13,200 applicants in eight weeks – what is the secret of Blind Applying?

I admit it sounds a bit like a weight watchers slogan: this much in such a short time! But it’s true… just this time, it’s not about losing weight but gaining candidates, across countries and fields of study.

Only few campaigns shook the HR landscape like Blind Applying. In its second edition, the student campaign received more than 13,000 applications in less than two months, from all around the world. How? Today I'm interviewing the project manager to have a look behind the scenes.

Quick recap before we start: what are we talking about? Initiated by Deutsche Telekom at the Future Forum in 2013 and organized by Entrypark, Blind Applying allows candidates to apply to 21 global internships with one CV. Candidates don’t know which internship belongs to which employer and which city – hence “Blind”. You could end up anywhere!

I myself had the privilege to develop and organize the campaign in its first year, 2013-2014, alongside its inventors Sabine Burmeister and Frank Staffler from Deutsche Telekom, and together with a group of 17 other employers with great brands. It was quite a ride! We all learned a lot from each other and had fun, too. At the end, we thought this could be a completely new way to approach GenY together, and decided to continue for a second edition. This turned out to be a good decision. Why – well, find out in this interview with Alex Kilmpasanis, this year’s Blind Applying project manager, who himself went from fan to organizer in less than a year.

Hi Alex, please introduce the idea of Blind Applying to us.

Alex: Blind Applying is more than an internship program. As we like to say, it’s a career adventure you will never forget! This is true for all parties involved. Students apply with only one CV, having no idea for which employer they could fit or in which location they will end up. Employers are surprised to consider applicants with a different set of skills and experience than the ones they are used to. And for us who organize the program, we are excited to see students being matched with great employers and opportunities and go to cities they are not familiar with.

OK but there are plenty of student campaigns. How is this one different?

Alex: There is not just one goal. The mystery of Blind Applying removes almost all barriers to entry. Based on the students’ feedback, 80% of applicants expect an internship offer. Nonetheless, a strong 60% expects to discover possibilities for international opportunities and 40% to find an unexpected career fit. As for the participating employers, they have the opportunity to recruit talent with a global mindset, while they take part in a unique collaborative effort. They get to learn from colleagues in other leading companies and, as we do our best to grow the appeal of the campaign, so does their own reach.

                  Survey of Blind Applying 2015 participants

                Survey of Blind Applying 2015 participants

So, how did it go?

Alex: We were flattered by the response to say the least. This year, over 13,200 students from every country and study field applied for one of the 21 secret internships. About 50% of them hold Bachelor’s degrees and 48% hold Master’s degrees. There were entries from 146 countries and the community on social media grew by 300%.

We are incredibly grateful to all universities and employers who helped put the word out and to the students for showing such interest in the campaign.

        The champions are blogging: click to get to the Blind Applying blogs

      The champions are blogging: click to get to the Blind Applying blogs

What are you doing with the candidates now?

Alex: With such a brilliant talent pool, we can only work hard to make sure that all this potential doesn’t go to waste. The lucky champions have already begun their internships or preparing for them. In the meantime, the rest of the applicants receive news about opportunities that are relevant to them, based on their application.

The employers have also shown interest to consider more candidates from our talent pool. Some of them have moved on to make offers to more students, or are in talks about future collaboration outside the scope of Blind Applying. This makes us feel incredibly proud.

What are your lessons learned from this year’s Blind Applying campaign?

Alex: It has been very interesting for us to see what motivates students to apply. From a recruitment perspective, we learned that when it comes to internships, simply adding a big name on your CV is no longer the goal. Talented students are mostly interested in discovering international opportunities that will give them the opportunity to build their skills through responsible work. Based on our survey, the chance of gaining work experience abroad, motivated 82% of candidates to apply. Obtaining work experience in general appealed to only 37% of applicants.

On that matter, the importance of company culture is not to be underestimated. Once students learn more about the internship role, they are also interested in being in a culture that will let them thrive, even if it is for limited time employment. Through the feedback we have gotten, the students are much more eager to jump into their career adventures, once they realize they are going to enter an environment that will help them realize their career goals.

Are there any surprising stats?

Alex: Yes, like the fact that there were only 33% of female engineering & IT candidates, when the gender differentiation in other fields is pretty equal. Business students also seem to be better prepared for future employers’ expectations, as they were more likely to already have some working or international experience.

Blind Applying started as a new idea to reach Millenials. Where will it go from here?

Alex: If anyone knew for sure, Blind Applying wouldn’t be the career adventure that it is! Our own goal is to make Blind Applying a bigger and more flexible program for all involved. Employers will be offering more international and surprising opportunities. Students will get to learn not only about opportunities the employers offer and how it is to work for them through the Blind Applying champions’ blogs, but also how they could enrich their own profiles in the future. We aspire for Blind Applying to be a valuable collaboration & learning platform all year round.

You are the project manager. What is your personal story to get there?

Alex: I got to hear about Blind Applying through Facebook during its first year. Back then I was simply kicking myself for having graduated from college one year too early. Nevertheless, I was very interested in the program and followed its updates on social media. Little did I know that 8 months later I would end up working on it, making sure that the program reaches more students and feels just as exciting as it felt for me.

Thank you Alex for the insight and good luck with the Blind Applying project!