When hiring the best talent in a highly competitive global market, it is essential for recruiters to navigate cross-cultural differences among candidates effectively. Your recruitment process should accommodate candidates who come from diverse backgrounds and behave and think differently. That is the reason we organized a Masterclass especially for IESF partners on this topic, hosted by two IESF global clients. In this article we highlight the key take aways that one of them, Vicky Chittenden, Global Human Resource Manager at Cargo Control Company, discussed with the international group of participants. In this Masterclass we shared experiences, best practices and the values and steps in the recruitment process that are most important. It became clear how important it is as a recruiter to address and emphasize differences and similarities in cultures and expectations.
To ensure effective recruitment and a positive onboarding experience, teams need to be familiar with cultural customs and the variations in perspectives toward workplace culture within their hiring pool. Our languages, gestures, body language, prime focuses, and responses can differ. These differences can lead to a disconnect when not fully understood, and if not approached properly they can cause your organization to miss out on top talent. On the other hand, is recognized and used, it can help you to work more effectively.
Fit with company values
Vicky Chittenden has over 25 years of experience in HR. She likes to build HR from scratch or take HR to the next level in international organizations. She was born in England, moved to the Netherlands, and raised there by British parents. This really shaped the way she looks at cultures. She is now working at Cargo Control Company. Vicky: “Our company’s mission is to improve how the world moves cargo by creating smarter cargo control solutions. Our core values that are important to highlight in recruiting new employees are Entrepreneurship, Professionalism, Collaboration and Wellbeing. Cargo Control Company is building a new center of excellence – a state of the art production environment – in Poland. With the help of IESF Poland we recently hired a new HR Director in Poland to set up the local recruitment and HR processes. When we are recruiting top talent, managerial level and higher, it is almost more important that they fit with our values instead of having the right experience or background. Irrespective with culture, this is the most important connection for our company. Of course, we are looking for culture diversity.”
Self-reflection is key
Vicky: “Really important is self-awareness and self-reflection. We require our leaders to strive for perfection combined with a great level of self-reflection. Your culture is the basis for this, in how you think, how you act and how you communicate. A flexible approach and a learning mindset are also important. It is always a challenge when you interview people at this level to filter these aspects out and have a real in-depth conversation. These managers or directors have conducted many interviews themselves in hiring people but are often not that good in being interviewed for a position themselves. I expect to talk to a candidate at this level from human to human and for them to really explain who they are, what their ambitions are. This is even more difficult when you do not have the same cultural background. When you have a very different way of looking at society, it is not always easy what that person is saying or what they made of. My recipe when I recruit across cultures, starts with a pre recruiting stage by an executive search partner such as IESF. When I start to speak to someone it is important to continuously being aware of ‘what is my filter’, what says more about myself then it says about the candidate? An interesting tool in comparing cultures is the Hofstede Insights. This explains in very pragmatic way what are the differences in cultures you should be aware of.”
The concept of interesting
Vicky: “When I speak to candidates, I try to stall my conclusion as long as possible. I want to record as much as possible and think of everything as interesting information. A day later I look at my notes to think about it again and conclude if this is a compatible candidate. I want to know about ‘the story’ of the candidate. What has made you to who you are now? In high leadership roles we look for people who know themselves. We as an employer want to know the whole story. We really want to create a dialogue. Sometimes this takes a few times to rephrase the question, especially when English is not the native language. I am also a big fan of tools, like a DISC and Big Five to reduce bias even further, because I must manage my internal stakeholders as well.”
At the end of the Masterclass, it was time for some questions and answers from our participants. Steve Hall, IESF USA: “What have they noticed in recruiting team members from the four primary generations particularly the differences between Millennial and Gen Z in recent years?” Vicky: “What I have seen in generation Z a lot in all countries is that they study in a far country, or they take an in-between year. This generation gathered a lot of cross-cultural experience already at a young age. In the same period of your life, you’re also learning about yourself. The level of self-awareness seems a bit higher. Millennials are in the work environment a bit longer and have more practical self-awareness. They have more experience in working with other cultures and experienced trial and error. Both types of generation bring their own cross-cultural understanding. It is more a personality trait than based on the generation where you’re from.”
Standards versus flexible solutions
Edouard Credey, IESF France: “How do you maintain open-mindedness and differences between employees while defining standards and willingness to stick to it? Isn’t it a never ending come-and-go?” Vicky: “We can challenge local people. Sometimes I hear things like ‘that is something we do not do in our country’. And I would like to think: can you imagine what would happen if we would be the first company to do it? A candidate is allowed to be different and to create the space to grow and innovate. We need to be clear on the what but be flexible on the how.”
Be open minded about cross-cultural differences
Stephan Löw, IESF Germany: “What can we as headhunters optimize in the process to discuss the topic of cross-cultural differences upfront with the candidates to sensitize them meeting the client?” Vicky: “You are prepping out of fairness, what is the company about, is the match sufficient, people need guidance so that is where the role of executive recruiter adds value. You help them on the way, to prepare for a real conversation. And to also be aware of the cultural differences so they can take this into consideration, which reduces biases and clears the communication between two parties”.