So… you’d like to hire some really good employees for your new project, but somehow it turns out that your candidate pool is very diverse culturally, including people from all over the world who are interested in that role. You review the applications, you interview them all and although you’re impressed by many of the international candidates you end up hiring your ‘typical’ local profile anyway. It’s easier. You get on well with them. You understand their background. You understand their CV and you can compare their experiences against your own. I totally understand. What if you broaden your thinking a little bit though and reconsider the international candidates?
In the last post the candidates had the chance to read more about how they can prepare their applications so that they’re easier to read and digest by employers. Today, I’d like to talk more about what the employers might do to make the international candidates more at ease and get the best out of them during the recruiting process.
You might work in a small company or in a corporation. Doesn’t matter. In today’s open world it is very likely that at some point in your career you will need to deal with international applicants, wherever in the world you might be. Even in rural areas, you might want to make a decision on whether you want to work with a Polish or Italian (or any other national) volunteer. What do you need to know then to make a fair and successful decision?
Look for the skills
Many employers make the mistake of focusing on personal aspects of candidate’s application, especially in smaller companies they simply want to like the person and be able to get on well with them. Of course you need to get on well with your employees and if you’re building the team you need to look out for good team fit. But you might want to do it in a more structured way which will ensure that the candidate will have all the necessary ‘soft skills’ to fit in as well as the technical skills to actually perform the job well. It is really hard to have a colleague you like very much, but who is struggling to get the job done. Building a team then and developing the employees can be challenging then.
Ok, so to the point:
Define what skills does the future employee need to have.
Start broad – for example, good communication, should know some Excel, data analysis skills, customer service skills. But d o n o t stop here! You need to define what a ‘good customer service skill’ is – is it just that they can speak English, call people by their first name, need to have a record of X number of customers that have come back to them or any other specific aspect? Or what does ‘knowing some Excel’ mean in the case of that position – is it just being able to sum up the cells with a formula or maybe being capable of analysing data with pivots, doing lookups or complicated analysis documents with multiple active cells? And so on, continue until you get to the bottom of what the candidate actually needs to know or show in the recruiting process.
Ideally you can put a number on there and try to quantify your interview assessment report. Eg. Used the customer’s name 4+ times during a role play = 3 points, 2-3 times = 2 points etc. or for example: 1 and less mistakes in Excel data analysis = 3 points, 2-3 mistakes = 2 points etc. Depending on the exercise/question/role play the numbers and values will of course differ so you need to prepare a separate scale for each question/exercise. Assess all candidates using the same tools and questions, asking for examples of the same situations, asking them to do the same exercise. Only then you can have a clean conscience that you have done your best to assure equal chances to all of them and eliminate at least some of the biases that would influence your hiring decisions.
Disregard cultural influences on the CV
What I mean by that is to not assess the CVs through the lens of your own view on the world. In my let’s call it ‘western’ culture, at the beginning of my career, I was always taught that you can’t have any gaps in your CV, that it looks unprofessional and if you do, you need to explain it and make sense of it to the recruiters while applying. As a young person and applicant without much experience I just took this advice for granted. Stupid.
Then quickly it turned out that it’s not the case everywhere in the world. When I was recruiting for customer support roles in Manila, Philippines (still being based in Poland) the advice I was given by my colleague based in the Philippines was that I need to probably overlook the gaps that are 0-4 months long in the CVs of those applicants. Turns out that due to the geographical location of the country, there are sadly quite a few natural disasters like floods happening once in a while and especially in some parts of the country people just stop working and go back to their families to help deal with the damages. Notice that my Manila colleague showed a great deal of cultural awareness here! Otherwise I would be unaware of that situation in that part of the world and would assess the CV through my European lens. Maybe even rejecting those candidates with multiple gaps straight away? Thanks to her I learnt some more about how recruiting there might look like. Including the fact that sometimes running a phone interview with a candidate during their commute, in a public bus, can be a normal thing. Took me a while to adjust 🙂
The above is just an example. The CVs around the world might look so differently. Some of them might have pictures, some of them might not. Some might have all personal information, address, parent’s name in there and some might not. Some might have height, weight, religion, political views on there and some might not. Of course, I agree that candidates should also make the effort to adjust their CV slightly to the standards in the given country, but if they don’t, as a self-aware employer please don’t punish them for that. Instead, read their CV looking out for the relevant experiences and skills that you have initially listed (see point number 1 above!).
You might find some CVs funny, you might even call them weird. Comment on them or laugh if that’s your natural reaction, sure! But please reflect afterwards and stay professional by looking at the candidates’ skills.
Be open during the interviews
With this point again it is important not to bring your own world into the interview. Of course, in many cases you might expect the candidates to be able to understand the local culture, know the language, be able to build relationships with local clients and some candidates due to their lack of experiences in a given country might simply not yet have enough skills to fill your position. And that’s ok. You might however try to understand their previous experiences first.
The example that I can give you from my experience is the difference in education systems that requires me to explain myself not only during the application process, but also during casual conversations with new friends. Namely, a lot of people in Poland work alongside their studies and they can work a lot. I happened to work in recruiting for 25-40 hours a week (depending on the term or holiday periods), for three last years of my studies. My roles had various names: ‘intern’, ‘assistant’, ‘researcher’. All of which in the countries I was applying to were slightly disregarded as an experience and considered ‘just an internship’. I consider it a valid work experience (ok ok, not full-time employment technically, but working for three years though so I learnt a lot), running end to end recruiting processes. The fact that for example in the UK, many internships are only 2-3 month summer internships and can’t be done alongside your studies, created the need for me to have to explain my experience each time I was talking to someone not familiar with the Polish system.
As an employer, try not to asses the experiences by the job name or age of the applicant or where they’re from. Ask for examples of specific situations where they showed the skills you’re looking for. Then ask for more to make sure that they have consistently been showing that skill. Try not to rush hiring a person who you might be simply impressed by because you can’t do something yourself. Reflect and compare the skills of all candidates you’ve talked to. Don’t let your personal biases affect your decision. What might be the examples of such biases? Well, maybe you consider males better for the role you recruit for; maybe you are impressed by people who have run a marathon; maybe you met a person who went travelling around South America for 3 months and you really want to do it too so you’ve had a great conversation about it and you forgot that this person completely did not have skills relevant to the job you’re recruiting for? Watch out for those!
Read the previous post as well and take a look at the interview section of it. Bear in mind that people from various cultures might have various preferences towards small talk or feedback for example. Adjust your behaviour accordingly. Don’t punish someone for being maybe a bit more quiet, because it might be that they come from a place where the appeal to authority is very strong and it is a weird thing for them to chit chat with their future manager during the interview. Respect that.
I’d like to encourage you to broaden your candidate pool cause it might be that you’re missing out on talent! By trying to understand each individual history, regardless of where people are from, what cultures they’re from, you will give yourself a chance to find some very talented people, maybe also from outside of the country you are currently in.
Where are you currently based? What industry do you work in? Are you open to international applications? What are your biases?