Recruiting Overseas – Lessons Learned from 5 Companies Expanding into New Markets

With the rise in popularity of remote work and the low unemployment rate in the developed world, more and more companies turn to recruit talent overseas. However, recruiting overseas often brings in a new set of challenges and surprises as 3 of our customers recently learned.

Lesson 1: Adapt the job description to the local culture and norms

Many Japanese companies do not use job descriptions or 

have a 2 line short description acting as a job description. Job titles are also rare for any level below department head.

However, in the US, a job description is a very important hiring tool, especially in the current candidate-led economy. The job description needs to “sell” the job as one consumer hardware company discovered when they tried hiring their first full time MarCom in the US. They kept on getting “not interested” responses and were only able to attract real candidates once they changed the JD.

This is an extreme example but there are differences in culture and common practices between many countries. It is always advisable to localize the JD for better results when recruiting overseas.

Lesson 2: Understand local labor market competitiveness before you publish on job boards

No one likes sifting through 3,000 CVs of cashiers when one searched for a sales manager. This is exactly what happened when one HR published a job on a local Brazilian job board. The economy in Brazil in recent years has slowed. With a 13% unemployment rate, there are many people looking for a job and applying to every job they see.

In fact, local Brazilian recruitment agencies have been investing in the latest technology that screens CVs to tackle this issue.

When you are recruiting overseas and considering if to publish a position on job boards, a quick check to see the state of the labor market can save you time in the future.

Lesson 3: Don’t wait to hear from a few candidates what compensation they want – make sure you know what to offer

Everyone dreams of a short recruitment cycle – the first person you interview is a perfect match and there is no need to interview dozens of candidates. When you are hiring in your home country and you know the compensation and benefits you want to offer – it’s should be straightforward to secure the talent in a reasonable amount of time.

However, when you are recruiting overseas and don’t know local compensation practices it can be dangerous to rely on information purely from the candidates. This was the case when one company hired their first VP sales in London who happened to be the first candidate they interviewed. Coming from Israel, they did not know the local common practice for compensation and benefits. They ended up overpaying on salary and almost 3 times more on medical benefits. The level of benefits offered to this VP created a precedence for the following employees and perpetrated the overpayment.

Only after they have started using our Global Expansion Platform did they realized how much money they have needlessly spent.

Lesson 4: Saving in the short term can cost you in the long-term

This lesson is especially true when it comes to getting services in an unregulated, low barrier to entry industry such as the recruitment agencies industry.

One cost-conscious financial services startup looked for recruitment agencies that charged 50% below standard market pricing in Germany. 6 months after they started the search, they had no meaningful progress in finding the right talent. The recruitment agency they engaged kept prioritizing other higher paying customers over them. This delay resulted in them losing their first mover advantage into the market (a local competitor started gaining traction). Eventually, they understood something had to change in their approach. The moment they looked for a better balance between cost and quality, progress was made.

When you are a growth company, your most valuable resource is time. Focusing on short term savings can cost you dearly in the long-term.

Lesson 5: Set clear expectations during the job interview

We all know there are cultural differences between countries but we often attribute them to day-to-day behaviors.

However, cultural differences can have a big impact in the workplace. In Germany, if you went to a top university and worked for top employers, one assumes you are a dedicated, hard working overachiever. That is not always the case as one German based company discovered when they hired in the United States. After valuable 3 months, the company had to let go of their new recruit and start the process all over again because expectations were not set during the recruiting process.

Even if something seems obvious to you, clearly articulate your expectations during the interview and hiring process without assuming anything.


There are many challenges that arise when recruiting overseas. Some can be easily addressed with a little bit of pre-planning (e.g. lesson 5). Others require local knowledge and expertise (e.g. lesson 3).

If you are about to start recruiting overseas, create recruitment agencies seeker account today and allow us to help you meet your international recruitment and employment goals.

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