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5 Tips for Finding Qualified International Employees

The new employee has only been at work for a few days, but it feels like she’s been a part of the team for years. She asks a lot of questions, but still demonstrates that she really “gets it.” When asked if she can take on another task, she responds with “Yes” before the question is even finished.

For many small business owners, this kind of super employee may seem like folklore. This also rings true when seeking employees in other countries where culture, education and experience can feel like an unbridgeable rift between employers’ expectations and employees’ execution.

The good news is that super employees do exist. But in order to find them, international business owners should approach recruiting with a strategy in mind and a patient attitude. Not sure where to start or how to hire employees overseas? Here are five tips for locating the best talent worldwide.

“I only use people who have been referred to me by someone I really trust and respect.”

— Alyssa Dver, owner of Mint Green Marketing

1. Know What to Look For

Before business owners can hire an ideal employee, they need to know what qualities define “ideal.” It may seem like common sense, but it’s not as common as one would think, says Leo von Wendorff, owner and CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Virtual Knowledge Workers, a company that hires out virtual assistants to businesses across the globe.

According to Wendorff, many employers have only a vague idea about what they want in their first international hire. “It’s the same as if you hire someone locally,” he says. “You need to have clear objectives.” 

To gain a better understanding of their hiring goals, it may be helpful for business owners to write out a checklist of what they’re looking for in their next employee or contractor for their business overseas. This checklist should cover everything from hard and soft skills to attitude. Developing a list of qualities will make it easier to describe the candidates they’re looking for in job postings. And the list can also serve as a litmus test, which can prove useful as business owners evaluate candidates during the interview and hiring process. 

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2. Demonstrate Trust, But Verify Credentials

In 2010, Darron Burke, owner of Burke Brands, a coffee grower and retailer in Miami, decided to expand his small, 20-employee business into Asia. He met a South Korean businessman at a tradeshow who expressed interest in opening an outpost of Burke’s business in Seoul.

The businessman seemed legitimate, but Burke knew it was important to practice due diligence. So he booked a plane ticket to Seoul and spent time with the man in his hometown, training him and talking with his business associates. Burke also sought out references from some of the man’s acquaintances at a Korean church in Miami. After asking around, Burke felt he had a good sense of the man’s character, and ultimately decided that he “would be a great guy to take a chance on.”

Before making a hiring decision, it’s imperative that business owners carefully vet international candidates by obtaining references from previous employers or professional connections, in order to gain a proper sense of that person’s background and credentials.

3. Use Professional Networks

Alyssa Dver, owner of Mint Green Marketing, a strategic marketing consulting firm in Westborough, Mass., avoids using outsourcing websites to find international subcontractors. Instead, she relies on the international network that she’s built by attending professional development events, such as international business conferences. “I only use people who have been referred to me by someone I really trust and respect,” Dver says. “In some cases, they’ll contact me because they’ve heard about me.”

4.  Evaluate Their Past Work

Georgina El Morshdy is the owner of Gem Writing, a freelance copywriting and content marketing consultancy in Plymouth, U.K. Recently, she hired a business consultant in Canada to help generate new ideas, provide a fresh perspective on business challenges and grow the business. But first, she purchased instructional materials from the consultant’s website, which helped her test the waters and gauge her subject’s expertise.

“The people that I hired auditioned through their blog,” she says. “Through the quality of the content I was reading on the blog, I got to know, like and trust the consultant, which made the hiring stage a lot easier.”

The type of audition will vary by industry. However, it’s always helpful to find some creative way to gauge the quality of a candidate’s previous work.

5. Ease the Transition with a Low-exposure Project

When a business owner does finally find the right person, it’s a good idea to start him or her out with small projects, Dver says. “I’ll start them on a project that is low exposure — oftentimes, [it’s] not even a client project,” she says. For example, a contractor may fix something on her website or design one of her business’s promotions. That way, if the new contract employee makes a critical mistake, Dver doesn’t lose a client in the process.

Once a business owner has found the right person for the job, it’s also important to discuss issues related to compensation — including benefits, salary, international payment methods, frequency of payments and currency. It’s important a business keeps in mind the exchange rate and ensures they use the right channels to deliver compensation in employees’ local currency. Using an online foreign exchange service to submit payments can help employers easily track the status of their funds, while minimizing costs.

There are several steps involved in the process of finding qualified workers overseas, but it all starts with the business owner having a clear understanding of what he or she needs. From there, a little due diligence can help separate top performers from all the rest. 

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