Recruiting For Cross-Cultural Skills

It’s difficult not to see that the business world is increasingly global. I recently stayed at a hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the employees had labels on their nametags indicating their country of origin. Although I interacted with just a few of the workers, one was from Mexico and another was from Iraq. All this goes to show that even if your company doesn’t have any contact with countries outside of the U.S., it is likely that some of the employees in your organization are from other parts of the world, and managers will need to be increasingly comfortable interacting with supervising employees from different cultures. In addition, companies will have more customers who either live overseas or have relocated from other countries to the U.S., and therefore will need workers who have the necessary background to function effectively with people from these cultures. In short, cross-cultural skills will increasingly become mandatory in the world in which we all operate. The focus of this article is on sources that will yield individuals with effective cross-cultural skills. A follow-up article will address techniques for assessing individuals in regards to their cross-cultural skills. College Campuses Let’s begin with college campus recruitment. If you want to hire college graduates with cross-cultural skills, you could focus on universities that are strong in international business. One approach is to focus on universities that are highly regarded for such programs. The U.S News and World Report conducts annual surveys to determine which schools have the best International Business programs. Using these rankings can yield good returns for recruiting candidates. Some colleges are renowned for their emphasis on international business, such as Thunderbird University, and they have developed college career offices that are helpful in recruiting qualified students. These universities often maintain close relationships with alumni, and therefore recruitment efforts can attract not just relatively inexperienced candidates, but also experienced, highly qualified applicants as well. Another indicator that may be helpful is to consider the percentage of international students. The U.S. News and World Report also provides information about which colleges and universities have the highest proportion of international students. In the 2005 survey, for example, Alliant International University (in California) had the highest proportion of international students (32%), and New School University (in New York) had the second highest proportion, a distant 22%. A different tact involves contacting student organizations. By sponsoring a program or presentation, you may be able to tap into a rich source of culturally savvy candidates. AIESEC, which is the acronym for a the organization Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, describes itself as an organization for students and recent graduates of institutions of higher education who are interested in economics and management. This organization provides a variety of programs, including exchange opportunities with different countries, to develop college students’ skills and international experiences. AIESEC also partners with a number of organizations to help them achieve these objectives, and these partnerships provide a means of identifying candidates with solid cross-cultural skills. Finally, many universities and colleges have international student clubs, where students can participate in and learn more about specific cultures and countries. Companies interested in identifying applicants with knowledge of specific countries are encouraged to make contacts with such organizations to identify students who may be graduating. If you are looking for potential knowledge and familiarity with specific countries, say China, you may wish to make contacts with students who belong to the Chinese club on various college campuses. Search Engines A different approach is to use a search engine to locate candidates with international experience. Eliyon’s search engine, for example, enables one to search by institution attended. Entering in the name of a university that focuses on international business, such as Thunderbird, will produce candidates with this global experiences. Eliyon and other similar search engines also enable one to search for candidates by job title. Entering words such as “international marketing” will help identify potential candidates with much more experience than a college campus will yield. Lastly, search engines may enable you to search by company name. Inserting the names of competitors known for having strong international businesses and promoting international experience for their employees may be another way to locate passive candidates who have the type of cross-cultural experience that you seek. Using the Internet The Internet is a wonderful source of potential candidates, who can be mined at no cost. A search of web logs, or as they are usually called, blogs, can help you identify names of potential candidates. I recently found a website that contains a list of blogs maintained by expats living around the world. A wealth of potential information regarding the experience and background of the bloggers can be quickly found by visiting their websites. Another Internet approach is to locate websites devoted to serving expats. One website, for example, offers a variety of ways in which British expats can interact with each other, including a forum for “chatting.” Another website provides forums devoted to many different countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and enables a recruiter to view postings from many different people. Non-Traditional Organizations There are a variety of non-traditional organizations that can serve as an excellent source of job candidates. Some organizations’ missions are to assist recent immigrants with a variety of services, including job placement. The International Institute of St. Louis, Missouri, for example, provides many services, including job placement, to new Americans. Such organizations are potential sources of candidates because they typically serve as a kind of placement agency. Staff who work for such organizations might also be possible candidates if you contact them directly. Another example is the Peace Corps. Because of their intensive exposure to different cultures, former Peace Corps workers may be uniquely qualified to serve in certain positions. Locating people with Peace Corps experience may not be quite so simple, however. One approach is to search on the Internet. I located a directory of websites of former Peace Corps volunteers, which with a little bit of time, could yield some candidates with a great deal of cross-cultural skills. As business increasingly becomes global, you will need to recruit, hire, and train employees for effective cross-cultural skills. Better to start now, before the competition steals the best candidates away.

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Michael Harris, Ph.D. ( is the vice president of litigation support services at EASI*Consult, LLC, a management consulting firm that provides expert assessment solutions and litigation support. Dr. Harris has served as an expert witness and consultant in a variety of employment discrimination cases, including race, age, and disabilities lawsuits. Dr. Harris has published extensively in the human resources management area, including two books: The Employment Interview Handbook and HRM: A Practical Approach. He has delivered training on interviewing, diversity, "train-the-trainer," and related topics. He is currently one of two chief contributors to George's Employment Blawg, a blog devoted to HR and HR law issues. Dr. Harris holds a professorship in the College of Business Administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He can also be contacted at 1.800.922.EASI, 314-803-6618 (mobile).


2 Comments on “Recruiting For Cross-Cultural Skills

  1. First let me state, that I enjoyed your article. I think we, all too often, confuse ?diverse? with ?cross-cultural? and you have done a good job of bringing ?cross-cultural? to our attention.

    Thank you for taking time out of your life to share your insight with us.

    If I may, I would like to ponder something in your college recruiting section. You mention international-business, I do not dispute that. International-business is an excellent source of both diverse and cross-cultural talent. However, I would like to know why you did not mention Anthropology or Sociology — specifically, Cultural Anthropology, Institutional Anthropology or a myriad of Sociology concentrations?

    The study of ?man?, the study of ?man? in groups, the study of those groups and the study of how those groups interact seems to me to be a source of excellent ?cross-cultural? talent.

    Remember, there are those that are in the field, there are those in dispersing what was discovered in the field; and then, there are those that use and manipulate the knowledge gained from the field ? all of these can be known as ?Anthropologists? and / or ?Sociologists ?

    I wonder … from whom do you believe the international-business professionals gain most of their knowledge?

    Again, thank you for the article. I think you provided an excellent perspective.


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  2. Good article and very relevant as the globalisation in recruitment continues to emerge.
    However, the assistance that might be provided by International Recruitment agencies also should be taken into consideration. Company might hire personnel directly: through such sources as search engines and college campuses but they can cosult with HR consulting companies or recruitment agencies which reside in the country of origin of a hired employee or potential candidate. Agencies, which are recruiting internationally have very valuable experience and expertise of how the employees from their countries behave during induction stage, which problems they face, pecularities to be considered during the interview and so on. The agency or consulting company can really assist employer in getting cross-cultural skills by sharing its expertise.

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