The case of Appenzeller Alpenbitter AG

The Wilhelm AG has been mastering virtual and hybrid processes for years, from the first interview to the assessment and job interview to the signing of the contract.

It is as true as it is complex: since the first wave, the effects of measures to contain the pandemic have complicated recruitment processes. We are observing a trend that candidates are less open to change. Personal encounters are often only possible under difficult conditions. Long before the virus turned everything upside down, the Wilhelm AG systematically implemented remote and hybrid processes. This is how it was not caught off guard when the Appenzeller Alpenbitter AG commissioned it in the midst of the first lockdown in 2020 to recruit a new CEO.

A visionary leader with high analytical competence was sought. Direct approaches, combined with print and online advertisements, made it possible to capture the market broadly and to also interest passive job seekers for this responsible position. During the proven hybrid process, the final candidates have gone through a total of four rounds of interviews: the initial interviews with the Wilhelm AG and the second round with the Appenzeller Alpenbitter AG's supervisory board were held remotely. The third and fourth interviews were physical. This is because the candidates received various tasks to prepare for and we, as well as the supervisory board, wanted to experience them presenting the solutions live.

The combination of flexible, location-independent communication coupled with physical presence allowed all parties involved, despite the changed conditions in the recruitment process, to make the right decisions without any loss of quality.

Attila Castiglione (board of directors/client), Pascal Loepfe-Brügger (recruited managing director) and José Joos (WILHELM Assessment) report on their experiences.

WILHELM: What did it mean for you that the majority of the recruitment process was handled online?
Attila Castiglioni:
At the beginning, I and my colleagues on the Board of Directors were skeptical as to whether we could really develop the necessary basis for a candidate selection with an online recruitment process. In the course of the interviews, but especially during and after the online assessment of Wilhelm AG, it became clear that remote processes are also very effective. Of course, getting to know the candidates in person (physically) remains indispensable. A first onsite interview then also took place very early on. In conclusion, I can say that an online recruitment process can be handled efficiently and in a time-saving manner and, in our view, is in no way inferior to an onsite assessment in terms of quality.

Pascal Loepfe-Brügger: The starting point was basically the same as for any other recruitment process. In addition to good preparation, a very high level of motivation and the necessary amount of respect, dealing with the unexpected is also crucial to the success of an assessment. The Wilhelm AG team informed me as a candidate openly and transparently about the process from the very beginning. After each successfully completed round, I was informed about the next step.

Pascal Loepfe-Brügger José Joos: From the assessor's point of view, the initial situation was identical to assessment assignments that are carried out on the basis of onsite recruitment. We received the same documents on the two top candidates in comparable quality as always. The initial contact with the candidates as well as the invitation and assignment of the preparatory tasks took place within the usual framework. Contact with the clients was also as usual.

José Joos WILHELM: What were the biggest challenges in this recruitment process?

Attila Castiglioni: The basic challenge in any recruitment process is bridging local distances, which was made even more difficult by Corona. And in coordinating our chronically overcrowded schedules. The Chairman of the Board of Directors and I had been given the mandate by the full Board of Directors to accompany the recruitment process. The company and the Chairman are located in Appenzell - I in Zurich and Zug. Wilhelm AG is located in St. Gallen, the assessment center of the Wilhelm Group in Zurich. However, with the help of online based Skype/TEAMS conferences, the employees of the Wilhelm Group managed to overcome these challenges well; in fact, they even simplified the processes to some extent.

Pascal Loepfe-Brügger: For me, the remote assessment was a completely new experience. In the initial meeting, Mr. José Joos succeeded in showing me the advantages of this type of assessment. In the end, it was an exciting, instructive and intensive recruitment process. I particularly appreciated the personal final meeting at the premises of Wilhelm AG in Zurich.

A particular challenge was that you can't present yourself in the usual way in online interviews. Body language and the use of tools such as flip charts etc. play a subordinate role on the screen.

José Joos: In the assessment, the usual quality standards were fully met. In particular, the variety of methods with very different types of exercises could also be fully guaranteed in the remote assessment (cognitive performance tests, interview, personality test, conversation simulations, case study, planning and organizational task). Since the remote assessment was a tried and tested instrument, there were no particular challenges from an assessment perspective.

WILHELM: What were the success factors?
Attila Castiglioni: Probably the most important factor for us was filling the position of managing director within the timeframe we had set ourselves. We knew when the previous position holder was leaving us and wanted to keep the time gap as short as possible until the new managing director took up his post. The Corona pandemic did not help us in this respect and we were unsure whether we would be able to do this in the time frame we had set ourselves. However, Wilhelm AG showed us that this was possible despite special circumstances.

Pascal Loepfe-Brügger: From my point of view, the chosen mix of remote and onsite methods ensured a fair, challenging and instructive recruitment process. The professional support and active communication created trust and provided security.

José Joos: In addition to the precise analysis of the requirements for this position and the resulting mix of exercises for the assessment, the technically flawless execution via Microsoft Teams and the detailed assessment reports with clear recommendations. In addition, the final discussion of the results with the Board of Directors, which I would like to emphasize in particular.

Additional question to José Joos WILHELM: How was it possible to meet the high quality requirements in this remote assessment?
As far as quality requirements are concerned, no compromises are made in the remote assessments. The process flow corresponds to that of an on-site assessment without any loss of quality, from the analysis of the job profile to the definition of the target profile by the client, the preparation of the candidates, the one-day implementation, the systematic evaluation to the report and the discussion with the client.