Viewpoint: Hiring Is Challenging in Azerbaijan


By Laura Hamidova, SHRM-CP July 8, 2019

​A talent shortage, demanding employers, picky applicants and difficulty recruiting outside Baku, Azerbaijan's capital and largest city, are among the hurdles recruiters face in this country just south of Russia and north of Iran.

Azerbaijan is a developing country that is learning how to make the best use of its local talent. The country's academic institutions don't offer a major in HR, though there are testing centers for SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP certification. Universities such as Azerbaijan State Economic University, Khazar University and ADA University offer only one class in HR under the business administration faculty, which certainly can't cover all the knowledge needed to run an effective HR function.

Talent Shortage

When Azerbaijan entered the global market and began following international standards after the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, employers in the country immediately faced a shortage of professionals who were competent in business processes. Azerbaijani businesses hired expatriate experts, whose two main functions were to perform the job and to develop local employees.

After more than 25 years of development, dedication and integrated work between expatriate experts and local professionals, the country has achieved noticeable results in hiring Azerbaijani nationals. For example, at the end of 2018, British Petroleum's workforce operating in Azerbaijan was 96 percent Azerbaijani.

But there is still a shortage of local professionals in the oil and gas sector and other industries. The shortage of IT professionals is particularly severe. The situation today can be characterized in two words: "brain drain." Those developers who have experience in programs such as Java, C# and SQL, or who have good language skills, have been constantly headhunted within the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern Europe countries. They are leaving Azerbaijan for higher pay and better working conditions.

During the last 10 years, Azerbaijan has been able to develop good IT professionals but unable to adequately retain them. The attrition rate of IT professionals at one bank during the last three years reached 34 percent. This is a huge number. There is an especially big demand for developers in the banking sector due to the development of Internet banking and online transactions.

Demanding Employers, Discerning Applicants

The talent shortage is not the only challenge. It is also becoming more and more difficult to match candidates with positions. On the one hand, employers are demanding that candidates have relevant experience and soft skills, as well as mastery of at least two foreign languages, but are unwilling to pay a salary that is commensurate with these qualifications.

On the other hand, candidates are picky, as well. Last January, recruiters at my company, FireWorks Human Resources Management (HRM), worked with three candidates who were offered the position of training manager at one of the local employers in the consulting sector. They all rejected the offers.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to the Global Human Resources Discipline]

Difficulty Recruiting Outside of Baku

Most of the businesses in Azerbaijan are located in Baku. All big local and foreign companies open their head offices in Baku, and most of them don't have branches in other regions of Azerbaijan. But for those that do, finding suitable candidates for their positions can be difficult. Most workers are in Baku or live outside Azerbaijan.

Kapital Bank—the third biggest bank in Azerbaijan—has 110 branches across the country. Only 24 of these branches are in Baku. Due to business growth, the organization hires between 500 and 600 employees every year, and many openings are outside Baku.

Farqana Mammadova, head of HR at Kapital Bank, said it is especially difficult to find young professionals in the cities that don't have universities and colleges.

Kapital Bank has been meeting with graduates at universities in Baku who are originally from outlying areas and offering them internships at the branches in regions around Azerbaijan. This approach has helped close workforce gaps.

Laura Hamidova, SHRM-CP, is director of FireWorks HRM in Baku, Azerbaijan.


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