Companies seeking training-place applicants: Instruments and strategies

Christian Gerhards, Margit Ebbinghaus

Findings from the BIBB Training Panel 2013

Matching supply with demand is increasingly problematic in the German market for in-company vocational training places. On the company side, the supply of training places is falling while the number of unfilled training places is rising; meanwhile young people’s demand for training places is falling while the number of unplaced training-place seekers is rising. BIBB Report therefore takes a look at the instruments used by German companies in their efforts to publicise the training places they offer and attract suitable training-place applicants. The study investigates the extent to which companies favour particular instruments, whether identifiable patterns are evident, and which factors influence each of the respective approaches to recruiting applicants. Among other findings, the results show that companies which favour trainees with a higher level of prior school attainment devote greater effort to finding suitable applicants, and that companies in the skilled crafts rely most on making direct contact in order to win over prospective trainees.

More frequent unsuccessful search outcomes on both sides

In the past few years, the training-place market conditions for companies have deteriorated markedly. In the year 2006, there were still 105 registered applicants for every hundred training places reported to the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA).1 This ratio has altered considerably in the intervening time. In the year 2013, only 98 registered applicants remained for every 100 reported training places. The changed market conditions are reflected in a rising number of unfilled training places. This is shown by data from the BA’s apprenticeship-market statistics (2010, 2013) and the survey of newly concluded apprenticeship contracts carried out by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, BIBB) (2006, 2013). From this data it can be surmised that the number of unfilled training places, both as a raw figure and as a percentage of the total of all training places on offer, has almost doubled from 2006 to 2013 (from 15,400 to 33,500 and from 2.6 per cent to 5.9 per cent respectively). Since the year 2011, however, the number of unsuccessful training-place seekers has also been climbing – even though fewer young people actually want to commence a dual-system apprenticeship (cf. inter alia ULRICH et al., 2014). More frequently than in the past, then, both companies and young people are searching the training-place market without success. In other words, it seems to be getting harder for training-place suppliers and seekers to find one another.

In this context various research papers have taken a look at young people’s vocational choices and companies’ selection practices (cf. inter alia KOHLRAUSCH/PROTSCH 2013; EBERHARD / SCHOLZ / ULRICH 2009; BEICHT / FRIEDRICH / ULRICH 2008; IMDORF 2008). Considerably less attention has been devoted to information-providing and information-seeking behaviour, i.e. the search strategies used by companies and prospective trainees to position themselves or find their orientation in the market. The present article takes up this aspect from the perspective of companies. Which instruments and channels are used by companies to present their offer of training places? Do some companies prefer different approaches from others, and if so, which factors influence their respective preferences? The data used to pursue these questions comes from the third wave of the BIBB Training Panel survey (i.e. the year 2013 wave of the survey). The first step will be to present some descriptive findings. These take a look at the use of individual recruitment instruments initially, before considering how many instruments, and which ones in particular, companies combine with one another. Each analysis is run for the companies on aggregate as well as differentiated according to selected attributes pertaining to company structure and aspects of initial vocational education and training (IVET). In the second step, multivariate regressions will be calculated in order to explore and validate the descriptive findings in depth. As a preliminary, however, a summary of existing research findings on company information practice will be outlined.


What is already known about training companies’ information practices

The goal of a company’s information practice is to present the company and the training places it offers in such a way as to appeal to young people and motivate them to apply. Consequently the aim is to recruit sufficient (suitable) applicants in order to be able to allocate all of the training places on offer. For this purpose companies make different instruments and channels (recruitment routes) available. These can be subcategorised into direct and indirect recruitment routes (inter alia REES 1966; MOUW 2002). Use is made of direct recruitment routes to address potential applicants directly and personally about training opportunities that exist within the company (e.g. in-company work-experience placements, information events in schools, attendance at training fairs) (cf. ibid.). The target group of individuals who can be reached directly is usually narrowly constrained; the advantage of direct recruitment, however, is that the direct contact makes it possible to gain a (mutual) impression of how well both sides are matched. In the case of indirect recruitment, recruitment tools (e.g. advertisements in newspapers or online job boards) are employed whereby indirect contact is established with (potential) applicants (cf. ibid.). The advantage of indirect instruments is that they diffuse information widely about the given offer of training-places at relatively low cost.2

