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Staffing Management: Open the Doors to Global Hiring

Stephenie Overman  1/4/2007
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Vol. 3, No. 2

When in Rome, recruit as the Romans do. But what recruiting practices work best in various parts of the globe? What are the top challenges? Here's a quick tour.



U.S. companies planning to move into China probably already have heard that it's difficult to find experienced mid-level managers. But Danielle Monaghan, human resources director for Microsoft's China Research & Development Group in Beijing, stresses that "there is a tremendous pool of raw talent in the market, so, if you hire well, you can certainly train great managers over time."

Hiring local nationals with strong potential and then developing and training them internally "is a big incentive for candidates to join your company," Monaghan says, adding, "if you do this well and you can demonstrate good career velocity."

But "to determine whether someone is qualified, you have to be great at hiring on potential and you have to spend a lot of time incorporating your company values and your company culture in your interviews to ensure there is a good match over the long term."

The most effective method of recruiting depends on the level of the employee, according to Monaghan. For entry-level workers, try campus recruiting, employee referrals, corporate web sites and job or bulletin boards, she says, adding, "the younger generation is super-computer-literate. Contractor conversions are also a good source of hires. For later-in-career candidates, [use] employee referrals and headhunters."

Employment law is different in many ways and constantly evolving. "Companies must remember that once you hire an employee, it is very difficult to manage them out if it does not work. The laws are very employee-friendly and not 'at will' like in the U.S." Also, she notes, people need residence permits especially for large cities like Beijing and Shanghai.


Patrick Ran, GPHR, director of business development, China, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), telephone: +86 10 8520 0066, e-mail:


Recruiters in Singapore can turn to the government-yes the government-for help.

"What's unique in Singapore is that there are government bodies that might be able to render assistance in things such as tax incentives or identifying people," says David Ang, executive director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI). Ang is also the current secretary general and treasurer of the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations (WFPMA).

It's "a multiple agency approach," according to Ang, but a good place to start is the country's Ministry of Manpower.

"I think it's important to let foreign recruiters know that the government wants them to take advantage of assistance programs," he says. Americans are accustomed to hiring consultants, but, in doing so, "are paying a lot of money. Why not make use of the government help?"

Campus and web-based recruitment is popular in Singapore, according to Ang. So is networking through professional organizations.

Professional organizations such as SHRI can offer help beyond networking. "We have a number of inquires from recruiters about law and compensation and benefits. We're able to give them updated information and point out where the pitfalls are," he says.



Be prepared for a huge volume of candidates in India. "Depending on your methodology, one ad can generate 10,000 applications," says Nina E. Woodard, SPHR, GPHR, director of business development for Strategic Human Resource Management India Pvt. Ltd. (SHRM India).

Also, be prepared for candidates who "usually have at least one master's degree, if not two," Woodard says.

In India there is real value in a recognized brand, so it greatly helps to be a well-known company, she says. "Opportunities to recruit at the leading campuses usually go to the known firms who have the best salaries, etc. They would be allowed in first round recruiting events. Otherwise a company may have to take third or fourth round, which means that they would not have a chance to hire the 'cream.' "

Employee referrals are the best source of new hires, according to research, she says, and "rewarding that effort is becoming a key component" in most companies' recruiting plans.

What most attracts candidates depends on the area of the country, according to Woodard. "Salary is a real driver in New Delhi, but, in the south and west, it is probably more focused on the opportunity for development and growth and the value of the work itself."

Woodard finds that when interviewing candidates "say 'we did this and we did that.' That may or may not mean 'I' so you really have to ask a lot of questions to be able to uncover what 'I' really did. You have to train your hiring managers and recruiters in behavioral interviewing and competency-based interviewing skills to get at the real information."

There are no Social Security numbers or identification numbers in India, so reference checking is difficult, Woodard continues. "It is very hard to capture previous employment and education without actually calling all the named references. Nothing can be verified at this point even through a credit-type report; it is just not available."

However, she says, a new business segment is quickly growing up to do reference checking as an outsourced service provider. There are no rules about age, gender or other discriminatory questions, and "often the resumes and even the candidates themselves volunteer information that we don't want or think we need to see or know," Woodard says.


  • National Institute of Personnel Management,
  • National HRD Network,
  • Nina E. Woodard, SHRM India, telephone: +91 22 6707 8765, e-mail:

Latin America

Most operations in Latin America are located in major metropolitan centers that "are magnets for employable people in their respective countries," says Neil Currie, GPHR, manager of international recruitment and development, Latin America, for Johnson & Johnson.

