Over the last five years, we’ve helped a relatively large number of companies in different countries, above all, in Europe, to find the best new key employees.

Here I list few things that would be important to keep in mind when recruiting, especially if this is the first hire in a new country:

Make a thorough investigation

This seems pretty natural, but you wouldn’t believe how many companies kind of skip this phase and just trust their intuition. So if you’re, let’s say, one of the founders of a successful start-up, for example, in Finland, it can be more than possible that the first country you should expand is NOT Sweden. It seems like an easy choice. It’s close, it’s something we tend to know, or at least everybody has visited Stockholm a few times. And the culture is more or less the same, or at least this is what we’ve been told. Something that is not told that often that the competition is huge, and companies there tend to favor Swedish companies over Finnish ones. I know, shocking!    

Over the years, I’ve done quite a lot of personal lobbying for southern Europe, especially for Spain. It turned out that for Finnish companies, there are also other countries to seek growth in, apart from Sweden or Germany. Those two countries tend to be the first countries that Finnish companies always choose when they decide to expand. What is wrong with that? Well, in those two countries, there’s always huge competition, practically regardless of the sector. The employment situation is also good, which does not make it easier to take the first steps as many valuable candidates are not actively searching for a job. They are already working for a company. And the third point would be that German companies like to work with Germans and Swedes like to work with Swedish.

Whereas in Spain, for example, Finnish people and companies tend to have a great reputation and are welcomed with open arms. In a city like Madrid, there are over 6 million people and a pretty driving economy. In Finland, there are 5,5 million people, so you can do the comparison and math about the possibilities. Sure it’s a different culture, and you need to have local people when opening the market. Still, it’s compensated by the fact that there’s a lot of good people all the time in the job market looking for new opportunities. If a company from the North with some innovative product or service approaches him/her in a correct way, there’s a high chance that the answer would be yes. 

Find out what is the ideal salary for that position

When moving towards the first recruitment, it would be important to find out the salary level in the target country and, above all, what should be paid to the person according to their specific profile. Not in such a way that we enter a new market and are told that a person’s monthly salary will be an X amount of €, neither more nor less. Of course, if the desired salary range is well above the local level, then there will be no problem.

Every now and then it happens that the company imagines that they are getting a great person for really cheap, for example here in Madrid. The fact is, however, that the salaries of experts, managers, and executives are very close to those we have in Finland. There’s also a big difference when some company is just operating in the local market than if it’s also operating in the international market. Lots of people in good Sales Manager positions here in Spain in international organizations are earning 100.000€ – 150.000€ / year. These people usually hold MBA degrees or similar and also fluent at least in Spanish and English.

Is it realistic to find the profile you are searching for?

If, for example, in France, Spain, Italy, or even Germany, you add to the list of requirements that the candidate should speak fluent English, the number of potential candidates will drop dramatically. Then you add some very specific know-how or industry experience to the “must-have” list, and you are already on the verge of a tiny potential group of candidates. 

Yes, even in the city where there are more than 6 million people.

So, what I’m saying here is that you should always have a discussion with a local recruiter or a Headhunting company about the possibility of finding a person with that given profile. And of course, this is also greatly influenced by the offer that the company is planning to give, and if it is not financially significant, problems can arise, especially in situations where the number of potential candidates can be considered small. The biggest reason for this is the next point. 

Remember that a person has big risks

Especially when we are making the first recruitment in a new country, it is good to remember that the person to be selected for the position often has really big risks and therefore the decision will not be made in just a few days. Often, companies have to work really hard to build enough trust for a person to decide to change employer eventually.

The fact that you don’t have a past history in that country might also worry the candidate you might change your mind after the first year or two. As Headhunters, this is something we tend to work a lot with the candidates. Giving examples and showing that this company (= our client) is a real deal and they will not invest hundreds of thousands of euros into a new country just for fun. 

But this is also something that I feel I’m responsible many times so I’m using a lot of time with my customer in the situation like this to make sure that they’re financially prepared and they know what they’re doing. It’s a huge investment many times to open a new market, and especially in the middle of a pandemic, things can take a little bit more time. 

Forget what you are in your home country

This is probably the biggest mistake most companies make when they go abroad the very first time. For example, for the software companies, you might have been successful in your home country, and you have a great brand. But what is quite often forgetting that it’s because you’re Swedish, British, or Finnish, and the local press gives you a lot of media time and free press. Your clients like to choose you over some even better but not local software provider because they feel that it’s always easier to work with a local player. 

Then you go and try to open some new market, and you notice pretty quickly that things don’t go that well and fast. Especially if that other market has some local companies with similar products or services, this means that your product or service needs to be a lot better or cheaper than the rest if you’re planning to be successful. 

Also, another problem is that when your headquarters might have free coffee, bean bag chairs, sauna, and ping pong table, in the new market, the first hires will be working most likely from the home office or in the co-working space. So, you can forget the beautiful sentences about the company culture and the employee experience in the job ad when those really don’t exist when someone is working from home thousands of kilometers away from your headquarters.  

Find a competent local recruiting or Headhunting partner

A knowledgeable local recruiting or Headhunting partner helps you find the best candidates for the job, but it will also help you cover the basic needs when entering a new market. We often help our clients with practical matters such as founding the legal entity, crafting a local employment contract, finding an accounting firm, and giving some overview of the different zones where it would be good to have the office if needed. 

When I talk to companies, it’s usually really easy to justify and sell the idea of why they should use some external help for their first recruitments in a new country/market. Whether you choose us or some other provider, the main thing is that you ask for help. Don’t be too proud or cocky because you’ve been successful in your home country. That’s great, but the reality you will face in the new market is often another story. 

Usually, once the first recruitment has been successful, the newly hired person will be able to continue from there and already handle at least part of the next possible recruitments.

Teemu Ruuska


InHunt World


What is InHunt World?

InHunt World is a Global Headhunting Network that connects the best local headhunting companies around the world. Our mission is to help companies expand to international markets successfully by finding their new key employees. Recruitments abroad can be a headache and a big obstacle when expanding operations to other countries. With us InHunt World, we will make that problem go away, and you can be sure that finding new team members in the new country will not be an issue.

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