INspire – the Leaders' Lab is the international talent program at Daimler for graduates and early professionals. The 24-month program offers internationally educated and experienced talents a challenging environment by way of preparation for a leadership role in the company. The so called “Recruitathon” is the last step of the selection process. It is a two and a half day recruiting event with group challenges, panel discussions and personal interviews. Jeff Allen is the head of Operations & Quality Management at Daimler Trucks North America and took part at the Recruitathon to scout for the next top talents for Daimler.
Picture above: Smart EQ fortwo cabrio (combined CO₂-emissions: 0 g/km; power consumption in combined test cycle: 14.5–13.0 kWh/100 km*)
Hi Jeff, could you please briefly introduce yourself?
Jeff: Hi everybody! I started with the company on the powertrain side at Detroit Diesel Cooperation 26 years ago. Coming into the company I had my undergraduate engineering degree and also my master’s in business administration. Back then, I actually started with a similar trainee program which took two years to complete. We had assignments running from three to six months and worked in different departments. It was a great time and helped me to transition from an academic into a business world.
What about your current job?
I am responsible for all truck operations for Daimler Trucks North America. It is extremely challenging, very diverse and exciting. Our products and services for the truck market in the US are in high demand. So it is a fantastic time to be here. The current challenge is that we have to prepare the company for e-mobility and autonomous driving. So we are getting our people and products ready for the future. This is really exciting.
In the US it is not so common to work for Daimler, is it?
That is a very good question and I can tell you the Daimler “name” is still not very well known today. Everybody knows the brand names quite well: Mercedes-Benz, Thomas Built Buses, Western Star or Freightliner. So from a recruiting point of view we still have a big opportunity to emphasize on the fantastic career opportunities within the company.
What would you say is the major challenge when it comes to recruiting top talents?
I think part of the challenge is to market Daimler's appeal not only as a world-class manufacturer of cars, trucks & buses and vans, but also as a mobility company. Some of the future talents still might consider Daimler as a very traditional manufacturer of vehicles. But in fact there are so many innovative and high-tech products and services we provide and are working on.
You participated in the Recruitathon as a selector. This event is part of the selection process for the international talent program INspire – the Leaders’ Lab. Can you please describe the event for us?
Well, the concept was very exciting. It felt more like an international conference with the aim to find and screen some of the best talents around the entire world. I personally was really “inspired” because I had the chance to be around talented people for 2.5 days. What I really liked is that it was a unique, creative, fast-paced and exciting way to identify top applicants. Also for the candidates it was a way to see a little bit of the culture of Daimler, not only what we are but what we will become.
What exactly were your tasks as a “selector”?
I was actually an observer as well as a recruiter. In some cases I participated in group or individual settings, and in other cases I was in an active role during an interview or presentation. In the end everybody from Daimler involved came together to put all the pieces together, which means that we made suggestions on the spot on who will get an invitation to the INspire program. We were empowered to evaluate and to make a decision – a process which is definitely about empowerment and being agile.
Why did you participate in the Recruitathon? What did you expect from it?
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but that’s what I liked about it. I wanted to understand what kind of talent is out there and what early professionals are looking for in their careers. This helps the company to get a feeling of the next generation’s expectations. It is an important part of our role as Daimler leaders to be as involved as possible, to make sure that we are selecting the right top talents for the future.
Which situation struck you the most? Were there any surprises?
I wouldn’t say I was surprised, I think impressed is a better word. I was impressed by the standard of the candidates, because some of them were already working, spoke four languages or had several start-up business experiences. At the same time they were still at an early stage in their careers. I was also impressed at how much attention and importance Daimler is giving to such a talent program. It’s good to see that we are taking this task very seriously.
How did you identify the perfect candidates?
All candidates that we talked to were already on a high level in terms of technical or business skills. The challenge at the Recruitathon was to find those people who also have the right personality and cultural mindset for Daimler. We were looking for applicants with the right people skills, who have the ability to influence people and who come along with leadership potential. That is something you cannot find on a transcript, in a cv or a test.
Thank you for the interview.