Business success abroad relies on your ability to source the right candidates. So how can you ensure you won’t end up with the cream of the crap?
Every entrepreneur envisions a future where their company reaches an international clientele. In today’s globalised world, that dream may seem closer than ever. But to successfully acquire their spot among the top international superstars they must find the right staff and sourcing talent in a new country isn’t for the faint of heart. “Setting up a team abroad is certainly not without its challenges,” says Luke Smith, CEO and co-founder of Croud, the digital marketing agency and member of entrepreneur group The Supper Club. He knows what he’s talking about. Even though his business only launched back in 2011, the enterprise has become one of Europe’s fastest growing scaleups and today has offices across three continents. And for the 27% of UK SMEs doing some kind of exporting, according to figures from the Institute of Export and International Trade, Smith offers this advice: “No two markets are the same – you need to do your due diligence before launching into a new market and the same goes for starting off any form of recruitment.”
In other words, before you even start looking for the right candidate, you must research any cultural dissimilarities in the new market that risk derailing your recruitment efforts. “We always research the different cultures,” says Katrina Ritchie, head of people and culture at Gripple, the global wire-joining solutions company. For instance, the company recently recruited staff for Gripple’s expansion into Japan and noticed a key difference in the corporate culture across the land of the rising sun – the interviews were more professional and stricter than the kind of informal interviews British executives were accustomed to. Recognising candidates may have reacted negatively towards the company’s regular talent-sourcing methods, Gripple adapted its recruitment to the new market. “We respect the culture and that’s one thing that we always bear in mind,” she says. So change your recruitment process accordingly to what candidates expect from you.
Another cultural consideration is the language barrier. “The majority of candidates will be interviewing with you in their second language and in many cases you have to forfeit the interview dynamic you’ve become accustomed to in your home market and be mindful of local nuances,” says Adam Ludwin, co-founder and chief visionary officer at Captify, global leader in search intelligence and another member of The Supper Club entrepreneur network. Indeed, when the jobs portal Jobs.ac.uk surveyed academic and science recruiters, it discovered that 30.8% found the language barrier to be the hardest one to overcome when recruiting international staff. But it’s not an insurmountable challenge with the right help. “We often ask experts or advisors who have experience in that market of their opinions and to even be part of the interview process,” explains Ludwin.
But cultural considerations aren’t the only obstacles that could keep you from finding the right people for your overseas venture. You must also consider the legal regulations in the new market. “[Employment] practices and customs may be completely different and somewhat alien to you and [you’ll] have to adapt your policies and processes accordingly,” advises Smith. “For instance, ensure you’re aware of the key legal points surrounding what information you’re able to ask for and retain during the recruitment process.” Again, this challenge may be too big to take on yourself so it’s always a good idea to reach out to local experts for aid. “Get a good specialist recruitment partner as well as ideally local or international legal support so you know the framework that you’re able to operate to,” he says. “This applies to all areas of the business, it’s invaluable that you have those specialists to guide you.”
However, once you’ve adapted to the culture and the local laws, you still have to source the right talent for your business. And just like in the UK, that means you have to boost your online presence. “Candidates are well equipped to research your company,” Ludwin says. “Invest early in PR and [ensure] platforms like Glassdoor and social [media] give a clear window into what life is like in your business so that when candidates seek information, they understand your culture and values.” Although, be prepared that your business may be perceived differently by candidates in a new market. “For example, despite being a large EU [company], when we first started our business in the US we were seen as a startup all over again, which made our recruitment process change from country to country,” he says.
Nevertheless, once you’ve figured out how to attract people, the basics of what you should look for don’t change. “The general principles remain the same regardless of market, such as assessing based on skills, experience and fit,” advises Smith. But just because you know what to look for, it’s important to avoid rushing into any snap decisions and ensure you’ve got the right person for the job. “[Take] your time to find the right person, who you feel you can trust and work well with as you won’t always be around on the ground,” Smith says.
While few would scoff at the idea of going abroad for a day or two, doing so just for a few initial interviews could become a pricey and time-consuming endeavour. Fortunately, there are ways to get around that. “Get ready to interview in the virtual world,” Ludwin says. Even though this is a great way to gauge candidates’ suitability, talking with people over the web comes with a few drawbacks. “Skype interviews mean you don’t have a human connection therefore you’ll have to work harder to find common ground,” he warns.
To ensure you’ve got the right people, you have to be particularly thorough when sourcing talent. “References are always crucial but even more so in new markets,” says Ludwin. “Don’t be afraid to quiz them thoroughly.” Again, if you’re already an accomplished recruiter in your native market, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. That means ensuring you’ve got a holistic view of their thinking and if they’d make a great cultural fit.
And when you find the perfect worker for your overseas expansion you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot. “When you find good people make a move fast and don’t let them get away,” Ludwin advises. “For key hires I’m sure are the right fit for the business, I have often personally called them directly to get over any stumbling blocks.”
All these considerations may seem like a whole lot of work and they are. However, all businesses are people businesses and that means the more you prepare the recruitment process the more successful your company will be. “Invest in building the right team abroad,” concludes Smith. “Having the right people on the ground is vital, so invest time and money upfront to set your international business up for success.”