Recruiting Globally: Your Next Great Hire May Come From Overseas

Time to Read: 8.5 minutes

Updated: July 26, 2023

The Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies reports that more than 35 percent of Silicon Valley residents were born outside of the US. And as many as 60 percent of the region’s computing, mathematical, engineering, and architecture workers are also foreign-born.

While hiring international employees is nothing new, Jason Rogers, at, says it has grown more prevalent in recent years. Indeed, it is “vital to the international competitiveness and overall success of a company,” he argues.

Part of the appeal of foreign talent is the diversity of different employees’ backgrounds. This diversity can enhance the company’s whole culture. But it can also foster different approaches to collaboration — all the while boosting the bottom line.

However, hiring globally requires unique considerations. Employer brands need to be enhanced, candidates’ families and partners require assistance when relocating, and cultural differences, as well as language barriers, need to be overcome.

In this post, we will look at the value of recruiting globally, paying attention to remote workers, relocating foreign workers, and building a global workforce. As we have mentioned, hiring international candidates can bring a lot of benefits, but it is not always straightforward.

The Perceptions of Western Companies are Changing

US jobs do not carry the same clout among international candidates as they once did. They are no longer the top choice for candidates overseas, which has impacted hiring, writes Stephenie Overman at SHRM.

Despite this, for the right compensation package, many organizations are able to find quality candidates elsewhere. But they won’t come cheap. The shortage of skilled labor in various regions of the world, Overman writes, has in some cases driven wages far past those in the US.

Engineers in Russia, senior managers in Brazil, and experienced executives in Europe and Asia, as examples, are often well-compensated at home. Convincing them to choose a US-based employer may come with a hefty price tag.

Still, suppose your organization is ready to make an offer to an overseas candidate. What options are next? It depends on the type of employment agreement you want.

There is the traditional option of relocating workers from another country to the location in which the organization operates. Let’s look at that first.

Relocating Workers to New Lands

According to a study conducted by Hired, in nearly every market companies offer more money to candidates prepared to relocate than local hires. This just goes to show that international candidates are in demand. Paris, London, Singapore and Toronto, as examples, will offer between 21 and 57 percent more to foreign candidates than locals.

Melbourne, Sydney, Boston, and New York, on the other hand, pay more to home-based talent.

Relocation is going to be costly. That’s why it makes sense to ensure, as far as possible, that the candidate will be a good fit before initiating the process.

Tess Taylor, at HR Dive, says the candidates best suited to relocation or working abroad should

  • be mentally and emotionally stable, willing to change, and sensitive to other cultures;
  • have strong social skills and an appreciation for diverse opinions;
  • and have a sense of humor.

Finding all of those character traits in a single candidate is always going to be a challenge. Paying attention and taking a little extra time in the interviewing and testing phases can save a lot of headaches, and dollars, down the road.

Companies have proved willing to invest, though. One in four firms in the UK is looking overseas for IT talent, according to a survey by recruiter Experis. Geoff Smith, managing director, says finding the right balance between local expertise and international flexibility is not easy.

As it is, modern IT departments face huge cost and time pressures. In-house staff cannot always do the job, so much work is outsourced. It is a necessity to build a foreign — and often disparate — team to get the job done. This can become a strong developmental focus for organizations in order to maintain competitiveness.

This is certainly the attitude taken in Japan. Neo Career is currently working to bring new skills to Japan’s workforce. Focusing on hiring from South Korea and India, the agency has placed 600 foreigners in Japan, with aims of lifting that number to 4,000 in the next three years.

Also in Japan is a fresh focus on graduate hiring programs. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., for example, has launched an international graduate scheme to attract and train talent from abroad. The logic rests on the assumption that a global company will benefit from a global workforce. It has gone as far as appointing to its board an American and Thai, a move that tends to be nearly unheard of in a Japanese company.

Though a costly option, relocating workers can yield great success. There is value, as always, in ensuring a great candidate experience. In this case, it will just have to last longer and span countries or continents.

Help to Relocate Workers

Wesley Walser, the founder of Ask Inline, has first-hand experience of being recruited for a role that required relocating to another country. His warning to organizations is that the hiring does not stop once the contract has been signed.

