Recruiting Insights: When in Rome, Recruit As the Romans Do

Globalization is here to stay. Many U.S. companies need a new talent management strategy to help them meet their business challenges in the “new normal.”

Companies with operations outside the U.S. must have talent that has a deep understanding of how consumer needs change in each market/country. They must deliver localized products and right branding strategies to customer markets all over the world. They need a diverse and geographically dispersed workforce with intimate knowledge of and capacity to deliver to these different markets.

That means hiring locally in each country.

What recruiting practices work best?

Why hire locals? Locals understand local markets and what customers want. They are able to adapt company selling and marketing techniques to be culturally appropriate in each market.

They also know what changes need to be made in the product or service in order to “fit” the market. To put it another way, they are “street savvy.”

Companies must know what attracts people in different countries when they are looking for jobs. Talent acquisition campaigns need to be tailored based on each country’s target audience. Better knowledge of the target group makes it possible to communicate with and attract them more effectively.


U.S. companies planning to move into China have probably already heard that it’s difficult to find experienced mid-level managers.

Local management skills are in short supply in China. To date, global companies have paid premiums for the international experience of ethnic Chinese managers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. But the cost of these regional expatriate assignments has become very costly. Global companies are realizing that the only alternative is to put considerable effort into the development of local Chinese management — more than they would normally do in other countries.

Chinese individual contributors are particularly attracted to companies that will provide a lot of training and development opportunities. Engineers have been known to work for lower salaries than at competitor companies because of the training they get with their current employer. (This does not apply to all companies!)

The most effective method of recruiting depends on the level of the employee. For entry-level positions, try campus recruiting, employee referrals, corporate web sites and job/bulletin boards. For more experienced positions, use employee referrals and headhunters.


Be prepared for a huge volume of candidates in India. One ad can generate 10,000 applications. Also, be prepared for candidates who have at least one master’s degree, if not two. Indians value education and many times also have multiple certifications.

In India, employees really value a recognized brand, so it greatly helps to be a well-known company. Opportunities to recruit at the leading campuses usually go to the known firms who have the best salaries and training/development.

Employee referrals are the best source of new hires, and employee referral plans exist in most companies.

When interviewing candidates, managers need to ask a lot of questions to uncover a candidate’s true skills. Job titles have been inflated in India as companies try to retain talent. Therefore, don’t assume a certain skill level based on a candidate’s current job title. Managers need to use behavioral interviewing techniques to truly understand a candidate’s true skills.

Latin America

In Latin America, the people are not as willing to relocate. Family relationships are very strong, and at least 90 percent of university students live at home while going to school. People generally stay with their family until they’re married, then move down the block. So asking a candidate if he/she is willing to relocate will usually lead to a negative response.

Except for a select group of upper managers, this makes recruiting a local city activity rather than a country-wide or regional one. Recruiters often find candidates through local career fairs and by advertising in newspapers and specialized magazines. Few companies outside of Brazil and Mexico have their own web sites, although job seekers do use job boards.

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A big difference is in employee referral systems. Although the concept of employee referrals is well received, there is resistance to paying employees for referrals. In Latin America the feeling is that if a company has a strong enough image, it shouldn’t have to offer money for referrals.

Western Europe

It really isn’t a good idea to lump European countries together. One generalization, however, is that government job boards won’t prove to be much help. They’re very big in Europe but the boards are meant for the unemployed, and there are very few white collar jobs.

Private Internet job boards are a better bet, especially if a company brand is well-known. A good company brand is also helpful at job fairs and universities.

Workers at the beginning of their career especially want to know what advancement possibilities a company offers and what leadership or special management programs are available. It pays to highlight these opportunities.

In Germany, companies use agencies to fill executive positions and sometimes mid-level management and even individual contributor positions. The three most popular methods of hiring are classic newspaper advertisements, job boards and staffing firms.

Recruiting is more costly in the UK. That’s because recruitment at all levels is usually done through agencies. In fact it is almost the sole source of candidates.

Emerging markets with huge customer bases are shifting globally. Markets originally growing in the U.S. and Western Europe have spread into Asia, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and now Latin America and Africa.

These shifts will occur over the next 10 years or so. Talent management professionals within global companies will have to be agile and knowledgeable of these changes to assist top management in their business strategy.

Talent management strategy is high on CEOs’ radar. It’s a global world now. Talent management professionals need to know what to do when recruiting in Rome, Beijing, Jakarta, Cape Town, Sao Paulo …

As the Romans say  — Ciao!

Jacque Vilet, president of Vilet International, has more than 20 years’ experience in international human resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor, and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. She has also been a speaker in the U.S., Asia, and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications. Contact her at


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