Secrets to Recruiting Abroad from Redfin

If you want to find the best people in the world to work for your company, your recruiting efforts can’t be focused on local talent only. So we sought out recruiting abroad advice from Nicole Maddox, lead recruiter for Redfin.

There is a big world out there filled with highly skilled professionals, says Nicole Maddox.  And she should know. Maddox has lead global recruiting efforts for Amazon Kindle, Living Social, Jobfox, and now Redfin, a real estate software company based in Seattle. During her career, she has run several international recruiting events, traveling to Chile, France, Singapore, Australia and elsewhere to find the best candidates for her companies.

Maddox learned a lot about the unique challenges of recruiting in globally — from managing language and culture differences, to navigating complicated visa laws that can add months to the hiring process.

She offered this advice to recruiters interested in expanding their search on a worldwide scale.

Understand the visa laws before you start recruiting

“The visa process is such a huge part of the international recruiting process, and it can get really complicated,” she says. She notes that some countries, including Australia, Singapore and Chile are relatively easy to navigate, while others, including Israel, can be exceptionally complex.

When she worked for Amazon, the company had the time, money and infrastructure in place to manage the visa application process, but smaller companies will have a harder time, and may find themselves waiting months for a new recruit’s visa to clear so they can come on board. “The last thing you want to do is invest a lot of time and money finding a great candidate, only to find it could be a year before their paperwork clears,” she says.

Research the schools and local talent pool to get a sense of a country or city’s recruiting potential

“A little research can tell you a lot about the caliber of talent you’ll find,” she says. Industry talent reports and population studies can tell you how strong the talent pool is, unemployment rates, average level of education, English proficiency, and other details that can help you hone you search.

She urges recruiters to review reports frequently, so they can stay on top of shifting trends. Amsterdam, for example has recently become a tech hub, drawing great talent from around the country. And Israel is an excellent place to find senior level talent and female engineers – if you are willing to pay relocation fees and wait out the Visa process.

Good research can also key you in to the gaps you might face, she says. For example, in France, the tech degree programs rely much less on computer science theory than in the US. “Engineers may understand data structure, but they can struggle with the problem solving.”

That’s not to say you shouldn’t hire talent with a different background from your US team, but the differences should be taken into account and addressed as part of their career development and training.

Find out where people look for work

From social media sites, to billboards, to newspaper ads, understanding the job search culture in each country can help you make the most of your international recruiting time and dollars.

“Singapore was the first time in my career I actually posted an ad in a newspaper,” she laughs. But that’s where the talent in Singapore look for jobs, so that’s where she spent her money.

She also reviews conferences in each country to figure out what association sites to advertise on, and which events to attend to find talent. And she uses Linked In, Twitter and other international sites to tap local communities.

“I look for user groups in the area where I am recruiting, then I send a message to the leader to post our recruiting information, or to ask them to send an email to their members on our behalf,” she says.

Evaluate language skills as part of the recruiting process

For almost any position in the US, strong English skills are important. The key to determining a candidate’s proficiency is testing whether they can speak the language of your industry and the specific role you are hiring them for. Maddox suggests asking candidates to explain job-specific scenarios or to solve a problem in English, to get a true sense of their language skills.

“A lot of times, candidates from countries like Russia, may have conversational English, but not necessarily the technical language,” she says. That can cause a lot of potential problem and delays if that person becomes part of an English-speaking team.

If Maddox finds a candidate can’t accurately explain a technical concept in English, she’s not likely to hire that person.

Respect the culture

Before traveling overseas to recruit, or even reaching out to overseas candidates, she encourages recruiters to read up on the culture, and what is expected from business and recruiting exchanges. Otherwise a simple mistake, like taking a business card in Singapore with one hand instead of two (a sign of disrespect), can insult a great candidate and blow your prospects of hiring them, she says.

She suggests reading the book “Kiss, Bow, Shake Hands” by Terri Morrison. “It’s paramount to understanding local culture.”

Get the word out in advance – and be specific about the location

If Maddox is hiring for a position in Seattle, she makes it clear in every job ad or inquiry, even if she’s recruiting overseas. “It reduces our response rate,” she says, “but ultimately it is the best use of everyone’s time.”