Most recently, company information practices have gained increasing attention from researchers. Nevertheless, the empirical knowledge base has remained fragmentary and to some extent inconsistent as yet. In a survey carried out with around 1,000 companies, GERICKE / KRUPP / TROTSCH (2009) succeeded in demonstrating differences in recruitment behaviour between companies who managed to fill all the training places they offered and those who did not. Companies with unfilled training places used a similar spectrum of recruitment routes as companies without unfilled vacancies. In companies with unfilled training places, however, the intensity of these activities was not so high (cf. ibid, p. 4). The differences were particularly striking for the direct recruitment routes. Companies without training-place vacancies made considerably greater efforts than companies with unfilled training places (cf. ibid., p. 4). At the same time however, it was apparent that the high-intensity recruiters without training-place vacancies were primarily large companies based in federal states in the western part of Germany. The more hesitant recruiters with unfilled vacancies, in contrast, were primarily small companies from the eastern German federal states.

Results on the seeking behaviour of young people are compatible with these findings. The applicant survey carried out in 2012 by the BA and BIBB yielded the finding that personal contacts and relationships (including in-company work-experience placement, parents and relatives) are the most important instruments for young people in their choice of training occupation and their search for a training place (KREWERTH / EBERHARD / GEI 2014). According to a survey of school pupils and trainees by SCHANK (2011), young people’s information-seeking efforts are directed primarily to larger companies’ training-place offers, since these tend to be seen as better equipped than small firms to meet the young people’s expectations and entitlements from initial vocational education and training (IVET).

The annual company surveys of the German Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag, DIHK) support this assumption. According to that source, in recent years there has been a continuous rise in the proportion of companies intending to respond to declining numbers of training-place applicants by improving their marketing of in-company IVET; an especially pronounced leap can be noted from 2013 to 2014 (cf. DIHK 2010 and subsequent years). Similarly, qualitative studies indicate that companies react to diminishing applicant numbers by boosting the number of recruitment channels used; they also suggest correlations with structural attributes. For instance, EBBINGHAUS et al. (2013) found indications that above all smaller companies and companies offering training places in occupations with a major shortfall in demand step up recruitment by means of personal contacts and relationships. In contrast, it was shown in a study by DIETTRICH / JAHN / KLÖPFEL (2014) that larger companies are more likely to be the ones stepping up direct recruitment whereas smaller companies – particularly those from the skilled crafts – did not notably demonstrate any change in their recruitment practice even in the face of a distinct shortage of applicants (cf. ibid).

On an overall view, the past research studies on company information practices to fill training places do not yet provide any consistent picture as regards the influence of different company attributes. The findings also remain inconsistent in relation to the especially relevant question, given current conditions in the training-place market, of how far difficulties in the filling of training places have repercussions for company recruitment activities. The aim of the following analyses is to contribute to further clarification of these questions by investigating, firstly, the intensity and, secondly, the strategy of company recruitment practices, taking into account a series of selected company-structure and IVET-related attributes. The working assumption will be that attributes from both categories – company-structure and IVET-related – will crystallise out as independent influencing factors in each case. 

Object and data basis of the following analyses

On the basis of the BIBB Training Panel, which is a representative survey of companies (Information box, p. 4), the following study will explore the significance of selected factors in relation to company approaches to the attraction of training place applicants. Reference will be made to data from the 2013 wave of the survey.3 

The approach to attracting training-place applicants was covered in the 2013 wave by asking questions about the use of eight recruitment instruments in total. These included:
Four indirect recruitment instruments: 4

  1. Reporting vacant places to the local public employment agency
  2. Reporting vacant places to the chamber, guild or industry association
  3. Placing advertisements in newspapers or on online job boards
  4. Placing advertisements on the company website or on social networks

Four direct instruments:

  1. Carrying out in-company work experience
  2. Information events in schools or at training fairs
  3. Informing the company’s own employees
  4. Providing “Introductory Training” (Einstiegsqualifizierung, EQ) programmes

As potential influencing factors from the group of company-structure attributes, the following attributes were included:

  • Company size, differentiated into the four size-classes of micro-enterprises (1 – 19 employees), small enterprises (20 – 99 employees), medium-sized enterprises (100 – 199 employees) and large enterprises (200+ employees)
  • Membership of one of the sectors “Manufacturing and Processing Industry” 5, “Commerce and Repair”, “Business Services”, “Other Services” and “Public Service, Education and Instruction”
  • Membership of the chamber of skilled crafts (yes / no)
  • Region in which the company has its headquarters, the alternatives being eastern and western Germany


