You know that weird psychology drawing that looks like a frontal head-shot from one angle and side shot from another angle?
That’s how I feel when I communicate with my different clients from all around the world every day. Only you need to add a perspective from above, one from behind and maybe even one from below. You have to have a firm idea of whom you are dealing with, and the flexibility to react accordingly. Otherwise it is so easy to get lost in cultural misunderstandings. You have to be incredibly agile to put yourself into different sets of shoes multiple times every day.
The days of having a few leisurely hours to read your “Guide To Chinese Culture” on the plane are over. You have a Skype call with Japan in the morning, closely followed with a call to Thailand. Then some email negotiations with the Middle East and a lunch out in London with a Dutch client. Early afternoon is spent placating a disappointed British candidate, while obsessing about how you are going to secure that new business from the US when you have put the kids to bed.
I don’t want to seem like I am complaining. I am in awe of the opportunities that technology gives me to work with clients from all over the world and I passionately embrace it. However, to work with them effectively (important word), it often seems like I have to have multiple personality bypasses every hour.
In the increasingly small global marketplace, those people and businesses who put themselves in their customer’s shoes are the ones who will flourish. If you do your best to understand why your global clients are making certain decisions, how their cultures differ from yours and where the potential misunderstandings lie, then you have the best chance of success.
I’ll share a few generalizations from the world of recruitment (from my personal experience), although I recognise that there are countless others for different industries:
In the US, it is easy to engage a prospective candidate but difficult to close them. Candidates in the US are happy to engage and network with you, they will be open and clear about their aspirations and share what direction they are driving their career. US Candidates are very willing to invest time and energy in a process but when it comes to the “crunch” they are equally happy to walk away at the 11th hour. I love working with the Americans, but do so knowing and often expecting the above.
In Asia, it is different. It is hard to engage a candidate but easier to close them. At the beginning, Asian candidates are wary and cautious of sharing their thoughts and aspirations. You need to work extremely hard upfront to develop and build a level of trust, but once you have it, Asian candidates tend to be true to their word and very reliable. Offers are accepted more often than not, and a candidates approach to the closing process is consistent with their manner during the engagement phase. I respect the Asian way of working, it’s honest, true and consistent.
The UK is a mixture of both worlds and defiantly takes the hardest of both. It is hard to engage a candidate, it is hard to develop trust with a candidate and it is hard to close a candidate! I am sure people have different views of why this is – maybe it’s the saturated nature of the British recruitment market, maybe is the broad range of quality of consultants and head hunters working the market – either way to be successful in recruiting a Brit, you need to be aware of the above and prepared to manage the challenges.
I want to re-iterate that these are just my experiences, as a Head-hunter based in London delivering searches across each of these geographies. I recognise that a local recruiter in the US may see things differently or a local recruiter in Asia may find candidates easier to engage.
I also understand that you can’t generalize about nationalities and stereotypes. It goes without saying that you should assess every relationship on a personal level, but in my experience, taking into account national traits does make a small difference.
As a student of human behaviour, I have a fascinating job, even if it is a little confusing at times!
Written by Alex Turner, Edited by Paul Drury.