) comes in. SVNT is an 18-month rotational program aimed at launching and accelerating the careers of recent university graduates by providing a deep dive into the SAP world. Focusing on opportunities within software engineering, design, and data science, program participants can explore multiple facets of SAP by rotating through different teams and experiencing hands-on projects, multidimensional training, and working with executives across the company’s Bay Area offices.

“The purpose of SVNT is to get ahead of SAP’s hiring demand and proactively attract, develop and retain top talent,” said SVNT program manager Caitie Sullivan. “We accomplish this by recruiting recent graduates as full-time employees, training them, and rotating them through different teams in the organization.”

Exploring different teams and responsibilities allows SVNT participants to gain a fuller understanding of SAP, technology, where they want to take their careers, Sullivan added.

SVNT’ers are also paired with tailored learning and development plans where they can learn more about SAP, its organizations, as well as meet with some executives and company leaders. Additionally, there are three layers of mentorship that aid in the professional development of SVNT cohorts, like monthly performance reviews.

Sullivan said three different cohorts comprised of 15 to 30 people are brought into SVNT throughout the year with each new program beginning in the fall, winter, or summer.

“All of this is to develop and retain the top talent,” Sullivan said. “So, as they rotate through the business, they find their preferred team to then join and launch their career; while teams hire a fully engaged, trained, and motivated new grad to make a difference.”

With such a deep focus on the careers of their participants, it may come as no surprise that the program is very popular among those looking to get their foot in the door in the tech industry.

According to Sullivan, SVNT receives nearly 2,000 applications per cohort. Multiplied by the three times a new cohort would begin per year, that would be approximately 6,000 applicants for the SVNT recruiter to sort through.

“We would receive 2,000 applications and it would take my recruiter two weeks to read and process 2,000 resumes,” Sullivan said.

In addition to the massive amount of applications received, the SVNT team also faced the issue of not having a standardized process when it came to reviewing applications.

“It was a bit all over the place,” Sullivan said, adding that without a standardized method of work, SVNT recruiters were often overwhelmed with their workloads.

With more applications coming through than they could handle, the SVNT recruiting team needed to find a solution that would take the tediousness out of the screening process allowing the team to focus on what mattered most: the applicants themselves.

That’s when a SVNT alum approached them with Brilliant Hire by SAP.

“It was through this SVNTers’ experience of rotating and working on Brilliant Hire by developing new features and looking for potential new customers at Brilliant Hire that he thought SVNT could really benefit from this product,” Sullivan said. “He thought Brilliant Hire could be the best way to handle the immense load of applications we were receiving per cohort.”

Brilliant Hire by SAP is a venture within the SAP.iO Venture Studio aimed at improving efficiency and removing unconscious bias within the hiring process, said Ryan Phillips, General Manager of Brilliant Hire.

The solution itself was born from a problem the founders of the venture noticed when they were trying to grow their own team.

“We started Brilliant Hire to solve our own problem,” Phillips said. “We needed to scale our team from 14 to more than 40 people and we realized just how hard it was to find great candidates.”

According to Phillips, nearly 70 percent of the candidates interviewed during this time did not meet the criteria set by the hiring team. This caused the team to question if there was a better way for recruiting and how they could pave that path.

The Brilliant Hire team identified two key problems plaguing today’s hiring processes during their own recruiting woes. The first was candidates filling their resumes with buzzwords but not being capable of using these skills in real-life scenarios. Second was unconscious bias, where things like candidate name or educational background impacted the likelihood of being selected for a role, despite those elements not giving any indication for how good they are at actually performing the job.

With these in mind, the Brilliant Hire set off to provide a solution that removed these challenges from the hiring and recruiting process by providing “candidate screening-as-a-service,” a feat made possible through recruiting and creating a large global network of experts.

“We help companies and recruiters take in a large volume of candidates through screening and evaluating applicants with an assessment that our large network of experts creates to review the basic qualifications and skills needed for a specific role,” Phillips said.

Experts within the Brilliant Hire network come from a variety of industries, ranging from sales to finance to software engineering, Phillips said. Experts who want to join the network are put through an assessment themselves before being onboarded into the program and earning the title of Brilliant Hire expert. Even then, experts are re-reviewed and re-assessed over time to make sure they are always providing the best feedback to the recruiters and team they are working with.

The network of experts is especially important to recruiters because they are able to leverage Brilliant Hire’s network to effectively evaluate candidates across various skillsets, Phillips said.

“By allowing our experts to take a much deeper look at these candidates skills, the recruiter gets significantly better feedback about how good the candidate is at this job in a much faster time than just sitting there and reviewing each of these resumes manually,” Phillips said, adding that results from assessments are usually provided to recruiters within 24 hours.

After reviewing a candidate’s skills, an expert recommends whether or not that candidate should move forward. By leveraging the Brilliant Network for this initial first step in the hiring process, recruiters can then better understand where the candidate’s skills fall and if they would be able to perform and excel in the open role. Not only that, but experts do not see any identifiable information about the candidate, ensuring they are making decisions based solely on what the candidate can do in the role, not their gender, race, or where they grew up.

According to Sullivan, the effects of implementing Brilliant Hire into their hiring process were felt almost immediately.

“Brilliant Hire has enabled us to rocket through our applications quicker and with more satisfaction and guarantee of the type of talent we're bringing in,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan added that before Brilliant Hire, a SVNT recruiter would take weeks to go through 2,000 resumes. However, with implementation that recruiter could now expect to send candidates next steps within 48 hours – an invaluable feature in a market as competitive as Silicon Valley. The assessment created by Brilliant Hire also ensures that the candidates have the right baseline skills, knowledge, and capabilities needed to perform in the roles assigned to them.

For Sullivan and her team, this meant that they could take a deeper dive into learning about the candidate as a person instead of focusing solely on the checklist items laid out in a job description.

“I could focus on the elements that I wanted to better understand, to ensure that I was bringing in not only the best technical talent, but also the best person for this program,” she said.

The results didn’t just stop there. On top of being able to filter through applications at a larger scale and at a quicker pace, the implementation of Brilliant Hire also impacted the diversity of the candidates selected. Sullivan said that diversity numbers across SVNT cohorts have increased drastically since Brilliant Hire was brought on board.

“It's resulted in 50% female cohort over cohort,” she said. “Our diversity numbers are going up not only in terms of hiring but also in how many diverse candidates make it to the next stages of the recruiting process.”

The importance of diversity has been a cornerstone of the SAP mission within recent years, with Forbes listing the company as one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity in 2020.

Diversity, however, extends beyond race and gender for Phillips. He said companies should take those elements into consideration, but should also take things that we can't see, like the way people learn or their focus abilities, into account when hiring for their teams and organizations.

“Every single part of a person has an impact on how we do business,” he said. “Whether they’re building a product or selling a product, all of it has an impact on making the best experience for our customers because our customers are not just one type of person. They're all different types of people and we need to make sure that our software meets all of their needs.”

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