BIBB Training Panel The German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training’s Panel Study on Training and Competence Development (“BIBB Training Panel”) is an annual company survey carried out by means of computer assisted personal interviews (CAPI). Three waves of the survey have been conducted to date (2011, 2012 and 2013). Data is collected by means of a standardised survey of a total sample of around 2,000 training and non-training companies (net sample) from the whole of Germany (www.bibb.de/qp). On the one hand, the survey covers fixed topics that feature in every wave of the survey – which include questions on the number of training places offered and filled. On the other hand, some topics are varied from one wave of the survey to another. The question about the instruments and channels used by companies to recruit training-place applicants is one of the topics that have been varied. It was first included in the 2013 wave of the survey.


Attributes are selected partly on the basis of past research findings and partly as a means of allowing differences in demographic framework conditions and demand patterns of young people to be taken into account.
Four further variables are taken from the category of in-company IVET-related attributes:

  • Having unfilled training places (yes / no; also referred to below as “vacancy problems”) which were offered for the training year 2012/13 serves as an indicator of difficulties in filling training places.
  • The domain of IVET states whether companies provide IVET exclusively in industrial-technical occupations, exclusively in commercial-administrative occupations or in both occupational domains. This gives due consideration to the lower demand, on average, for training places in industrial-technical occupations than in commercial-administrative occupations.
  • Whether the current trainees consist predominantly of young people whose highest educational qualification is a lower secondary school leaving certificate, an intermediate secondary school leaving certificate or a higher education entrance qualification (HEEQ) was taken as an indicator for the target group preferred by the company. In part, this takes account of the varying demand patterns in correlation with prior school attainment, and in part also the companies’ expectation levels which have a significant (contributory) bearing on the filling of training places (cf. GERICKE / KRUPP / TROLTSCH 2009).
  • Finally, the volume of training places, i.e. the (absolute) number of apprenticeship places offered for the training year 2012/13 takes account of the objective variable of recruitment efforts. Because of the strongly right-skewed distribution, a subdivision into categories was undertaken, i.e. companies offering 1 – 2, 3 – 5 and 6+ apprenticeship places.

Since the central focus of the study is on company recruitment practice, the analysis only took account of companies which gave a response on all eight recruitment instruments as to whether they had used them or not in connection with filling training places offered for the year 2012/2013. Hence, the analysis sample amounts to 1,010 companies although because of missing responses for the potential influential variables in some cases the evaluations have been based on smaller numbers of instances. The weighted dataset was used for the descriptive analyses and the unweighted data set for the multivariate analyses.

Trainees especially often sought via public employment agencies and work-experience placements

Abbildung 1: Anteil der Betriebe, die das jeweilige Akquiseinstrument nutzen, an allen Betrieben (Angaben in Prozent)


Companies use the individual instruments and channels with varying intensity in order to position and present themselves and their offer of training places in the training-place market. This applies in equal measure to the indirect and the direct recruitment routes. By far the most frequent indirect route used to attract training-place applicants is via the local employment agencies (Figure 1). Approximately three out of four companies make use of their placement services when they are seeking trainees.

Companies make distinctly more modest use of the other three indirect recruitment routes, i.e. publishing placement advertisements in newspapers or on online job boards, on their own websites or on social networks, and contacting chambers, guilds or industry associations. At the same time it is evident that the status of newspaper or online advertisements barely differs from that of advertisements on the company website or on social networks, and both routes are only minimally preferred over reporting unfilled training places to chambers, guilds or industry associations.

Likewise, the direct recruitment routes are clearly prioritised: companies rely primarily on the in-company work-experience placement in order to make contact with potential training-place applicants (Figure 1). The other direct recruitment routes – similarly to the indirect instruments – are given noticeably lower priority. However, a clearer gradation emerges here, which seems to follow the amount of effort required in each case: so although one company in two informs its employees about the training places it is offering, just one third presents these at – usually one-day – school and job-fair events. The possibility of getting to know and assess potential trainees by means of 6- to 12-month Introductory Training schemes is only used by one in five companies 6 (Figure 1).

