#AskTheBoss: Volker Bernhardt


If a company invites you for an interview, then you’ve cleared the first hurdle in the application process. So how do you prepare? And what makes your future boss tick? The #AskTheBoss series answers these questions while providing a sneak peek into different departments.

Today we talk to Volker Bernhardt, Director FactField at BurdaVerlag.

FactField was founded in 2020, a research institute for well-founded data collection and analysis. Your analyses are used as the basis for the Focus doctor list, clinic recommendations and studies on top employers, among other things. How do your studies help people?

FactField was set up to enable independent, useful and high-quality data journalism. We support people as they make truly important life decisions and help them to navigate otherwise impenetrable markets: Which doctor or clinic should I visit for my chronic pain? Do they offer good outpatient rehabilitation? Which employer is the right fit for me? We are passionate about working with data. And most people in Germany know and trust the Focus media brand.

You’ve been with Burda for nine years – how would you describe its spirit?

I’ve actually known the company for much longer than that – when I was 20, I was lucky enough to get an internship in the publishing department. I even met Hubert Burda himself. I found his personality fascinating because I was a publisher too, although on a much smaller scale. My project was a city newspaper in Darmstadt. And one thing that hasn’t changed is that no two days at Burda are the same. In all these years, I’ve never suffered from “boreout”. I’m excited by the entrepreneurial spirit that the company both demands and encourages. We’re not just cogs in a huge system; we all take responsibility for business activities in our respective units. Personally, I’ve always felt that Burda is open to doing new things and never standing still. I really value this willingness to take calculated risks. This is why we’ve grown so successfully in recent years. There are 25 people in our team and we’re currently looking for 10 new colleagues.

What makes FactField an attractive employer?

Our superb teamwork and particularly high concentration of colleagues who are both experts and excellent people. We are very successful, have created 80 jobs since we were founded and bring together experts in their respective fields: IT, data science, research and project management. The advantages of Burda in general and FactField in particular are our high degree of autonomy, significant creative freedom and entrepreneurial spirit.

It’s all about data: what makes an applicant suitable for a job as a research analyst, data scientist, full stack developer or as a project manager for research, market research, data collection and data science?

No matter their department, they need to enjoy working with data. They should be organised and have great conceptual skills. Also an open mindset, an affinity for IT and an interest in new developments in our growing field. The majority of our team members have pursued an academic path and completed a doctorate that has provided them with methodological skills. If you want to join the Health team, it’s helpful to have an affinity for the health sector: many of my colleagues have already gained experience in healthcare research, clinical research or with stakeholders such as the “Medizinischer Dienst” medical advisory service. Expertise in market and opinion research are especially beneficial in our Business team. Successful applicants to the IT and Data Science teams must fulfil a particular “tech stack”, which means they are well versed in certain tools and programming languages. Apart from purely specialist qualifications, it’s crucial that an applicant actually explains why they want to work for Burda and FactField and why they want this specific job. It might sound obvious, but many applicants fail to do this. If someone shows that they know our company and their motivation for applying is clear, then that’s a big fat plus in our book.

What do you look for in an application? And what is your application process like?

When looking at an application, I always consider the bigger picture and whether the applicant connects with the position on offer. Is the applicant a good fit for us and why are they applying for this job specifically? We invite applicants to two interviews shortly after receiving their documents. These interviews are always conducted by two FactField experts. This gives us a well-rounded impression. We also require coding tests for some departments (IT, Data Science). In other cases we ask applicants to complete case studies, which we send out a week or so before the interview and then discuss on the day. This tells us about an applicant’s attitude and approach.

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be authentic and open. Be well prepared and demonstrate a keen interest in our projects and in FactField. Suggest some improvements that we could make. Stay curious!

What qualities would your dream candidate have, aside from expertise?

We have four criteria when hiring new people: 1) Does the candidate have the right professional qualifications? 2) Would we send them to one of our data partners or customers by themselves? 3) Do they raise the level of the whole team? And 4) would we go for a drink (or two) with them at the pub around the corner?

What are your top tips for career starters?

Try out lots of things and trust your inclinations. The only way that I’m going to be really good at something and enjoy a fulfilling career is if I am truly passionate about it.

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Volker Bernhardt, Director FactField at BurdaVerlag (c) HBM

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