The pitfalls of cross-border recruitment - Business Works
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The pitfalls of cross-border recruitment

by Doug Mackay, MD, Collingwood Executive Recruitment The world is growing ever smaller. The internet, technological advances, improved transportation links and fewer border restriction have made it easier than ever for businesses to choose where they operate from and where they expand to.

In turn, the global recruitment market is growing as employers from all over the world seek to harness international talent as part of their development and growth strategies.

However, as Doug Mackay, Collingwoods MD explains, "In business, crossing country borders isnt simply about the geography, it comes with many other ramifications. There are obvious barriers to deal with such as the language and the local monetary, tax and legal systems. But its also important to understand local consumer habits."

"Many businesses have made expensive mistakes by not taking local variations into account. The internet is full of stories, often cringe worthy and amusing, about how businesses got it very wrong."

"There are also differences surrounding recruitment and finding the best person for the job. We have been involved in numerous projects across diverse cultural backgrounds, including a growing request for borderless recruitment, where the only stipulation is finding the best person for the job, regardless of location."

Each stage of the recruitment process is full of areas, good and bad, where cultural differences come into play. How can companies recruit through this 'cultural noise' to judge the real quality or otherwise of candidates?

Guidelines for successful recruitment across cultures

  • Be aware that cultural differences exist and they may be subtle. Start by questioning your own cultural make-up, think about how it differs from others. Cultural differences go beyond national stereotypes.

  • Thoroughly research the country in which youre working. Investigate behavioural styles, values, class systems and beliefs relative to other cultures. This is key if you are looking to find someone who is going to relocate as part of the recruitment package.

    For example, you are going to run into difficulties if that fantastic candidate for the Dubai role isnt married to his long-term partner who plans to relocate with him!

  • Appreciate the importance of sensitivity to national communication patterns, the impact of what is said, or not said, can be totally different from the intent. For example, in parts of Greece and Bulgaria where a shake of the head doesnt mean no.

  • LinkedIn is a great way to identify candidates, but some countries favour other social media platforms. One example is Xing, which is popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

  • Communicating company culture, values and role objectives can be a major challenge to businesses and their recruiters. Potential employees can react in quite different ways to incentives and motivation.

    When IKEA was recruiting in France they ran into a cross-cultural problem. The company likes to recruit people who share IKEA values. But HR were stumped when trying to find a French translation of the word 'humbleness', which is one of their key values.

  • Keep cultural differences in mind when reviewing CVs too. There can be a whole world of different values hidden under the surface of the words which makes us misinterpret what is said.

    Americans are brought up to sell themselves, so in CVs they may appear boastful and even dishonest to an extremely modest culture like the Finns. This may lead HR professionals to misjudge a perfectly sound American candidate. The same thing can happen in reverse.

  • Remember that everyday phrases dont necessarily translate when interviewing candidates. Think about the literal translation of what youre saying.

  • Consider that pay structures and benefit packages differ from country to country. If youre comparing a candidates current salary to one on offer in another part of the world, you need to consider more than their take-home pay.

    In a relocation to the Middle East, the tax incentive may be a really attractive selling point, but bear in mind the living costs. Other countries have national percentage pay rise schemes and benefit packages which may, in the long-run, be better than a short-term gain.

  • When using a recruitment company to help you in your search for talented candidates, ensure you use a company with proven experience. This doesnt necessarily mean a recruitment company that has offices in the recruitment location. In fact, using local recruiters can sometimes mean your requirements are lost in translation.

For more information about Collingwood Executive Recruitment, please visit:

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