July 23, 2019
Hiring 14 August 2018
What You Should Know About Hiring International Candidates
Sarah Landrum
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

There is a popular theory that suggests that humans are connected by only 6 degrees of separation. Think of five people you know, and according to the theory, you’re connected to a Kochi herder in Afghanistan or the Queen of England. The theory traces back to a short story called “Chains” written in 1929, in which one character challenges others to find a single person they’re not connected to via five intermediaries. 

In the 1960s, around the time the internet got its start, one psychologist tested the theory and sent 300 packages to folks in Boston and Nebraska, instructing them to return the packages through their networks back to a single stockbroker residing in Boston. Of these, 64 packages made it with 5.2 intermediaries on average, while the others went to another area of Boston or to a different stockbroker. Today, scientists estimate that number is shrinking due to the interconnectivity of the world through the net. 

You know someone who knows someone who could change your life — or rather, the life of your company in a highly positive way. Chances are that person is an international candidate. In the modern business world, it’s vital that companies consider hiring international candidates to stay successful, dynamic and relevant. 

Here’s what you need to know about the global candidate search:

Interviewing International Candidates

Many big companies in the United States rely on overseas workers. For example, Kellogg’s employs 59 percent of its workforce overseas, and Hanesbrands Inc. increased its global workforce by 21 percent since 2010.

The number of international graduates staying and working in the country increases every year. From 2004 to 2016, 1.4 million millennial international graduates gained authorization to stay in the U.S. to live and work — 53 percent of those obtained approval to work in a STEM field. Many companies and graduates take advantage of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows employers to train these students and let them work in the country. OPT is less well-known than the H-1B visa program, which most employers use to hire international employees.

Finding and interviewing an international candidate isn’t as difficult as you think, nor does it require handling a spotty video conferencing connection. Many talented international candidates are located right in the United States, with prime educations and an eagerness to learn and work. 

The interview for international candidates goes the way of other domestic interviews, and as long as you both are federally compliant if hiring the candidate, the process is pretty straightforward. When interviewing candidates who reside overseas, you’ll want to keep your phone and video conferencing tools updated and continually test them. 

During the interview, look closely at communication skills, and also ask the candidate how they feel about prospectively living and working in the United States. Ask how you could help them get acclimated and what they would bring to the position. Technology now allows many candidates to test their skills remotely for an employer. Alex Potor from ExpoTor says -

We usually analyze the soft and hard skills in an online or offline interview... Experience is important, but more important is their willingness to make an impact through their work and creativity.

Lastly, don’t forget to ask the candidate about their ability to relocate to the United States if your company isn’t willing to pay. If highly interested in a candidate for long-term employment, you can possibly sponsor them for lawful permanent residence through obtaining a green card if employing them full time. Some industries may necessitate labor certification requirements being met.

Benefits of Hiring International Candidates

Many areas of the world face their own challenges that may also pose obstacles for conducting business overseas. An international candidate is more likely to observe these concerns and can build business relationships in their area of origin if that’s something both parties desire. An international hire from Iran would know that the thumbs up gesture is considered rude, and that’s also the case in Greece. They’ll also know to research local communication and culture versus observing a cultural holistically and risking offense. 

International candidates provide a wider and yet detailed lens of business operations both domestically and overseas, and possess a quality education.  They also usually have a strong work ethic and are very motivated. Nate Masterson from Maple Holistics says,

The added challenge of the change of country appeals to a certain caliber of worker. Our international employees have the added motivation of a holistic experience. These kinds of employees are looking to challenge themselves and contribute more effectively in my experience.

Look toward the global talent pool if your company’s industry has a small domestic talent pond that’s mostly dried up. Hiring quality doesn’t matter in the quantity of benefits you give to get back the advantages the prospective hire offers.

Considerations of Hiring International Candidates

International candidates typically speak good English along with other languages, so the stereotypical concerns facing hiring someone from overseas aren’t what you think. The bulk of considerations come from your end of the deal — making sure all tax differentials, relocation allowances, travel expenses and visa issues are within compliance and handled. Expect to spend much more on an expat than you would a domestic hire, and understand that an international hire risks imprisonment if continuing to work and stay beyond their visa’s authorization. 

Employers must take care of H-1B fees for employees minus any third-party fees. H-1B fees are comprised of different parts, including basic filing, training, fraud protection and detection, public law 114-113 and optional premium processing fees. The public law 114-113 fee applies to employers with over 50 employees and costs $4,000, the bulk of those fees. An attorney on retainer for the organization is helpful but can be expensive, so employers should consider their hiring budgets wisely.  

International hires deal with highly demanding jobs, and that comes with higher burnout rates. They face shifting cultures and feeling isolated from friends and family, no matter if they’ve lived in the U.S. for a few years during university or come with no exposure to American culture. Employers shouldn’t leave international hires out in the cold, but make them a part of the work family and help provide social resources in addition to professional ones. 

Another important factor to consider when hiring internationally is their fit into your company's culture. Andrew Sumitani from TINYpulse says - 

We were on the hunt for talented people to join our team, but talent doesn't outweigh culture fit. Our philosophy is to match candidates up with TINYpulse's core values. We hire people who share our goals, not necessarily our viewpoints or backgrounds.

Because they treasure workplace culture so much, they add a culture fit interview into the hiring procedure to get to know candidates. In the cultural fit interview, interviewees are expected to understand the customer perspective well and how they, as employees, would support and enable customer happiness.

Making Transitioning Comfortable for International Hires

Get to know your new employee like any new hire and give them space to come to you with questions or concerns. Arrange to have a work buddy or mentor in place for the international employee to get accommodated, and make a collage of photos, interests and positions of their immediate team. It’ll make getting to know everyone easier.

Some companies also network with relocation assistants who help international and domestic employees secure housing, set up utilities and get other essentials in place. Always keep your door open for questions and concerns to make the transition comfortable for your international hire.

The global candidate search may feel overwhelming for both the company and the international candidate, but remember — roughly 6 degrees separate everyone.

Hiring a professional from overseas can be expensive for small businesses when factoring in relocation and securing visas, but many international hires with specialized skills can also be found on domestic soil finishing up their education. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages in many cases and help unite the technologically advanced global world with honest-to-goodness connection and inclusiveness.

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Sarah Landrum is a millennial workplace expert and the founder of career and happiness blog, Punched Clocks. Her career development advice has been featured on Forbes, Levo, The Muse, Business Insider and other top publications. Sarah has been listed as one of the top career websites and career experts to follow.