Highlights From Our 2006 Global Trends Survey, Part 2

Last week I began highlighting some findings from our recent survey of global recruiting trends. We found that many of you consider being able to recruit globally important, but not very many do it or do it well. It is the largest and most global organizations that have the most experience and capability in reaching out to bring candidates to the United States (or other countries) and in recruiting remotely for positions in foreign countries. But whether recruiters are trying to bring people to their home country or just to recruit for a local position, their efforts are complicated by the remoteness of candidates and the reluctance most people have in hiring people they have not met face-to-face. No technology has overcome this issue (yet), although the emerging video capabilities of some of the VoiP providers such as Skype promise to somewhat close the gap.


Another concern is what language to use in a recruiting website and for interviewing. If you represent an American company, is knowledge of English essential for all jobs? Can your applicant tracking system be provided in multiple languages? Should it be? While English has become the lingua franca for professionals around the world, it is not considered essential for hourly positions or for many positions that do not involve direct conversation or interface with those from other countries. Even so, very few organizations are offering or considering translating their current website or applicant tracking system into another language. It seems that there is a general, although unspoken, agreement that English is the language one needs to know to work with or for international firms. English may also serve as a screening tool for some organizations where English is required. As one respondent said, “I am in health care and [employees] need to be able to read and speak English [to] understand physician orders.”

A website and applicant tracking system in English are effective ways to test skill. Beyond language are other and often much subtler areas of difference. Some countries have very different methods of obtaining applicant data; some ask for material that is considered inappropriate or illegal in the United States (e.g. sex, age, and marital status), and many use more extensive testing and screening than is common in the United States. Even the way things are worded and how jobs are described have local twists that are frequently overlooked on global websites. We did not probe into this in our survey, but we may begin some analysis of global websites later this year. Only 32 percent of respondents have applicant tracking systems that are universal for both U.S. and global locations, while 34 percent have a system implemented in the states only.

The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that there entire recruiting site is in English. Besides English, the most popular languages for an organization’s recruiting website, applicant tracking system, or both include: Chinese (16 percent), German (16 percent), Spanish (14 percent), French (14 percent), and Japanese (13 percent). Most respondents (55 percent) are not planning to change their websites or move to other languages. For respondents whose recruiting website is currently in English only, 15 percent said that 2006 will see their site available in another language. Even fewer are planning to move their applicant tracking system to another language. Only 9 percent said that 2006 will see their site available in another language. The two biggest obstacles that respondents reported to implementing a global website or applicant tracking system include the lack of the perceived benefit or need (30 percent website, 29 percent applicant tracking system) and the cost (24 percent, 26 percent).


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Recruiters are truly locked into an interview paradigm. Perhaps over time we will begin to see more value in testing and in other forms of screening and assessment, but for now the interview rules globally. While interviews do provide the human contact and social experience we all need, they are expensive and time consuming to conduct and have a varying degree of validity, depending on who does them and how they’re done. Even skilled interviewers using the best methods cannot predict performance as well as tools such as skills and cognitive ability testing. The top three most commonly used screening tools globally are one-on-one interviews (81 percent); reference checking (70 percent); and educational background checking (56 percent). Skills testing is also done in many cases (34 percent), and almost 25 percent of respondents use an assessment center. A handful of firms reported using IQ and personality testing and a few even use handwriting analysis (3.4 percent). Many use a combination of tools; this increases predictability and is a recommended practice. As one respondent says, sourcing and screening globally often is an informal process. “Access to quality candidates is an issue as I recruit from the corporate head office in Sydney, Australia, and need to hire quality candidates to our regional locations, including UK, Singapore, and the U.S. We tend to rely heavily on word of mouth and referrals, which can lead to nepotism.”


Measuring success of global recruiting requires the capability to collect and analyze data, usually by using an applicant tracking system. A majority (55 percent) of respondents tracks global recruiting metrics through the central corporate location, while 38 percent track international recruiting metrics locally. Barriers to effectively tracking metrics for global efforts are similar to the barriers for global efforts. One respondent said that her barriers included “reconciling the need for global standardization (and resulting metrics/efficiencies) with local customization to accommodate cultural and legal differences.” Global recruiting is a growing business, and for many organizations the distinction between local, regional, and global recruiting are blurring. Talent is increasingly global and our success in seeking out the best, screening for the best, and hiring them depends on being able to put together strategic talent plans, build or buy tools and services that can be used globally, and on developing a standard set of metrics to track success. We still have a way to go. The final complete report, available free to ERE readers, will be ready next week. We are putting the final touches on it and will have a link to the report in next week’s column on ERE. My thanks to everyone who responded.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.


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