Tabelle 1: Nutzung indirekter Akquisewege nach Struktur- und Ausbildungsmerkmalen (Angaben in Prozent)

If consideration of the use of the individual recruitment routes is differentiated according to the company-structure and IVET-related attributes already introduced, initially the following picture emerges with regard to the indirect routes (Table 1): across virtually all groups, involvement of the local public employment agency remains the most significant indirect recruitment route. Only public service organisations favour newspaper and (other) online advertisements; for large enterprises the route via the public employment agency is more or less on an equal standing with advertising on the company’s own website.

Broken down by structural attributes, the comparison of differently sized companies yields the expected result that the intensity of use increases with growing company size. Whilst this can be recognised for all four indirect recruitment instruments considered, it is most evident for recruitment via the company website or via social networks. The companies also differ distinctly by region. Companies from the eastern German federal states make substantially more frequent use of the indirect recruitment instruments than companies from the western German states. Only in the involvement of public employment agencies do eastern and western German companies rank side by side. The comparison of sectors yields a somewhat more complex picture. Here the use made of indirect routes by companies from the Manufacturing and Processing sector contrasts with the use made by Public Service organisations. On the one hand, companies in the Manufacturing and Processing Industry particularly frequently involve the local public employment agencies as well as chambers, guilds or industry associations in order to attract training-place applicants. On the other hand, they make strikingly infrequent use of advertisements in newspapers, on online job boards, on their own websites or on social networks. In the public service, the situation is precisely the reverse. Companies from the Business Services sector, in turn, make rather modest use of indirect recruitment routes overall. Finally, if skilled crafts companies are compared with companies not belonging to the skilled crafts, what particularly stands out is that skilled crafts companies report their vacant training places to chambers, guilds or industry associations considerably more frequently than companies in other sectoral domains.

As assumed, the companies also differ according to IVET-related attributes (Table 1). The indirect instruments are used all the more frequently, the higher the prior school attainment of the trainees already employed and hence, by extension, that of the presumed primary target group of recruitment activity. This manifests itself especially characteristically (once again) with regard to the presentation of training places on the company website or on social networks. Companies providing IVET in both the industrial-technical as well as the commercial-administrative occupations practice indirect recruitment more vigorously than companies only seeking trainees for one of the two occupational domains. The use of indirect recruitment routes varies very distinctly – and entirely expectedly – with the volume of apprenticeship places. This emerges with particular clarity for the insertion of online advertisements. Finally, it is apparent that companies recording unfilled training places make more intensive use of each of the indirect recruitment instruments considered than companies not affected by this problem.

If the same differentiation is now undertaken with regard to the use of the direct recruitment routes, equally striking differences are found (Table 2). Thus, larger companies as opposed to smaller companies and companies from eastern Germany as opposed to companies from western Germany are more committed, not only when it comes to indirect but also direct recruitment. In the sectoral comparison, companies from the fields of Business Services and the Public Service are identified as those which make more modest use of direct recruitment instruments. On the other hand, there are barely differences when skilled crafts enterprises are compared with non-craft enterprises.

Training-related aspects seem to be of little relevance overall for the choice of direct recruitment routes. While the same applies to the direct instruments, namely that they are used more intensively by companies with unfilled training places than by companies without vacancy problems, nevertheless the differences are not so obvious across the board as for the indirect routes, and nor do they affect all instruments to an equal extent. The difference emerges most clearly in recruitment via existing employees. A comparable observation applies to the volume of apprenticeship places, which correlates primarily with variations in participation in school events and training fairs. The differentiations by IVET domain and by target group of recruitment efforts yield no clear tendencies.

Intensity of recruitment – Several routes are normally used

Tabelle 2: Nutzung direkter Akquisewege nach Struktur- und Ausbildungsmerkmalen (Angaben in Prozent)

In order to study more precisely how companies proceed to search for training-place applicants, the analysis will now consider how many of the instruments under consideration are used for this purpose by companies.

It is apparent that despite the numerous possibilities for positioning themselves on the training place market, a share of companies (17 per cent) restrict themselves to one sole recruitment route (Figure 2). The majority of companies, however, resort to several possible options for making their training offers known to young people seeking training places and for encouraging them to apply. On average, companies utilise close to four of the eight instruments under consideration for these purposes.

