GUEST BLOG: "Recruit abroad to get around the immigration cap"

The whole immigration issue is a numbers game for the Government. The situation where premier league footballers are welcome, but Nobel scientists are not, definitely needs to be re-examined.

We are where we are politically. The Government needs to be seen to be taking action on immigration, even though they are unable to affect the numbers of low- paid workers coming in from the EU. The question now is how companies can operate within the immigration legislation to attract the staff they need to support their ambitious growth plans.

Organisations will need to have a radical rethink about how they work. It is no longer necessary to be sitting in the same office as a colleague to work effectively; or to be located in the same country. To achieve the best results organisations need to attract and employ the best talent - where ever it may be located.

The availability of collaborative tools today means you don't need a huge infrastructure to be able to communicate with colleagues abroad in real time. We have many clients working with teams which are thousands of miles away - and achieving great results.

So, in order to secure the best talent, why not consider recruiting an individual or team which is based abroad? They could become as important to your organisation as your UK team and allow you to manoeuvre round the immigration restrictions.

What's more it can be more cost effective to recruit scarce talent from overseas. Recruiting a team who will be based overseas can be a daunting prospect. Hiring people in countries you are not familiar with can be challenging, even if you work with a partner who has local expertise. Recently, at a Quickstart Global Client Forum, our clients and staff came up with some hints and tips for people looking to recruit staff into teams abroad.

They looked at how recruiting offshore teams differs from recruiting in your own country. The key points made were:

  • It can be hard to understand people's academic backgrounds when they haven't been educated in your own country. For example:

-          Have they attended good or bad universities?

-          What do their academic grades actually mean?

As a result you have to learn from others who hold the local knowledge.

  • You need to be able to find benchmarks you can use as comparisons with staff you recruit at home
  • Recruitment markets vary from country to country. For example, in India the labour market is very competitive so if you find someone good you have to offer them a job straight away or risk losing them
  • The way you recruit is different as you are an unknown brand in your offshore countries, operating a team remotely. It is important to 'sell' your company to candidates, through the local recruitment team
  • You need to recruit the right mix of skills, but guard against simply taking the least worst candidates. You need to keep the benchmark as high as you can within the time pressure - remember candidates will not hang around if they get another offer from elsewhere

When recruiting abroad you need to decide which criteria are most important to you, and ensure that the recruiter is fully briefed on what you are looking for. We find that many companies prioritise soft skills, such as commitment or initiative, which cannot be easily measured from looking at a CV. So it often comes down to following an instinct or feeling within an interview. This is much harder when you are recruiting abroad, where cultural differences can be brought to bear.

Where possible you need to use local knowledge to tailor your interview questions and the way you ask them. It's well documented that we all make non-verbal judgements within 30 seconds. Sometimes when recruiting from another country you have to put these initial judgements to one side. It's clear that you cannot approach recruitment as you would within your own country.

Today many small companies and start-ups are employing teams who are based abroad. This enables them to secure the best talent and lower their cost base. I hope that this advice will help you to do the same.

Neal Gandhi is the chief executive of Quickstart Global, which helps companies to expand globally, and is the author of Born Global which offers practical advice to entrepreneurs.

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