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"New characters are always a welcome addition"

by Bärbel Broer

Chemicals, plastics, refining products, pesticides, oil and gas: BASF operates in all these fields. The global player employs approximately 111,000 people at 370 production sites around the world. What can natural scientists who seek to embark on a career with this industry giant expect? Dr. Franca Tiarks, who holds a doctorate in chemistry and is responsible for recruiting natural scientists at BASF in Europe, has the answers.

"New characters are always a welcome addition"© BASFDr. Franca Tiarks is responsible for recruiting natural scientists in Europe at BASF
academics: How would you describe the situation in the labour market for natural scientists?

Franca Tiarks: BASF isn't having any difficulty finding young talent yet. But the search for suitable applicants is becoming increasingly complex - both when it comes to hiring trainees and when recruiting graduates. In some specialist disciplines we sometimes have to spend quite a bit of time searching for the right candidates.

academics: Which natural scientists are you specifically looking for?

Franca Tiarks: We are looking for natural scientists in almost all disciplines and specialisms, for example chemists, physicists, mathematicians, biologists, agricultural scientists or geologists are always of interest to us.

academics: Are there certain disciplines where you are already seeing a skills shortage?

Franca Tiarks: Particularly in the engineering sciences and regarding specialists in IT we are starting to feel the shrinking market. We are also seeing increased competition for the brightest talents in BASF-typical disciplines such as process engineering and chemical engineering. Our great advantage is that as a globally operating company we can offer specialist staff attractive prospects. There is barely a country in the world where we aren't represented and seeking to recruit new staff. We already employ talents from around the world - people from 80 different countries work for BASF SE.

academics: Are there industry trends for natural scientists?

Franca Tiarks: Of course it's helpful if applicants have specialised in the fields most relevant to out work, such as organic electronics, wind energy, water treatment or white biotechnology. But I wouldn't say that graduates of particular subjects are currently preferred, as these focuses can quickly change.

"New characters are always a welcome addition" © BASF The core of the BASF Group is BASF SE with its headquarters in Ludwigshafen on the Rhine. With over 160 chemical production facilities, hundreds of laboratories, technical centres, workshops and offices it is one of the largest contiguous industrial complexes in Europe
academics: What qualifications are you particularly looking for?

Franca Tiarks: Alongside their specialist discipline, when recruiting graduates we are especially interested in applicants' personalities. This includes characteristics such as determination, the ability to act entrepreneurially, intercultural orientation and communication skills. There is no universal rule: we see a wide range of different characters in our company as a welcome enhancement. But work experience, time spent abroad and good grades are an advantage.

academics: What do you expect of the natural scientists who apply to work with you?

Franca Tiarks: In addition to an above-average university degree, we expect natural scientists who want to start working in research to have successfully completed a doctorate that worked towards solving a comprehensive scientific issue. By having a doctorate in an applied science and by having extended and deepened their expertise through postdoc positions abroad, a candidate can make their applications more attractive. Applicants who want to start working outside research at BASF are expected to have an above-average university degree. Practice-related work experience, for example in the form of work placements, is always beneficial.

academics: Could you describe how salaries work at BASF?

Franca Tiarks: Salaries at BASF SE have included performance- and success-related components for about ten years now. The level of these annual one-off payments is dependent on an employee's individual performance and on the economic success of the company. For staff covered by collective bargaining agreements, monthly remuneration consists of a salary according to pay scale plus any location- or time-related supplements and allowances. In addition, all such employees receive an annual bonus of 95% of their monthly salary in November of each year, and an individual profit share in May, the level of which depends on the economic success of BASF and the individual employee's performance over the previous year. Remuneration for employees not subject to collective bargaining agreements consists of two components, a fixed monthly salary and a variable bonus. The bonus is performance- and success-related. The volume for the overall budget of this bonus is based on the total return on assets of the BASF Group - as it is for the bonus paid to pay scale employees. The individual bonus amount depends on the performance of the individual employee.

About BASF

BASF employs approximately 50,000 people in Germany alone, the majority of them at the company's headquarters in Ludwigshafen. Worldwide, about 111,000 people work for the industry giant at 370 production sites. In 2011, BASF achieved a turnover of 73.5bn euros. But even this global player is gradually beginning to feel the skills shortage. To remain attractive to employees in the future, the company is currently setting up a centre for Work-Life Management in Ludwigshafen which will offer all its staff a wide range of services relating to work and family life, sports and healthcare, and social and care advisory. With this concept, which according to BASF is currently unique, the company hopes to even better meet the needs of its employees in various phases of their life. The new Centre for Work-Life Management is expected to open in the third quarter of 2013.
academics: How do natural scientists start their careers at your company?

Franca Tiarks: The majority of career entrants usually start as laboratory managers in research. Natural scientists with previous professional experience have numerous other options: they could join us as experts in application engineering, analytics and quality management, technology and registration, product security and environmental protection, in the fields of knowledge management and patents, and in marketing and sales.

academics: What opportunities for career development do natural scientists have at BASF?

Franca Tiarks: To ensure that every employee has the same opportunities to develop, BASF operates a systematic development and succession-planning programme based on the staff appraisals that take place annually. It includes a wide range of possibilities: BASF offers positions in Germany and abroad. Every employee can intensively explore various fields of work: job rotation and job enrichment are, therefore, core components of the development programme. But it is also important - as both internal and external surveys have shown - that professional development is not only about career advancement, but can also take other paths. Specifically, a career does not necessarily entail a hierarchical rise through the ranks. Project responsibility or expert careers are becoming increasingly important.

academics: Does having a doctorate affect salary?

Franca Tiarks: We determine salary by market-, role- and performance-related factors. A doctorate, therefore, does not automatically mean a higher salary.

academics: What does BASF do to encourage a better work-life balance?

Franca Tiarks: In order to remain successful in international competition, attract the brightest and best to our company and retain them in the long term it is especially important to BASF to align the requirements of the job with employees' individual requirements. That means that BASF supports greater flexibility with regard to working hours and location, for example allowing staff to work part-time or partly work from home, i.e. teleworking and mobile working. Where circumstances allow, we also offer sabbaticals for defined periods.

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academics :: March 2013