Modern recruitment is a complicated process. Unless you are recruiting for organisations like Google or Apple that have ‘BRAND’, you will most probably have to put in some serious legwork. The process gets even more complex if you are conducting an international recruitment process, as cross border recruitment has its own unique set of challenges.
So back in late November 2016, I picked up a recruitment assignment from an Australian furniture manufacturing company for a General Manager role in Vietnam. It is a growing company in Vietnam and trades globally and they were looking for an expat who could manage the production and distribution of their products out of the country.
So much for reducing my workload and enjoying a relaxed Christmas.
Recruiting across borders brought home how much of a challenge it is, especially in Vietnam where I had absolutely zero knowledge of the market. The first thing I did was to research “furniture manufacturing” in Vietnam and create searches on LinkedIn for Executives in the industry. While I did learn a lot, it also reinforced on me how much I did NOT know.
Admittedly, I was a little daunted but I stayed positive and focused on the great satisfaction that could be gained from working with talented people from different cultures. I also made a list of the gaps that I needed to bridge in order to create success for all stakeholders. It was exciting and challenging and there were a few valuable lessons learnt:
I needed a respected agency that could be my contact on the ground and had a recruitment process that complemented with mine. The agency also needed to be familiar with the market, understood the candidate value propositions in Asia and have good knowledge of local employment laws. Working with such an agency is crucial because it provides me an instant credibility with senior candidates that would otherwise take years to build.
In researching the market and speaking with my contacts, I identified a local Vietnamese agency – Galvin May, who understood my requirements perfectly. Ahn Ho was the consultant I communicated closely with and she is one of the most talented people I’d come across. Needless to say, the project proceeded without a glitch as soon as she came on board.
Trust was the biggest hurdle to overcome
Trust is one of the keys to any successful collaboration and it was something I had to build from scratch given the situation we were in. I was working with someone whom I’d just met, who was living in a different country and the only ways to communicate were through emails and phone calls – hardly the most effective ingredients for building trust.
But I remember Stephen Covey’s ideas on building trust and his metaphor of the “Emotional Bank Account”. He believes that we maintain a personal “emotional” bank account with anyone with whom we have a relationship with and the currency of exchange (“emotional units”) is centred around trust. When we make emotional deposits into someone’s bank account, their fondness, trust, and confidence in us grows.
Keeping this in mind, I disclosed everything about my deal with the client to Ahn and set out what I would do and what are my expectations of her. I also offered a deal that I thought was fair and took pains to ensure she was comfortable with the terms. It was a totally transparent arrangement based on mutual respect and that helped to create a solid foundation for our future successes.
Be creative & brave.
After doing some research, I realise the furniture manufacturing industry is really small in Vietnam and most senior executives run their own businesses. So Anh and I had to be a little more creative by utilising different sources, such as exhibition directories, to identify potential candidates. We also actively sought referrals from these business owners in order to expand our talent pool.
Once we have shortlisted our candidates, we began identifying them on the below grid to help us understand where our value proposition would fit.
Everyone wants candidates in Quadrant B where the value proposition and the experience level are high but this is not always possible. Even if you managed to identify this candidate, you will still need to look at the candidate’s soft skills and determine if he or she is a good match for the role. In most cases, candidates in Quadrant D are the best bet as they will be attracted to the high value propositions that you can provide. We eventually ended up with eight great candidates and our client was very impressed with their overall quality.
It was a fantastic, and most definitely challenging, experience recruiting across borders. It also made me realise that there are no boundaries in this world and social structures are becoming flatter than ever. We team up, we create trust, we utilised each other’s strengths and together, we achieve the goal. I certainly learnt a lot and it is an experience I’ll not forget soon.
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