#ZEWPodcast: What Does a Human Resources Manager Do in Research?


ZEW Podcast with Ann-Kathrin Daubner

Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable and can be productive and creative – that’s the aim of Ann-Kathrin Daubner, who has been heading the HR department at ZEW since February 2023. In the latest ZEW podcast episode, she delves into her strategies for achieving this, shares how her passion for archery bolsters her approach, and reveals her reservations about traditional cover letters. Additionally, she discusses with podcast host Bastian Thüne the distinctive facets and current challenges that come with working in HR at a research institute.


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Trends and developments in the world of work, such as the importance of a healthy work-life balance and workforce shortages, also echo through ZEW’s recruitment procedures. Consequently, Daubner affirms the need for inventive recruitment: “We need to get creative to attract fresh talents.” Her blueprint for success involves adept personnel management techniques – embracing flat hierarchies, flexible and remote work alternatives, and transparent communication, all amalgamating to position ZEW as an alluring employer.

For ZEW as a research institute, these measures are crucial as they promote knowledge and continuous learning. Through open exchange and spirited debates, even those of a more rigorous nature, research questions and projects emerge. Daubner attributes the indispensable traits of patience, equanimity, and unwavering focus, requisite for these multifaceted HR initiatives, to her cherished pastime – archery. “You often have to take a step back, take a deep breath, and then fully concentrate on the task at hand.”

Facts at a glance instead of motivational letters

From the applicants, she primarily seeks one thing: “A solid application is one that’s complete, well-organised in format, and ideally offers a strong response tailored to the specific job listing. The goal is for the professional suitability of an application to be apparent at a quick scan. HR personnel often have a heavy workload, so passing that initial assessment swiftly is crucial.” Motivational letters, however, don’t hold much sway for her. They have “undoubtedly lost their potency, especially considering how AI can now generate such letters. I predict the decline of motivational letters.”

Gaining practical experience

Drawing from her own career trajectory, she offers advice for anyone intrigued by a career in HR. It was during her practical semester that she truly became passionate about recruitment, and she suggests that individuals “consider doing an internship within the HR field to gain a firsthand perspective on whether the role truly aligns with expectations.” This practical experience might even take precedence over immediately pursuing a master’s degree. Presently, she is undertaking her master’s studies in human resources and organisation while concurrently working – a course of action that is strongly endorsed by ZEW.