HR factory Alumni Series: Jens Simmeth

Jens, how did you become an HR specialist?

A bit of a detour, actually. I had once learned a trade. My parents had a car dealership, which is why I first completed an apprenticeship as a car mechanic and could theoretically still repair cars. But even then I realized that I actually wanted to have more to do with people.

I simply enjoyed the customer contact more than the screwing. This tendency was then consolidated during my time as a waiter and bartender. At the same time, I started a traditional apprenticeship and ended up at HR factory this way.

I didn’t actually have HR on my agenda at the time, but it just clicked from day one – both with HR factory and with the content and the value-oriented cooperation in general.

What projects and tasks characterized your early years in HR?

With HR factory, we had one major customer from the software industry in particular. My first job was in applicant management, recording and digitizing application documents, coordinating appointments and things like that.

But that was just the start. Later, as team leader, I managed the whole issue of fixed-term employment contracts at the client and, together with my team, provided technical support for over 250 fixed-term employees. At that time, we were operating in an employer market and had to churn through large numbers of candidates. We already had a great tool at our disposal back then, but things like CV parsing didn’t even exist yet.

In any case, I was able to learn a lot from this large customer and various smaller projects and had a very steep learning curve.


Sounds pretty exciting! What happened next for you?

Fortunately for me, HR factory gave me the opportunity to get to know HR on a broad scale. I could have chosen the path of a specialist, as some of my colleagues did, but for me the appeal lay more in understanding HR holistically.

That’s why I then spent a year at a telecommunications company where I was allowed to look after young talents. That was super exciting. I also studied business administration and human resources management. It was really worthwhile because it broadened your horizons and also gave you an understanding of topics such as corporate management, company structures, legal matters, balance sheets and so on. In the overall context, it really helps to understand the business context and strategic aspects as an HR professional. In discussions with the finance department, the management or the legal department, this simply gives you a different standing.

In your experience, how was and is HR perceived by these departments in return?

In most cases, others are totally open to HR. Nevertheless, people sometimes overlook how technical HR can be. Personnel deployment planning, forecasting, budgets and many small operational matters are just as much a part of this as the human aspects.

Basically, the image of HR has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years. I also think it’s good that people are increasingly talking about people and culture, because people are not just resources.

Ultimately, HR is simply multi-layered. One second you have to jump into this topic, the next into a completely different one, and then success is often difficult to measure. Such factors ensure that the psychological strain in HR can be really high.


How do you deal with it personally? Is this kind of challenge what drives you?

Yes, it is precisely this tension that drives me. I am a person with emotions, who likes to laugh and work in a team. But I also want to and can shape things and make decisions, even if they are not always nice. Being a colleague who is close to people and at the same time a decision-maker on business issues is not a contradiction for me.

Ultimately, showing emotions and being authentic helped me tremendously to build trust, which I often got back in return as an advance.

I have tried to remain true to my convictions and ideas to this day, which has worked well for me so far. People are as individual as their needs. Families, life planning or sometimes (not) self-chosen life situations. That’s why I think it’s incredibly important not to lose sight of people and their personal needs despite all the business requirements and economic success.