Creating a seamless recruitment process is essential for ensuring practice consistency and for offering candidates the best possible experience. However, when recruiting across multiple countries and regions this process can break down and become convoluted. So what does best practice look like and how can you effectively combat challenges like: language and cultural barriers, cross-country interviewing, recruiting in local markets and moving to a more centralised structure?

Local vs. Global recruitment methodologies

Process consistency will never be achieved unless recruitment is managed from a central location or Centre of Excellence; whereby all hiring managers and local recruiters are following the same procedures. However, getting hiring managers to follow protocol can be a challenge in itself. If you’re lucky enough to start with a blank sheet of paper, then it’s highly advisable to network with your hiring managers and local recruiters in the first instance to find out what would make their life easier and then tie this into the overriding business objectives. It’s then a question of making it straight-forward to follow, communicating the process effectively and monitoring how it is working. Often it’s a case of starting with something simple like standardising job specifications.

Whilst it’s incredibly desirable to strive for and have a consistent process, there will undoubtedly be instances whereby certain elements of the process aren’t appropriate in some countries. In these occasions it’s important to have local plugs or tweaks that are adopted, and avoid trying to reach that one-size fits all model. For example, a centralised direct resourcing model with no local recruiters will find it challenging to fill geographically obscure roles effectively. In these cases, reaching out to your specialist PSL for nice skill-sets will probably prove more efficient.

When operating a centralised model across multiple countries, often businesses will employ local recruiters with specialised language skills and networks. However, the danger is that these recruiters will feel isolated and cut off from the wider business – often they won’t be meeting hiring managers, candidates or even their boss in some circumstances. It’s therefore important to try enforce a feeling of ‘belonging’ and aim to bring the whole recruitment team together in one place every six months or so.

Attracting and recruiting in local markets

Recruitment inevitably becomes very complicated when candidates are being sourced and approached across a whole multitude of places. Having a universal applicant tracking system is obviously important for capturing all candidate data and avoiding key information being hidden away on personal spread sheets.

When it comes to local sourcing strategies, techniques will inevitably vary on location and the tools that candidates use to make themselves visible to prospective employers. It’s essential to understand what’s hot in your target country – whether it’s Golden Line for Poland or Xing for Germany. What’s more, making centralised recruiters aware of the cultural differences associated with different countries is key. For example in some cultures it’s the norm to have CVs that span eight or more pages, or to include a personal photograph as standard with applications. It’s all too easy to allow unconscious bias take affect in these circumstances and discount candidates based on these small quirks.

Often it’s best to revert to the agency model of profiling your candidate shortlist before sharing it with hiring managers. Whilst it’s more time consuming, a few concise bullet points around your candidate’s experience and why they are relevant will help catch the eye of the hiring manager and avoid them drawing their own conclusions based on a CV that isn’t considered their ‘norm’.

The power of referrals – everybody knows everybody!

How frustrating is it when you send a hiring manager a candidate shortlist that’s taken you days to source and qualify, and you are met with the following response – ‘I know four of them’? This is especially common in Europe where the market lacks depth and everyone seems to know everyone. Getting your hiring managers to make referrals at the beginning of the process should help avoid this happening. Alternatively sending them an initial name list before any candidate engagement has taken place is useful for finding out who they know and who they would or wouldn’t recommend. However, it’s crucial to keep an eye on diversity and avoid the ‘people like me’ trap that can quite easily occur.

Gathering employee referrals tends to work better in certain sectors and disciplines, for instance ‘sales people’ tend to know other ‘sales people’ as the importance of business networking is drummed into them. If this is the case introduce targeted referral schemes into selected areas of the business and take advantage of your quick wins.

Alternatively to seeking referrals for a particular job, asking all employees ‘who do you know that’s great’ when they join the company is useful for building market maps and talent pools for roles when they come available. This can be broken down by sector and takes the pressure of identifying someone for a specific opportunity.

Language barriers

When recruiting in a pan European environment, how accessible are you making your job advertisements to non-English speaking applicants? If speaking English is a prerequisite of a role than obviously this isn’t as applicable. However, there is software available that can be bolted onto your careers site which makes content accessible to individuals with different language requirements or people who might need the page to be ‘spoken’. From a diversity and inclusion standpoint it’s essential to give everybody a fair chance of being selected for a role and this software can help meet these requirements.

It’s about quality not quantity

How many interviewers are typically involved in your hiring process and do candidates end up being asked the same questions by five or six stakeholders? It really should come down to quality and making the most of the interviewer and candidate’s time, and of course consistency. It shouldn’t be all about the ‘power in numbers theory’ – getting the ‘nod’ from six employees doesn’t mean your going to make a great hire! 

The next challenge is embedding consistent competency interviewing into your standard recruitment process, if of course you’re brave enough to try! It’s incredibly difficult to get everyone on the same page, especially when you’re defining recruitment procedures across multiple geographies. In order to do it effectively you need to have a senior VP’s buy-in to sufficiently resource the project, otherwise it will probably fall on its face. It’s key to identify the capabilities required across different departments (feeding into the overriding business strategy) and then consistently measure candidates against these criteria respectively.

Final thoughts

The main question around pan European recruitment concerns whether the resourcing function is fit for purpose and can deliver on the multitude, variety and geographical requirements of roles it’s presented with. What’s clear is there isn’t really a one size fits all model, however processes should remain largely local but be controlled from a central point. It’s also fairly unrealistic to aim for a 100% direct sourcing model. The focus should really be on smart resourcing and making the right decisions based on business objectives; whether that’s cost, time or quality. 

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