Lesson #21: Hiring internationally
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I love working with an international team. Every team I’ve built since beginning my career has consisted of engineers from several countries, cultures, identities, working styles, and so on. When done right, you can create this melting pot of a team that brings very different ways of thinking to the forefront, allowing you to build a better product.
But it’s not easy – and so many companies get hiring internationally wrong. I’m by no means an expert and I highly suggest you consult legal counsel should you begin hiring internationally even on a contract basis, but I can at least share with you here some of the things I’ve learned since building an engineering hub for my company in Poland.
Emphasize doing it right, but prepare to get it wrong. Hiring internationally isn't just about expanding your talent pool; it's about navigating a maze of laws, regulations, and diverse cultures. Approach it with a strategic mindset. Speak with as many engineering leaders as you can about your plans to hire and get their take. Learn the mistakes they made so you can try to avoid them. But understand that when you embark to hire in another culture that is not your own, there are always going to be things you don’t know, and you will likely make mistakes.
Invest time in research. Before you get started, dedicate substantial time to understand the legal requirements, cultural nuances, and specific goals you aim to achieve through international hiring. This groundwork is your compass. Pull in HR, legal, finance, and anyone else who will play a key role in developing an international team.
Understand your “why”. Whether you’re establishing a hub or just recruiting a handful of engineers, clarity in your goals is key. The path you take to hiring is going to differ depending on your short- and long-term goals. Understand from a business perspective what the plans are for the long haul, especially if there may be other teams that will one day hire in this same new international location.
Use a local recruiter. If you’re hiring for multiple roles in a country you’re unfamiliar with, your hiring practices will probably not align perfectly with the country in which you’re hiring. Using a local recruiter will help you navigate the nuances of your job descriptions, interview format, dos and don’ts, and contracts.
Ask for feedback. A lot of it. Not just from those engineering leaders but from those you hire. What’s working, what’s not, where can you improve your processes. You’re going to have to spend a lot more time with your international team especially as you get up and running.
Recognize when things aren’t working and course correct early. As stated at the outset, you’re not going to get it right 100% of the time. Some of the best advice I got when I set out to build our engineering hub in Poland is plan to get it wrong, hope to get it right. Making a poor hiring or process decision is not a reflection on you as an individual; it’s a new process and you’re learning as you go. Pick yourself up, understand what went wrong, and make better decisions next time. Nobody should be expecting perfection from such a large endeavor.
What I’m reading
I just started Wiring the Winning Organization by Gene Kim and Steven J. Spear! I’m excited to dig in.
Check out the full book list for recommendations and an ever-growing reading list.
Note: Links to books in this section are affiliate links to help support the purchase of the rest of my books :)
What I’m working on
December is always a mad rush, and this one is no exception. I’ve got 9 business days left of work this year, so I’m just focused on making sure projects are scoped accurately and on track for completion with many engineers out on varying holidays this month. ‘Tis the season to descope :)
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