What’s Important to Employees — Around the World

Oct 27, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Don’t expect your American recruiting methods like email blasts to work smoothly in other countries.

That’s the message from two experienced global recruiters today at the ERE Expo in Florida: Raghav Singh, a familiar ERE author who has helped staff organizations in Switzerland, Japan, China, India, and elsewhere, and Kim Rutledge, a Dell recruiting leader turned consultant who has managed Latin American recruiting.

Singh notes the following from a recent Towers-Watson Survey:

  • In the U.S. and the UK, a competitive salary is the most sought-after quality in a job.
  • Germans list “challenging work” as most important to them in a job.
  • Career advancement is the top goal of job-seekers in Brazil, India, and China.
  • A convenient work location is a big lure in Germany and the UK; less so in the U.S. and UK.

Rutledge has strong relationships in Brazil. She notes that the types of email blasts that work in the U.S. probably won’t work there, as the country is more relationship-oriented, and referrals are even more effective than they are in the U.S. “It’s a very face-to-face culture,” she says. LinkedIn is nice, but for Brazilians the online relationships generally won’t last as long as the U.S. before it’s best to move it to a more personal conversation.

Rutledge says English-speaking skills are weaker in Brazil than in many other South American countries, and it’s best to use Portuguese-speaking recruiters. Hierarchies are important in Brazil. “It’s very much top-down,” Rutledge says. “They go up their chain for what are sometimes paternalistic concerns, in my very North American mind.”

In Brazil, relocating people isn’t as easy as Americans might think it is. What seems like a simple move from one city to another may be thought of by an employee as a Manhattan-to-Oklahoma sort of move from one subculture to another.

She also talked about Panama. Labor costs there are very low; it reminds her of India, where the educational system and government infrastructure could be better, but the country is very attractive to Nike, HP, Dell, some banks, and other companies with call centers and other operations. Rutledge says the Panamian market favors very “old-school” recruiting. Online recruiting lags behind Brazil and the U.S. The postal system is weak; in fact, some people don’t even get regular mail the way Americans know it, if they don’t pay for it.

“The appetite for career growth in Panama is unbelievable,” she says. Companies are more interested in a company than expertise in a field; someone might move from human resources to a very different department rather than move from one HR job to another.

In Mexico, Rutledge has found that security concerns make it more difficult to find information about people. Also, Mexico City has a formal culture where people are often much more dressed up than an American tourist might think if their view of Mexico is what they’ve seen are the flip-flops found in a beach town. She had to watch how she communicated when in Mexico City because the more formal relationships, where trust builds a little more slowly than perhaps in the U.S., took more nurturing.

Mexico’s a country where a mobile recruiting campaign can work. The challenge is finding the right names of people to contact; for that she says you’ll want to rely more on local databases than on big global sources such as Monster.

“Brands rule” in India, Singh says. It’s a lot harder to get quality people if you’re not a big-company, whether a big Western name or a big Indian multinational like Infosys. If you lack a big brand, he says, “you’re fighting with one hand tied behind your back.” As Singh has said before, there’s a myth that India offers a bottomless pit of talent. In reality, there aren’t as many great colleges as there are in the U.S., and someone who calls themselves an “engineer” may be defining the word in a wide variety of ways.

The difference in income between companies is huge in India, he adds, with big, well-known and well-respected companies offering a big premium.

Resume fraud is “rampant” in India, he adds. Of course, resumes are notorious for exaggerations, but “not to the extent” you’ll find in India, he says. Some top schools even embed a chip in their diplomas to prove they’re the real thing.

Chinese-language skills are a must for recruiting in China, he says. Even people who speak English often have a weaker command of the language than businesspeople in many other countries. Also, you need to be “extremely explicit” to candidates in China about what to expect on the job.

Job descriptions shouldn’t leave out something an employee will end up doing, as they’ll end up quite surprised their expectations weren’t met. Singh said sales job descriptions can be challenging; engineering descriptions less so.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.