Understanding cultural differences in the international recruitment process: Tips for success

Efficiently engage & communicate with top talent.

International employee recruitment continues to grow in popularity as more companies shift to remote and distributed work. Not only does it provide flexibility in the hiring process, but it also gives you access to the world’s best talent. 

One of the primary challenges in the international recruitment process is understanding cultural differences. You can’t treat every candidate in the same manner. Instead, your approach should be based on the person’s culture, where they live, and what they expect during recruitment and hiring. 

There’s no replacement for obtaining knowledge of the cultural and customs differences between countries. This is necessary in order to efficiently engage and communicate with top talent, regardless of location. 

5 tips for success in the international recruitment process

1. Understand how to communicate

All cultures communicate differently, so the way you recruit, interview, hire, and manage employees in the U.S. won’t be the same as those in Europe or the Middle East. Some countries prefer a more formal, less emotionally driven tone in the business world, while other countries’ norms are more casual—or the norms vary by industry.

The best approach is to take cues from your audience. As you become more comfortable with the conversation, you’ll understand how to communicate respectfully and effectively. 

2. Learn how to build trust

No matter the details surrounding the recruitment process, there’s no replacement for trust. Without it, you’ll struggle to build a foundation that allows you to make an informed and confident hiring decision. 

Here are some steps you can take to build trust:

  • Be open and honest at all times
  • Follow through on your promises
  • Answer questions to the best of your ability 
  • Ask questions to clear the air
  • Maintain contact (using the candidate’s preferred method) throughout the recruitment process

The importance of building trust remains the same from culture to culture. This will never change. 

3. Provide a clear, detailed, and universal job description

A transparent job description is critical to kicking off the recruitment process. It should be “universal” in that it’s understood by all candidates, regardless of location or culture. 

Here are some additional points of interest:

  • Choose an easy-to-understand job title
  • Include a thorough and engaging job overview (three to five sentences)
  • Use short bullet points to describe the position

Your goal is for anyone who reads the job description to quickly and fully understand the position you’re hiring for. Don’t make an applicant guess—that could slow down the process or discourage them from applying in the first place. 

4. Know what “power distance” means

Power distance is best described as how people in a society relate to each other on a hierarchical scale, and it affects every aspect of the international recruitment process. For example, the power distance in eastern and southern European countries is among the greatest. This means that employees like to be addressed with the appropriate job title and in a formal manner. 

Other countries, such as the Netherlands, have a lower power distance, creating a more casual atmosphere. 

5. Focus on potential legal issues

Every company wants to believe their hiring process is transparent and ethical, but what does that mean? Finding the right candidate requires a balance of the right skills and cultural fit—and assessing for cultural fit is where things can get tricky. If your process leaves room for bias during recruitment, you run the risk of discrimination and other legal claims.

Assess your hiring process by answering a few questions:

  • Do you have a uniform recruitment and hiring process?
  • Do you have a system to ensure that hiring decisions based on cultural fit don’t result in discrimination against specific candidates? 
  • What steps can you take to maintain fairness in both employment and compensation?

Think about how your answers might be helping or hurting your hiring efforts. Understanding the cultural differences in the international recruitment process will allow you to harness the true power of the world’s candidate pool. 

While no two companies will take an identical approach to identifying, interviewing, and hiring international talent, the tips above should provide the direction you seek. The more time you put into the international recruitment process, the more you’ll realize what you should and shouldn’t be doing. 

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform that enables visionary HR leaders to find, engage, pay, manage, develop, and care for a thriving, distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve without the usual headaches and expenses.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere globally—with reliable, compliant payroll and great local benefits and perks.

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