Hiring companies will need to provide a smooth relocation experience. There may be partners or children involved, which means visas, schools, and a host of other concerns. Companies that care need to get the new hire, and his or her family, settled.

Whether this means companies must employ third-party services to help new hires relocate or provide assistance themselves, it will go far in showing fresh recruits that they are valued. Employee engagement, which is influenced in part by the initial candidate experience, is vital for a happy workforce. We wrote about this topic here, citing it as one of the continuing trends to watch out for.

That said, with the increasing popularity of remote work arrangements, relocation may cease to hold as much appeal in the future.

Remote Workers Cut Red Tape

According to Niraj Chokshi at The New York Times, as of 2016 the percentage of employed Americans working remotely was 43 percent.

Not only is it easier for workers to juggle the work-life balances, but it is better for employers, too. Remote workers are more productive and tend to stay at an organization for longer periods, Larry Alton reports at Forbes.

There is also money to be saved in employing remote workers. Employers can up to $11,000 per year per remote employee, Alice Williams writes at All Business. So, remote workers can alleviate overhead costs while also adding a fresh global perspective on daily work functions.

Hiring remote workers also drastically increase the number of potential candidates to hire, as geography is no longer a constraint.

For organizations that are looking to expand their global reach, rather than find the right candidate from abroad, there are other considerations.

Brynne Kennedy at Recruiting Daily says that hiring global workers requires careful planning, as it puts many companies in the position of “stepping into uncharted territory.” Businesses will have to scout the best places to expand, and the top candidates to hire, all the while maintaining a consistent global culture. This is not easy, and it takes time.

For hiring managers to succeed at tapping into international talent, they should develop deep understanding of global hiring trends or, at the very least, the markets in which they want to operate. They will also need a sound knowledge of the relevant laws governing the employment of foreign talent.

Adrianne Bibby at Remote.Co notes that the first hurdle to global recruitment is the law. This is the case whether companies are hiring remote workers or relocating team members.

Employers will need to be fully compliant with IRS requirements and ensure workers complete the necessary forms. However, while the law needs to be strictly followed, the work environment employers offer candidates should remain flexible. Time zones and different schedules will be taxing, but the perk of a global workforce is that companies can now hire the best people wherever they are in the world.

A comforting slice of knowledge comes from Williams. She writes that the law is more strict on US companies hiring foreign workers than when hiring freelance employees. Regardless, it’s best to understand all the necessary visa requirements and get to grips with tax law.

Being Strategic About Foreign Hires

Hiring globally grants access to less competitive job markets that still have quality candidates. While competition might not be as vicious, as always, strategy is essential.

Megan Zengerle, VP of people operations at online education company CreativeLive, says it may be tempting for new companies to search globally sooner than later. This, however, is not a great idea. It is better to get the first five or 10 local employees settled before venturing beyond borders.

The organizational structures need to be in place with sufficient time for staff to understand and internalize them. Foreign candidates will be comforted by seeing an existing structure in place. Additionally, immigration hiring is costly and time-consuming. This means that a lot of planning has to determine which roles absolutely need foreign candidates.

Hiring a Global Workforce Needs Cultural Sensitivity

Larry Harding, executive director for corporate development at Radius, stresses the importance of cultural insight when recruiting globally: What is the expectations of employers in their home country? What is the corporate culture like in a specific country? These questions need to be answered to understand business norms.

In some places, direct communication is favored, whereas others may take a less confrontational approach. Using a consultant or RPO can prove valuable to deal with these pressing concerns. We recently wrote about the benefits and considerations when choosing an RPO partner.

Whether organizations hire freelancers, remote workers, or relocated full-time employees, they will need to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks.

A workforce full of different cultures and backgrounds can lead to fresh perspectives and innovation. It also leads to a more attractive employer brand. Regardless of all of the pros, the law needs to be followed and budgets ascertained before chartering the globe for new hires.

Once this is done, the world can be more than your oyster. It can be the vast ocean from which to pluck out the ablest candidates for your organization.

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Shanil Kaderali

Shanil Kaderali is a strategic talent acquisition leader with global experience. He's managed and led recruitment functions at companies like Cisco Systems, Symantec, WellPoint, as well as having worked for several Baker's Dozen RPO winners.

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