SAP SE, the German software company with more than 13,000 employees in the U.S., is competing with Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. for top Silicon Valley graduates the old-fashioned way: a face-to-face pitch.

“Not a lot of companies are doing that anymore, this is where you gain traction,” Stefan Ries, SAP’s personnel chief, said today at Bloomberg’s Berlin office. “People want to see you and talk to you and that hopefully makes the difference.”

Helping lead the charge will be Quentin Clark, a Microsoft Corp. veteran who started this week as SAP’s chief technology officer and will be based in Palo Alto. Nabbing talent from Stanford University and other California campuses is crucial as SAP tries to gain an edge over big technology peers as well as startups, Ries said.

Silicon Valley is one of the most competitive places to vie for new employees. A Glassdoor Inc. report in May showed that technology companies made up 12 of the top 25 companies for compensation and benefits in the U.S., with most of those based in northern California. Google placed first on the list, and Facebook came third.

SAP Chief Executive Officer Bill McDermott this year accelerated a shift into the new business fields as revenue from traditional software suites installed on customers’ premises drops off faster than initially expected. CTO Clark’s mandate also includes shaping SAP’s technology push after the departure of development chief Vishal Sikka in May.

Investors Skeptical

Investors have been skeptical whether the company can successfully manage its transition into Web-based software amid intensifying competition with Salesforce.com Inc. and Workday Inc. The shares are down 15 percent this year, valuing SAP at 65.3 billion euros ($81 billion).

The shift to cloud computing has also prompted about 2,000 positions to be eliminated, forcing Ries to oversee the company’s first major job reduction in five years.

SAP’s last attempt to pare its workforce didn’t go down smoothly at its headquarters in Walldorf, a town south of Frankfurt. Former CEO Leo Apotheker’s plan to cut 3,000 jobs in 2009 caused a plunge in morale and helped accelerate his exit.

This time, about 30 percent of the affected people have already been moved to new posts internally, according to Ries. The ratio could rise to as high as 70 percent after the company reaches a deal with labor representatives in Germany and France, the personnel chief said.

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