Abbildung 2: Absolute und durchschnittliche Anzahl genutzter Akquiseinstrumente nach Strukturmerkmalen  (Angaben in Prozent)

A more detailed study reveals considerable areas of fluctuation between companies, however. Differentiation by company-structure attributes largely mirrors the findings on the degree of use of individual instruments (Figure 2): companies from eastern Germany use more instruments for seeking training-place applicants than companies from the western part of the country. With increasing company size, the proportion of companies that concentrate on a single recruitment instrument declines. Accordingly, the average number of routes employed increases – from an average of 3.2 instruments for micro-enterprises to an average of 5.4 instruments for large enterprises. Compared with this, there are only minimal differences between companies from different sectors. There is something of a trend for companies from the business services sector to crystallise out as those who make use of the fewest instruments for their training-place market presence. These are the same companies which turned out to be more reserved in previous studies, at least in relation to the indirect routes. Likewise the recruitment intensity of skilled crafts enterprises differs only minimally from companies from other sectoral domains.

Abbildung 3: Absolute und durchschnittliche Anzahl genutzter Akquiseinstrumente nach ausbildungsbezogenen Merkmalen (Angaben in Prozent)
More detailed consideration of the number of recruitment instruments used according to IVET-related attributes yields a clearer picture than the previous view of the individual instruments (Figure 3). Companies which provide IVET either exclusively in industrial-technical or exclusively in commercial-administrative occupations make use of around three instruments. On the other hand, companies which train young people in both occupational domains conduct their search by means of a considerably wider-ranging set of instruments. Furthermore, the higher the level of prior educational attainment of their preferred target group, the more versatile companies are in presenting themselves in the training-places market. If predominantly young people holding a HEEQ are sought, recruitment takes place on average via four different channels, and hence via one more channel than a search for lower secondary school leavers. Companies which struggle to fill their training places use a more comprehensive repertoire of instruments and channels to market the training places they have on offer than companies which have no vacancy problems. However, companies which offer comparatively large numbers of apprenticeship places, and mean to fill them, take an especially proactive approach.

Interim conclusion – Company and IVET characteristics are significant

The analyses so far make it clear that the intensity with which companies seek training-place applicants varies distinctly among companies. This is seen in relation to individual instruments and with regard to the number of routes utilised. Since these differences are apparent both when differentiated according to company-structure attributes and when considered according to IVET-related attributes, the findings so far support the assumption that attributes of both groups are influential on the detailed execution of company recruitment activities.

Particularly companies with vacancy problems seek direct contact

Abbildung 4: Akquisestrategie nach Strukturmerkmalen (Angaben in Prozent)


Although it can be concluded from the evaluations undertaken so far that most companies make use of several instruments to present the training places they have on offer in the training-place market, consideration has not yet been given to how they combine the relevant instruments with each other. Attention will be turned to this below. In concrete terms, the study will investigate whether certain patterns and preferences can be identified in the selection and combination of the recruitment instruments employed.

The evaluations make it plain that company recruitment practice is characterised by a very broad-ranging spectrum of forms and models for combining the various instruments for attracting applicants. A total of over 200 different ways of combining the respective instruments could be identified. Some of these occur more frequently than others but not to the extent that any individual combinations would particularly stand out.7 Therefore, in order to be able to shed more light on the nature of recruitment activity in spite of this diversity, the practices of companies were categorised according to whether they favour the direct or the indirect recruitment instruments or whether instruments from both categories are (numerically) held in balance.


When the companies are considered on aggregate, the recruitment strategies are distributed relatively evenly (Figure 4). Close to 40 per cent of companies rely predominantly on indirect instruments. The other two types of strategies are found somewhat more seldom. One company in three prefers to inform prospective trainees directly and personally about the vocational training opportunities available in the company. While most companies’ recruitment activities are accentuated in one direction or the other, the smallest share of companies (28%) give the direct and indirect routes proportionally equal weight.

Within the company categories differentiated by structural attributes, in some instances the distribution of the strategy types deviates (Figure 4). When differentiated by region, eastern German companies stand out. These ascribe the lowest status to direct recruitment routes rather than to the balanced strategy. For medium-sized and large enterprises, a strikingly strong preference for indirect recruitment strategies is apparent. Half of the companies in each of these categories apply this practice, exclusively at the cost of an approach based on direct routes, which is used by only one medium-sized and large enterprise in five. Looking at the sectors it is noticeable that companies providing Business Services comparatively seldom adopt an indirect approach, and relatively often rely on a balanced strategy. The exact opposite is the case for companies in Manufacturing and processing industries. Finally, skilled craft enterprises are somewhat more likely to use an indirect approach in order to attract applicants whereas non-craft companies more commonly place their faith in an indirect strategy instead.

