I have been working in recruiting for over four years now, dealing with international applications from all over the world for over three. What I keep seeing and hearing when talking to other recruiters though is that both during the initial selection process as well as interviews the cultural differences have their impact. And it’s not always a good one. And this is why I think it shouldn’t go unnoticed.
In this article, I’d like to share a couple of thoughts on the recruiters’ perspective on hiring international candidates, selection, as well as a couple of tips for global candidates on how to better prepare for the international hiring process. Hopefully it will be helpful to see various perspectives, especially for those of you who know the hassle of looking for a job in a foreign country or are looking to relocate abroad.
Just to start with – that perspective obviously depends on the country, city, company, role… However there usually are a couple of things in common that recruiters/hiring managers look for in the candidates.
One and I think main one is that we’d like the successful offeree to stay with the company for longer than just a year or two, ideally, and develop within the organization, taking on various more and more responsible roles. Therefore most companies do take into consideration candidates’ motivations a) to take on the job itself and b) (which concerns the international applicants) to move to that given location. Often they look for some clues in candidates’ experiences, education, background on the CV, that would indicate some kind of connection to the place.
Business model and the essential skills
Why do the companies look for people who know at least something about the place they’re applying to? Well, often the language skills are essential to build good customer relationships, sometimes they’re even essential to have good relationships with your work colleagues and not feel like an outsider. Most of the times these requirements have a reasonable explanation related to the business model that the company operates in.
Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have these obvious links don’t give up! You can always explain it in the personal statement, cover letter or in a 1:1 conversation with the recruiters. The most important thing is that they know your motivations (and, obviously, that you still have the skills needed for the job too 😉 ). I know lots of people who just wanted to try and live in another chosen country for a couple of years, have some new experiences, and they made it. They didn’t know the language or haven’t lived or studied in that country before. However, they had good transferable skills that were essential for the jobs they were applying for and a strong motivation to go there.
Another, perhaps slightly more formal, thing is that not all the companies in the world support their candidates in getting a visa, if such is required for them to legally work in that location. Now that might indeed pose a problem for an international candidate and for some companies leads to losing good candidates because of that.
What to do if you’re applying for jobs in another country?
So given all the above, what can you do as a candidate who wants to relocate and work abroad, outside of the home country to make your application and recruiting process more successful?
Prepare your CV
First of all, try to find out the most common/proper CV format that is used in the country that you are applying to. You can do it by contacting some recruiting agencies, using your friends’ networks or simply googling it.
To give you an example – in many countries (not surprisingly mostly in the ones relationship-based) adding a picture on your CV as well as some detailed interests or additional information (eg. religion or parents’ names) is absolutely normal. It is more about showing your personality, your private-self as well in addition to all the skills you have, you need to establish some sort of a connection with the hiring company. In US or UK, where trust is more task-based, established on the basis of reliability and candidate’s skills, adding picture can often even count against you.
Outline your connections
Another thing that I would suggest making clear in your application, regardless of the location, is your links to that place. Do you know the language? Even if you’re not fully fluent, include the proficiency level in your CV – a lot of companies could still potentially give you a chance if you are a fast-learner and have good skills. Have you had any working relationships or education history within the local culture? Mention them on the CV if so to show that you have had experiences with the local professionals and can imagine what life and work there would look like. Do you have a family, husband, girlfriend, friends in the location? Are you relocating with your partner/children who’s got the job there already? Mention this in your cover letter or in the personal statement on your CV (if applicable to the format of the CV in that location). Probably especially worth mentioning that in relationship-based cultures.
Learn about the culture
Lastly, once you are in the interview stage, make sure you do research the local culture and customs (not only the typical dos and don’ts on how to greet each other – these are often easily forgiven). Do it as you would if you was actually to move there. It may sound as a cliché but it’s actually very important. Make sure you understand how business is done, what is valued in the culture, how the interviews are conducted. For example, in some countries it’s important that the candidate takes a lot of initiative, it’s ok to negotiate [the salary or contract conditions] quite boldly, like in France for example. In other places, like UK for example, uncomfortable situations (like contract-related negotiations) are usually settled down quite quickly, dealt with via email or joked about, or discussed quite indirectly.
Again, to give you an example (maybe slightly exaggerated one…) – in the UK if you’d like to earn more than offered, you would be more likely to say ‘Actually, I do have one question, if I may. While reading the contract I was wondering if it maybe would be possible to increase the salary a little bit. During my interviews I was told that it will most likely be possible. Of course I’d understand if it’s not, but it would be great if you could consider it as this is what I currently earn and it would be great to have more given that this position is also more responsible than my previous one’ – the whole thing is just more apologetic, it feels as if you’re making a fuss to fight for what you have been promised . In more direct cultures, you would probably just ask ‘I can see that the salary mentioned in the contract is not the one I was discussing with my interviewers. Would it be possible to increase it by 10%? Otherwise, I’m afraid I won’t be able to accept it’. It’s not a rule of course that in a typically direct culture you would always be so direct with your requests in any situation, a lot also depends on the company’s organisational culture, but it is just more likely to happen.
Another example might be related to the small talk. In countries like US or UK, the interview situation although still stressful is still more relaxed, I believe. You call people by their first names, they start the interview with a small talk and it all seems like a very friendly non-formal conversation. Seems like – because you’re still assessed against the criteria of the role you’re applying to 😉 And if your networking and small-talk skills are not your strength or you are just naturally more introverted, it might be a difficult situation for you to be in. It can be even more uncomfortable if you’re from a culture that values authority a lot and speaking to a Director or your future manager on the first-name basis might already feel wrong.
Although quite long, I hope that this post provided you with some insights on global recruiting. Fingers crossed for all your applications and successful relocations!