"In Latin America, the culture is not as mobile as U.S. culture. [Family relationships] tend to be 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, except for a select group of upper managers, this makes recruiting a local activity rather than a national or global one, Currie says. Recruiters often find candidates through local career fairs and by advertising in newspapers and specialized magazines.

In the larger markets of Brazil and Mexico companies tend to have staffing specialists, but in other countries "there is no one in the HR group dedicated to staffing," Currie says. And few companies outside of Brazil and Mexico have their own web sites, although they will use job boards.

"There's more testing and assessment in Brazil and Columbia. In Mexico, the boss is the critical part" of the hiring decision process, he adds.

A big difference is employee referral systems. Although the concept of employee referrals is well received, "in Latin America there is a resistance to paying employees for referrals," Currie says, and, in several countries, "there are laws or strong policies against hiring relatives. In the Unite States we offer monetary rewards but in Latin America the feeling is that the company has a strong enough image" that it shouldn't need to offer recompense.


  • Interamerican Federation of Human Resource Management Associations/ Federacin Interamericana de Asociaciones de Gestin Humana (FIDAGH). President: Paul Rosillon of the Asociacin Venezolana de Gestin Humana (ANRI), telephone: +582-762-2043 / 8355, e-mail:
  • Mexico: Asociacin Mexicana Direccin de Recursos Humanos, telephone: +52-55-5140-2200, e-mail:, web site:
  • Brazil: Associao Brasileira de Recursos Humanos (ABRH), telephone: +55-11-3256-0455, e-mail:, web site:

United Kingdom

U.S. companies may find recruiting easier in the U.K., but they'll likely find it more costly as well. That's because recruitment at all levels is usually done through agencies.

Although U.K. employers have been pushing for direct sourcing, "we are forced to use agencies. That's the only job searching [candidates] do," says Stephen Carr, a recruitment manager for T-Mobile (UK) Ltd. In Australia and New Zealand too, "agencies are almost the sole source of candidates."

"The good news is that it removes an awful lot of the workload. The agency will do a lot of the running," Carr says. The bad news is that agency fees are 15 percent to 25 percent of the employee's first-year base salary. That applies at all levels.

To find a reputable agency, Carr recommends checking the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

Another difference, according to Carr, is that U.K. companies advertise for jobs in newspapers much more than U.S. companies do.

There's also "a lot more" employment legislation in the U.K. than in the United States, but recruiters in the U.K. don't have to worry about the definition of an Internet applicant, Carr says. "We bring everyone into the candidate interest base. You don't need to differentiate."


Western Europe

It really isn't a good idea to lump European countries together. "Everybody is patriotic about his own country," and, in many places, recruiters should go through local contacts, says Alexandra Buytendijk of WCC Smart Search & Match in Utreacht, Netherlands.

One generalization that can be made 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. You will not find a lot of white [collar] jobs," says Buytendijk.

Thomas Belker, managing director, human resources and administration for OBI in Wermelskirchen, Germany, agrees that government jobs boards "are not useful."

Private internet job boards are a better bet, according to Belker, especially "if you do a good job of employer branding, if you go to job fairs, go to universities. That way people know your company."

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, so Belker says it pays to highlight those opportunities.

In Germany newspaper advertising is down, he says. Companies use agencies to fill executive positions but sometimes "also mid-level positions, down to specialists, even without line management responsibilities."

Employee referral "is not popular. Here if you recommend someone, you don't get any incentive. Just a few companies have job referral systems," Belker adds.

Buytendijk sees "a fair split between classical newspaper advertisements and job boards and staffing organizations," adding that in the Netherlands staffing organizations are well established.

Companies that have their own web sites "don't use it as a single way of recruiting. They use ads and agencies and place [openings] on job boards as well, she says. Older candidates often don't want to fill out application forms online so "it's important that web sites do more for the convenience of the candidate."

"In the Netherlands and Belgium we speak a lot of languages. In Germany, France, Spain, Italy you need the local contacts who know the languages," Buytendijk says. So when recruiting in Rome, you know what to do.


European Association for Personnel Management (EAPM), president: Mike McDonnell, CIPD (Ireland) director, telephone: +353-1-676-6655, e-mail:


Stephenie Overman is editor of Staffing Management.

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