There is a major perception in Europe that America is a hot bed of technology talent. In fact, the request we probably hear most from the tech companies we work with is: “We want to hire a rock star candidate from the US.”
In 2004, we conducted the search for a new CMO for Skype and the Founders immediately highlighted the US as where their ideal candidate would be. At the time this was an unusual request, as European start-ups tended to only look within the European talent pool to fulfill their European-focused ambitions, but Skype had global ambitions so wanted to hire the very best talent in the world.
Remarkably, the responses from US candidates ranged from “What’s Skype?” to “Why would I leave Silicon Valley?” and most quickly rejected the opportunity. It became abundantly clear that most US candidates simply didn’t believe that a major technology company could emerge from Europe.
Ten years on, however, requests by European clients to recruit US candidates have increased exponentially. This is a clear indication that European companies are much more ambitious today, and believe they can compete against the very best US companies for the top talent.
We always urge European companies to consider whether they really need to hire a US candidate. Does it make good, strategic sense to relocate someone from overseas, given the level of complexity and associated costs? In most cases, the best reason to look abroad is simply when there is a limited supply of suitable talent in your local market, but relocating talent from the US to Europe will always make a recruitment process longer and more complex.
How can we attract US talent?
So, if you have established that the US really is the best place to find the talent you need to fulfill your strategic goals, how do you go about attracting the right person? Having successfully brought US talent into European roles of companies like Tesco, Criteo, Wonga, Soundcloud and King, we have compiled the following four tips to help you do the same:
Sell the ambition of the business: The best US candidates inevitably want to work for the best companies, and arguably, most of these companies are still located in the US. This immediately makes many US candidates blinkered to even considering opportunities outside of their home market, but this is beginning to change as more and more European companies establish global reputations. Companies like King.com, Criteo, Spotify, TransferWise, Klarna and Zalando are leading the way, and showing candidates what huge waves European companies are making will help persuade them that your business can grow to similarly exciting levels.
Prioritise candidates with a link to Europe: Candidates that already have some kind of affinity with Europe, such as European heritage or partners, are much more likely to relocate. Many will have previously worked in Europe, while some are internationally minded and would love an exciting ex-pat adventure. It can really pay to research and tap into networks of talent based in the US who may wish to either return home or want to spend time working in a foreign country.
Recruit the Family: Quite simply, relocating a candidate who is ‘single’ is much easier. 99.9 percent of candidates who are attached will not make a unilateral decision about a career move without consulting their partner, or considering the wellbeing of their children first. This adds the challenge of also persuading the candidate’s ‘family’ to embrace an international move, so we always strongly encourage companies to invite the partner of the candidate to visit the country and offices and meet your team. If they are familiar with you on a more personal level it will make the move much easier, so try to offer them some friendly reassurance about things like their own career, schooling, cost of living, tax, housing and the kind of vibrant, exciting lifestyle the area can offer.
Speed: As with so many things in business, “time kills deals” so it is important to ensure everything is set up to move fast once you have identified your ideal candidate. Chances are, you’re not the only one pursuing them, so take the time to prepare employment contracts, stock plans, visa applications and whatever support is required so you can act quickly.
Working with top technology companies in both the US and across Europe, it has been clear to us that the global perception of European tech businesses is changing. We have learned a tremendous amount about how to maximise the chances of successfully securing a US-based candidate, but as the European technology scene continues to grow in size, ambition and reputation, we’re confident that the movement of talent between US and Europe will become even more of a two-way street.
Mannie Gill is a founding Partner with Renovata Partners, a leading international executive search firm focused on recruiting the best senior management talent for Internet, mobile and software companies throughout Europe and the US.
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