Abbildung 5: Akquisestrategie nach ausbildungsbezogenen Merkmalen (Angaben in Prozent)

Likewise, the IVET-related attributes go hand in hand with differences in recruitment strategy (Figure 5). It becomes clear that companies preponderantly training young people with a lower or intermediate secondary school leaving certificate recruit directly with substantially greater frequency than companies which predominantly provide training to holders of a HEEQ. The same is true of companies which provide IVET exclusively in industrial-technical occupations. Whereas for companies which preponderantly train lower secondary school leavers, this prioritisation operates purely at the cost of a balanced approach of direct and indirect recruitment routes, the emphasis on direct recruitment for companies which exclusively provide industrial-technical IVET reduces the intensity of the indirect approach. The number of training places on offer also has impacts. The greater the number of trainees sought, the less often direct recruitment routes come to the forefront. The most marked distinction, however, is between the recruitment strategies of companies with and without problems filling training-place vacancies: companies without vacancy problems do more direct recruitment. In contrast, notably few companies with vacancy problems prefer this approach and half of them rely on indirect recruitment activities.

More in-depth analyses on recruitment intensity and strategy

Tabelle 3: Einflussfaktoren auf die Intensität, mit der Betriebe Ausbildungsplatzbewerber/-innen suchen


Finally, the results obtained so far are examined in more depth by taking the structural and IVET attributes, which have so far been considered individually, and analysing their combined significance for companies’ approaches to attracting training-place applicants. For this purpose, two multivariate regression models are calculated (Information box). These, unlike the previous bivariate analyses, make it possible to see how far an individual IVET-related or structural attribute has an influence on recruitment activity even when all other attributes are held constant, i.e. controlled.

Model 1 is used to explore what influence is exerted by the structural and IVET attributes already considered on the intensity of recruitment, i.e. on the number of instruments employed by a company. Consequently the question pursued is which attributes have an impact on whether a company uses a greater or lesser number of instruments in order to attract training-place applicants. In Model 2 the influence of the same structural and IVET-related attributes on the type of recruitment strategy is analysed. Accordingly, Model 2 pursues the question of which attributes determine whether a company accentuates direct or indirect approaches in its search for applicants, or pursues a balanced strategy.

Initially the number of instruments employed by companies to attract applicants is analysed (Model 1). Here it is evident that recruitment intensity does depend on various attributes, but of the structural attributes, only company size is significant. At the same time the model supports the bivariate finding that with increasing company size, applicants are recruited with greater intensity and versatility: compared with micro-enterprises, small enterprises on average apply just one additional instrument, and medium-sized and large enterprises about one-and-a-half additional instruments. The fact that companies from different sectors barely stand out from one another other for intensity of recruitment also supports the bivariate findings. In contrast, the clear differences found previously between western and eastern German companies and those between skilled craft and non-craft enterprises are no longer corroborated when all other attributes are held constant (Table 3). Control of the company size variable may well be the definitive factor for this.

As regards the IVET-related attributes, once again not all attributes proved to be (independently) significant for the intensity of company recruitment behaviour. The only remaining drivers of recruitment intensity that can be discerned are the envisaged target group by prior school attainment, and the number of apprenticeship places to be filled. Here, too, the trend coincides with the descriptive findings. The more demanding the company’s requirements for prior school attainment and the more training places it seeks to fill, the more extensive the set of instruments it employs in its search for trainees. In contrast it cannot be corroborated that the occupational domains for which applicants are sought give rise to any effects upon recruitment intensity. The same applies to difficulty in filling training-place vacancies (Table 3).


Information box on the regression procedures

Model 1 is based on a Poisson regression. The Poisson regression is a special procedure for count data, i.e. countable events such as the number of recruitment instruments used, in this case. The model takes into account that low numbers occur particularly frequently so that the distribution is extremely right-skewed.

Modell 2 is based on a polynomial logistic regression. This is a special procedure for determining the probability of category membership, e.g. in this case, the use of a recruitment strategy. Here the model expresses the probability that one particular strategy is chosen instead of the others.

