Nine Key Steps for Successfully Recruiting Overseas

Recruiting the right personnel in the UK is challenging enough but if you are opening an office or expanding your overseas operations then the challenge can be extended ten-fold. This makes it even more important that you get it right first time, particularly if your new employee is to be the face of your company in the region.

It’s not just recruiting for your overseas operations that can be challenging: the other side of the fence can be recruiting talented individuals to relocate to the UK, which can be equally difficult.

There is no doubt that international recruitment will be more time consuming than hiring locally and the number of steps, checks and balances to go through can extend your timescales considerably. Recruitment processes and tactics that can be used successfully in the UK will undoubtedly not translate to overseas markets. However, with the right planning and recruitment team in place it should be reasonably straightforward.

Our experience has shown that many companies don’t know where to start or where to go to for advice and assistance so here are our nine key steps to a successful recruitment process:

  • Where do you start?
  • Understanding the culture of the country
  • Immigration laws: do your homework
  • Know your taSign Outrget candidate
  • Local, Regional or Expat
  • Local employment costs
  • Where to find the candidates
  • Evaluating candidates
  • Bringing them on board

Where do you start?

First of all you need to take time to put yourself in the candidates’ shoes and analyse what they will need to know in order to be attracted to your company and the vacancy. This means taking time to write full job descriptions and organisation charts, explaining fully where the role fits in, who it reports to, what infrastructure is available locally to fulfil the job properly, what the future career path is, the package you expect to pay and, crucially, what the recruitment and interview process will be from start to finish.

Understanding the culture of the country

It may seem obvious but not every country has the same employment and recruitment culture that we enjoy here in the UK, so find out what the norm is in your target country and what the candidate will expect. This can extend to how you will communicate with potential employees both in terms of media and what and how you say it: open and direct versus measured and cautious for example; email versus video conference versus telephone versus face to face or all four.

Immigration Laws: do your homework

This can work both ways since you may be relocating a foreign national to the UK or an expat/regional national to your target country. Find out the work permit and visa laws in the country and also the cultural issues – think of the Middle East for example and what race and religion may not be welcome in some countries, even if they are neighbours. You can spend an awful lot of time, energy and money in finding the right candidate, only to discover that they can’t work in your target country. Now that we are leaving the EU, recruiting European nationals to come and work in the UK may be markedly different so make sure you are on top of the latest legal and HR guidance, both before and after the final leaving date.

Know your target candidate

Most likely you will be recruiting experienced senior and technical professionals in a niche sector with particular skills and knowledge; will they likely be younger, single and mobile, or married with families, established social networks and their own home, which means a slightly different approach with higher potential costs. A lot of candidates won’t move if they can’t persuade their other half to either relocate or accept long periods without them. It may also help you to hone in on how to find and contact them – Facebook versus LinkedIn for example.

Local, Regional or Expat

Many US based companies ultimately end up sending an expat out to the region, although this is potentially a much higher cost than hiring a local. Why? Comfort and security seem to be the biggest drivers here although it may not be the best option for your local customers.

Local and Regional candidates will have the advantage of language, culture and location, together with being able to hit the ground running with their knowledge of your markets, customers and competitors in the region.

Local employment costs

As well as different tax and employment regulations, some countries have additional salary requirements which are the norm; housing, school and car allowances for example as well as higher social taxes and costs. It is best to find this out at the beginning rather than at salary negotiation time when you realise that their basic salary is less than half of what you will have to pay them. Then you need to factor in relocation and travel costs, not to mention what you can and cannot put in a ‘local’ employment contract. Specialist legal advice here is a must.

Where to find the candidates

So, you’ve researched the country, got the vacancy details and sign off from the board, got your internal team and the line manager organised and onboard, understand the candidate background you need and have everything ready to go ahead. The only thing missing is the candidates. So where do you get them from?

You could of course do this yourself through local advertising and by tapping into your local network and even through directly approaching candidates. But if you are not competent to do this, or lack the time and resources, then you will need to use an outside organisation, which normally means bringing in a search firm like Chesterton Gray who can guide you through the process and recruit on your behalf.

The easy part: evaluating candidates

Well, not so easy. Decide at the outset how you will evaluate and interview candidates. An initial email conversation, followed by telephone or video conference, followed by face to face? Decide early on exactly who will be involved in the evaluation and when they are available to do so. Notwithstanding time differences, most senior international candidates (along with your own senior team) will be out and about and may travel frequently overseas at short notice, Consequently, that initial meeting with candidates which you hoped would be next week may now be many weeks away. You need to be realistic and keep open communications with candidates in order to manage their expectations and not lose them elsewhere.

Don’t be tempted to cut corners with your interviewing and evaluation, particularly when discussing why the candidate wants to move, what their motivation is, what will attract them to the role and what their expectations of your company are.

Bringing them on board

Once you have found the right candidate, had your job offer accepted and a start date confirmed, the next stage is to ensure that they have everything they need to be able start work without distraction and worry. This means ensuring that they have somewhere to live, a means of transport to the work location, you have their bank details to pay them, their visa is sorted, they have a local bank account if they are relocating, they understand the local employment and tax laws, they know how to access medical facilities, their family is organised and settled, and no doubt a whole host of other things.

If you would like any help or advice with your recruitment then please call Paul Holmes, Managing Director on 020 3130 0393, for an initial discussion. Alternatively, you can contact us at

Links to other pages

Ten Questions to ask your Search Firm
Succession Planning