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Jeroen De Bie is the lead recruiter for the Healthy Living unit at TNO, and is also partly responsible for the Traffic & Transport unit’s recruitment and selection. One reason he enjoys his job is its direct social impact: his work is tied directly to the health and employability of people in the Netherlands, and to the flow of traffic in Europe.
‘In the Healthy Living unit, we all share one goal: to make the Netherlands healthier and more productive. But there are two distinct areas of focus. On one hand, we address the social sciences, which explores issues like burnout and inclusivity, among other things. I’m looking for psychologists and sociologists, but also health and sports scientists.
On the other hand, we explore the technological side, with laboratory research on things like metabolic health, pharmaceutical development and the health risks of certain substances. I’m looking for chemists and biologists, but also those who have a background in complex systems or biotechnology.
‘I also work for two departments in the Traffic & Transport unit. In The Hague, the policy side is the primary focus. For instance modelling traffic flows and research into the effect of autonomous vehicles on traffic. The logistics for water systems and railway traffic also play a role here, and we collaborate in part with the Port of Rotterdam on those.
At the automotive campus in Helmond, you get to see research and innovation at the vehicle level. The topics covered there include safety research, self-driving cars and emissions. In fact, TNO’s work is partially responsible for bringing “Dieselgate” to light!’
‘The great mix of backgrounds and profiles makes my job really fun. And recruiting for these two units is certainly different. In the social sciences part, I sometimes have 100 qualified applicants for a junior vacancy. Totally different than the situation of my fellow recruiters, who deal with scarcity in the labour market. Their focus is more on recruitment, and mine is more on selection.
‘I’ve been working at TNO since December 2018, and I’ve been able to recruit a lot of talent since then. That’s how I’ve gotten to know the departments and the work even better. I’m a little out of my depth when it comes to very technical questions about, for example, specific techniques or methodologies: my background is work and organisational psychology. But the subject matter is tremendously interesting to me, precisely because it has so much social impact. So when I’m asked to recruit for a very technical role, I am ready for the challenge.
‘After I finished college, I spent a year studying HR Management at the Antwerp Management School. Then I went to work at a bank. My first role was a broad HR position, and then I spent three years in recruitment and selection. It was certainly very different from TNO!
‘How did I get here? I’ve always lived and worked in Antwerp, but I moved to Leiden to be with my love. As a Belgian, I didn’t know about TNO, but while searching for work I quickly discovered the organisation. I was really drawn to TNO’s way of working: connecting people and knowledge to create innovation. I was also ready for the challenge of looking for top scientists. Another important difference: at that bank, I was the only recruiter. Here, I have more than 10 colleagues in roles similar to mine!’
‘I like to visit each department and hear about the innovative projects my colleagues are working on. What strikes me about TNO’s people is the passion and enthusiasm they have for their research area. I’ll also be looking for that same passion in you. I’ll be the first to tell you that TNO is a highly collaborative organisation. If you can’t work together, you’ll have a difficult time. Because together, we develop broader and better ideas.
‘And if you ask me why I chose TNO for myself, I’ll tell you that I have a lot of autonomy and responsibility here. TNO is not a hierarchical organisation. The HR department is self-organising. And I get the room to do projects in addition to my direct recruitment work. Things like creating an online assessment tool or a referral project, through which TNO employees can use their network and introduce interesting candidates.’
‘I always look at the big picture. I don’t just look at whether your experience and talents match our needs, but also whether your motivations suit TNO. We are looking for people who strive for social impact, and not those who focus purely on technology. You must also be a team player and capable of convincing others of your passion.
‘Do I have any tips? Well, I prefer someone who is authentic and unique, as opposed to someone who simply tells me what they think I want to hear. We are open and diverse enough to deal with differences. I encourage you to be critical and openly discuss any doubts you may have. Ask yourself whether TNO can also offer you what you are looking for. That’s how the most valuable matches happen.’