For both models, marginal effects are shown as coefficients. In the first model on the number of recruitment instruments used, these allow interpretation of the coefficients as the average increase in the number of recruitment routes used. In the second model on the type of recruitment strategy, the marginal effects state what percentage greater probability there is of a company using a particular strategy under the given influencing factors. This approach requires a special standard error estimated according to the delta method.


Tabelle 4: Einflussfaktoren auf die Strategie, mit der Betriebe Ausbildungsplatzbewerber/-innen suchen


Likewise the descriptive findings on the influence of company-structure and IVET-related attributes on the recruitment strategy chosen by a company can only partially be confirmed by the second, more in-depth model (Model 2, Table 4). The clearest correlations emerge with the use of one direct strategy, where two company-structure attributes display the expected effects. Medium-sized and large enterprises have a lower probability of recruiting directly than micro-enterprises. Equally, a direct approach is more likely to be found in skilled crafts enterprises than in non-craft enterprises. With regard to the IVET-related attributes, there is only one finding that corroborates the descriptive results: companies which exclusively provide IVET in commercial-administrative occupations have a higher probability of approaching their search for trainees by means of direct instruments than companies which provide training in both commercial-administrative and industrial-technical occupations. Contrary to expectations, a comparable finding for companies which exclusively offer industrial-technical IVET could not be demonstrated. Similarly, the educational attainment of trainees, the volume of training places offered and difficulties filling vacancies exhibit no influence upon the preference for a direct recruitment strategy over other strategies.

Companies which favour an indirect recruitment strategy differentiate themselves solely by size: in medium-sized and large enterprises a preference for an indirect approach rather than any other is more probable than in micro-enterprises. This not only confirms the bivariate result but also corroborates the previously reported multivariate finding on the influence of company size upon the preference for an indirect strategy.

Only the number of apprenticeship places to be filled proves significant for preferring a balanced strategy to search for (potential) trainees. Companies which have six or more training places to allocate tend towards a balanced recruitment strategy more than companies with a smaller volume of training places.



Positioning the offer of training places in the marketplace is an important adjustment mechanism within the process of filling training places. This applies all the more as the training market situation grows more challenging for companies. The analyses conducted show that companies are conscious of this. For the most part, they combine several instruments and channels in order to present themselves as IVET providers to young people in such a way as to appeal to them and make them feel motivated to submit an application.

Among the possibilities available for this purpose, particular importance attaches to the route via the local public employment agency and the offer of in-company work-experience placements. This is interesting precisely because these constitute two quite different instruments in terms of their fundamental orientation. For one thing, companies using work-experience placements can normally only draw the attention of a relatively small group of (prospective) applicants to their IVET provision, albeit that contact is made directly and personally. For another thing, advertisements published by the public employment agency provide an opportunity to reach a broad group of (potential) placement seekers. The fact that over two thirds of all companies do not want to miss out on this opportunity can be seen as an expression of the more difficult training-place market conditions being experienced by companies, because involving the public employment agencies is voluntary, both for companies and indeed for young people too. And based on experience, it occurs especially frequently when the situation in the training-place market begins to pinch (cf. GROßE DETERS /ULMER / ULRICH 2008). In conformity with this, it is found that companies with difficulties filling training places are the most likely to turn to the public employment agencies.

Other informative findings are those on the number of recruitment instruments employed, and hence on recruitment intensity. This is not so applicable to the fact that larger enterprises usually make use of a more extensive repertoire of instruments for attracting applicants than smaller enterprises. The explanation might best be sought in the more readily available financial and human resources in larger companies. Far more interesting insights into company search behaviour can be derived from the findings on IVET-related attributes. Thus both the level of the preferred prior school attainment in the target group and the number of training places to be filled have crystallised out as drivers of recruitment intensity. Both findings can be interpreted as indications that companies are trying to manage the increasing competition for (the best) “heads” by means of a broad-ranging market presence.

With regard to the orientation of company recruitment activities, the not entirely surprising finding that medium-sized and large enterprises tend towards indirect search strategies suggests the following conclusion: indirect recruitment generally involves a high degree of formalisation. The offer of training places must be specified in writing accompanied by various details, sometimes also with graphic design, irrespective of whether they are intended for publication on the Internet or in print media. To accomplish this not only requires human and financial resources but also a certain level of professional know-how. These prerequisites are most commonly found in larger companies, since they normally maintain an in-house human resources department with appropriately qualified employees. While indirect recruitment instruments achieve broader diffusion, there is only limited control as to whether the intended target group is actually reached. This may be one reason why skilled crafts enterprises – irrespective of size – tend to prefer direct recruitment strategies. These permit a particular clientele to be addressed specifically, which often leads more rapidly and straightforwardly to the conclusion of a contract than the indirect route (cf. ZIMMERMANN 2009, p. 203). This can be an advantage especially where there are demand problems, which is a particular issue for the skilled crafts.

