The Language of International Recruitment
The Covid-19 pandemic has proved an ‘accelerant’ in many areas. The way we access healthcare and other services, where we do our shopping, how we use technology and where we work have all undergone rapid changes. For many of us, working at home became the norm during frequent lockdowns and we quickly adapted to new working conditions by using new technologies, finding new channels of communication and exchanging our smart clothes for a more relaxed style.
Suddenly workplace culture was turned on its head.
Although not ideal for everyone, the home office has become the preferred working environment for many and one they are not keen to swap for a return to the four walls of an office. The combined attractions of location flexibility and the elimination of the commute are not hard to understand.
This in turn has meant that the search for a new job doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to the area, or even the country you live in. The world can be your oyster as long as the language and competency fit. Similarly, organizations no longer have to recruit staff living within commuting distance or willing to relocate, they can tap into a potentially worldwide labor market.
Language Industry Experience
In the language industry we have long been accustomed to remote working and borderless teams. With our principal objective of facilitating cross-cultural communication, we are used to our colleagues being dotted around the globe and working in different languages to ours. We know to prioritize straightforward language and communication channels, respect time zones and global holidays, the value of a multilingual workplace and the importance of providing translated company documentation.
In short, we know our business depends on a linguistically and culturally diverse workforce.
The same is now becoming true in many other sectors. Organizations are beginning to understand the benefits of recruiting from a wider talent pool and how that adds to the company’s creativity, innovation and ability to solve problems. In some sectors recruiting abroad is also the solution for a lack of available skills and qualified candidates at home.
Companies where employees feel included, respected and that their needs are catered for, consistently record greater growth than others where inclusion has not been prioritized to the same degree (The CEO Magazine). Investing in people from varied backgrounds and cultures who represent many corners of society is shown to increase company agility and profitability.
It goes without saying that diversity at work means much more than having multilingual employees of differing nationalities. However, as we’re in the language business it’s the linguistic and cultural aspect of this issue that we’re focusing on in this blog.
How to make sure your organization recruits the best people – the power of the job ad
Attracting new talent in new markets does however require careful planning. It’s not simply a question of translating your job ad and distributing it on the right platforms.
Different cultures can have very different values when it comes to how they recruit, what they highlight in the job offer and what they look for in new employees. For these reasons each market should be considered individually and specifics taken into consideration:
- Is the working culture formal or informal?
- What boundaries exist between work life and private life?
- How many hours are usually worked per week? How much holiday is expected?
- Are decisions made individually or as a group?
- Is the type of language used at work casual or not?
- Are business models hierarchical or flat?
- What do employees consider the key benefits of a position?
The answers to these questions and more can influence how your company seeks to attract new colleagues from elsewhere. Altering the type of language used, adjusting tone and style, and tweaking how the job description is presented may all be necessary.
A few tips
On a basic level, preparing the job ad for transfer into other languages is definitely something to think about. Writing in plain language without industry jargon or local colloquialisms will help the translator reproduce it in another language and avoid any misinterpretation.
Also try to keep it short and steer clear of unnecessary words. Text can frequently expand when translated into other languages. Working from English into say German can cause an expansion of around 35% and into Italian up to 25%. Others, like Japanese, may use more vertical space than horizontal. Allowing for this is advisable.
Often a simple translation isn’t sufficient. The job ad should function correctly in the local context and some elements may have to be adapted or at least made clearer. This is the localization process and could involve changing any measurements, times or dates and any culturally specific references to fit what is used in the culture you’re publishing to. If the salary is stated, clearly showing the currency and whether the payments are gross or net, monthly or other, could be important.
It’s also worth thinking about the types of qualifications, education and experience you’re looking for and include in the ad. What are their equivalents in the target market? Should the emphasis be on different skills?
Accounting for the style and tone habitually used for recruitment texts in the target culture is equally advisable. As with job ads in your home country, ads in different languages should hope to reflect both your company’s identity and the culture they are aimed at. Where humor or a casual style might be an effective medium in a job ad for a technology company in California for example, this may not be understood in the same way in Japan, where working customs and etiquette can be very different. Using an inappropriate style of posting could mean you alienate your best candidates.
Avoid machine translation
We recently ran the text for a job opportunity we were promoting here at t’works through an online machine translation tool. We hoped it might save us a little time and we’re always happy for an algorithm to shoulder some of our workload!
However, in this case the results were mixed. The automatic translation engine obviously picked up the general gist of the text but in terms of using it as an attractive way to entice people to work with us, the outcome was wholly inadequate.
Fortunately we are experts at reviewing machine translation and it didn’t cause us too much inconvenience, but without the intervention of skilled linguists this would be difficult. Although in some cases automatic translation is a highly productive tool (see our blog post here), for the case of recruitment this example suggests that relying on it is unwise and that the language depends too much on cultural context to be correctly understood by artificial intelligence.
CV or resume?
Similarly, when it comes to looking at a candidate’s application, the differences in how a CV is written or a letter phrased, can be subtle but important.
There can even be a difference in what is meant by a CV as opposed to a resume. In many places it’s taken to be the same thing, but in the US a resume is a short summary about the job applicant and in the UK a CV is a detailed and comprehensive overview of education, experience and achievements.
In some cases and particularly in Europe it may be common to include a candidate’s photo on a CV, in Portugal courses and seminars attended through work should be in a separate section and in Greece a CV can run to 5 pages.
Cultural background can also have an influence in the way the candidate answers and acts during an interview. If the workplace is traditionally more hierarchical like, for example, in eastern European countries, the interviewee will expect the interview process to be formal and will dress accordingly. Although making eye contact is assumed to be a sign of confidence in countries like the US, in China it can be seen as rude and may be avoided.
In short, international job applicants can vary significantly in how they apply and what they expect from the process. Taking this into account will help to overcome any assumptions and enable your organization to take on the best people for the job.
Awareness is key
We can conclude then that international recruitment should be approached with a great degree of cultural and linguistic awareness. There is a significant advantage in being flexible in both how you advertise the open position and how you assess the applications and candidates. Using the most appropriate language is the only option; don’t risk not finding the best people to grow your business.
t’works has the language services to help your company with its international recruitment. We are experts in cross-border communication and our teams of translators, reviewers and cultural specialists will put your multilingual texts on the right track to making the right connections.