Contrary to expectations, it could not be ascertained that difficulties in filling training places have impacts on recruitment behaviour as such, either in terms of intensity or strategy. Possibly this kind of problem only comes to bear in combination with additional external parameters. However, it may also be that companies faced with difficulties filling vacancies do not so often respond by employing more different instruments but rather by altering the content that they are transmitting via the instruments in order to convince young people to take up their offer of IVET. An examination of these assumptions must be reserved for further studies, since the BIBB Training Panel did not include questions on the arguments with which companies approach prospective trainees.

  • 1 According to the old definition (cf. Flemming/Granath 2011, p. 8)
  • 2 Due to the form of contact made, direct recruitment routes are also referred to as informal and indirect routes as formal.
  • 3 The BIBB Training Panel is accessible through the Research Data Centre of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB-FDZ) for scientific analyses (www.bibb.de/qp).
  • 4 Speculative applications were not taken into account since companies do nothing actively to attract them and thus they are not recruitment instruments in the sense implied here.
  • 5 Here and subsequently: including Forestry and Agriculture
  • 6 In relation to the use of introductory training schemes, it should be borne in mind that these are a measure supported under Book III of the German Social Code and governed by quotas (cf. www.arbeitsagentur.de/web/content/DE/Unternehmen/Ausbildung/Ausbildungsvorbereitung/Einstiegsqualifizierung/index.htm; last accessed: 22.08.2014).
  • 7 Thus, for example, reporting vacant apprenticeship places to the public employment agency in conjunction with offering introductory training schemes is one of the most frequently occurring combinations, although in fact, this combination is only found in around 3.5 per cent of companies.
  • 8 Surveys for 2011 to 2014 can be downloaded from http://www.dihk.de/themenfelder/aus-und-weiterbildung/ausbildung/ausbildungspolitik/umfragen-und-prognosen/dihk-ausbildungsumfrage (last accessed: 22.08.2014).


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    Arbeitsmarkt in Zahlen. Ausbildungsmarktstatistik. Bewerber und Berufsausbildungsstellen 1997/98 bis 2009/2010 [Labour market in figures. Training market statistics. Applicants and IVET places 1997/98 to 2009/2010].
    Nürnberg 2010
    Arbeitsmarkt in Zahlen. Ausbildungsmarktstatistik. Bewerber und Berufsausbildungsstellen. Analysedaten. Berichtsjahr 2012/2013. September 2013 [Labour market in figures. Training market statistics. Applicants and IVET places. Analysis data. Reporting year 2012/2013].
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    Betriebliche Ausbildungsstrategien im demografischen Wandel. Ergebnisse einer Untersuchung kleinerer und mittlerer Unternehmen in Ostdeutschland [In-company IVET strategies in demographic change. Results of a study of small and medium-sized enterprises in eastern Germany].
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    Rekrutierung von Auszubildenden – Betriebliches Rekrutierungsverhalten im Kontext des demografischen Wandels. Erste Ergebnisse aus Betriebsinterviews [Recruitment of trainees – company recruitment behaviour in the context of demographic change. First results from company interviews]
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    Unbesetzte Ausbildungsplätze – warum Betriebe erfolglos bleiben. Ergebnisse des BIBB-Ausbildungsmonitors. BIBB REPORT Heft 10 [Unfilled training places – why companies remain unsuccessful. Results of the BIBB Training Monitor].
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    In: ULMER, P.; ULRICH, J. G. (Hrsg.): Der demografische Wandel und seine Folgen für die Sicherung des Fachkräftenachwuchses. Wissenschaftliche Diskussionspapiere des Bundesinstituts für Berufsbildung [BIBB Academic Research Discussion Papers], Heft 106: Bonn 2008, S. 9–28
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Volume 8, Issue 3, October 2014
ISSN Internet: 1866-7279
ISSN Print: 1865-0821

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