Thursday, November 4, 2010

Agencies Should Hire The Best Talent No Matter Where They Live

The issue in recruiting is always candidates.  I learned this when I was first recruiting.  Finding the right person for a job is like completing a jigsaw puzzle.  The fit has to be just right.  The most successful recruiters are those who understand their clients and, within the client organizations, understand the nuances among the accounts and are able to place the right people in those jobs.  Agencies still mistakenly believe that there are loads of people roaming the streets and they can have their pick of candidates as a result job specs continue to be specific.  

Good candidates are hard to find. 

Ironically, we often find a great candidate who lives in another city or even another country.  Unfortunately, some agencies reject great people simply because of proximity without having met them or even talking to them.
These days a Skype interview is almost as good as meeting someone in person.  And it makes perfect sense for a preliminary chat for someone who lives elsewhere.

Over the years I have had candidates rejected simply because they live in another place and the agency does not wish to become involved with relocation, even if the candidate is paying for it.  Agencies often bypass excellent candidates from both Canada or abroad, not only because they don't want to get involved with waiting for the move or for visa applications, but because coordination can be difficult.

This is a business of talent.  Good talent can be found in lots of places.  No candidate should be rejected simply because they don't live conveniently.  I am not just saying this because I am a recruiter.  From the company’s point of view finding the right people can make the difference between keeping and losing an account, so why not go for the best possible person?   

There are many agencies, particularly among the top twenty, who tell me that they will not accept candidates from other markets.  And they forbid me to introduce candidates who require a visa application, visa transfers or sponsorship, even those from Canada.  They tell me that, after all, there are plenty of well qualified people who live right here and do not require any extra work to bring them in.  They also tell me that visa sponsorship is too time consuming and too expensive.   Yet they may spend weeks or months trying to recruit locally when the best candidate could have been found and hired long before the local person appears.
There is also another bias which I cannot understand.  Many Americans relocating back home from abroad are rejected because the screeners - sometimes human resources but often other people who they meet within the organization - have absolutely no concept of what goes on in another country.  I meet lots of Americans coming home who tell me that they have a difficult time in even getting interviews, no less getting hired.  They are rejected simply because what they did abroad is not understood here.

I once had a candidate who was sent to Japan by his management.  He did really well at this agency's Tokyo office - he saved one of their largest international accounts.  Because he was so successful, he was promoted several times in Japan, eventually becoming director of account management.  Then his wife got pregnant and he decided to come home.  When he arrived back in New York, the president of the agency, who was the one who sent him abroad, told him that he would only bring him back at his previous salary and position from five years before, "I don't really know what you did in Tokyo and I am not sure it is relevant."  Of course he left the agency quickly.  I have heard that story many times. 

This issue was once brought home bay a very professional and very wonderful human resources person who told me that she didn’t trust foreign experience because she did not quite know how they worked or what they really did abroad.  The answer, of course, is that they work pretty much the same way we do here. In many cases they are better because they have had to become far more resourceful in dealing with clients and getting work done. This problem applies to people who live and work at agencies outside the three or four top advertising markets here in the states.  As silly as that sounds, as a recruiter, I come across it all the time.  It sometimes isn't verbalized, but it is there.

Some agencies, even those with senior management who are foreign nationals, are reluctant to hire people from abroad because they may require visa applications or transfers.  My understanding is that H-1 visas require almost no time and effort to process and are easily transferred between companies.  Initial applications for people who have never worked here may be more cumbersome but are not difficult.  Intra-company transfers are very simple.  

I am not advocating hiring people from other countries simply because they are foreigners.  I am advocating that advertising is a business of talent and all companies should simply be looking for the best people, no matter where their experience comes from.  And I am certainly saying that an American who has worked abroad should not be discriminated against because they worked abroad.

Each day the world gets smaller.


  1. Attention Clients: Your agencies hire the cheapest and least risky --not the best and brightest. Probably because you don't want to pay for the best and brightest....

  2. Other advanced Markets such as Singapore, Dubai or London, hire "only" international talents to fill specific vacancies.
    It is strange, NY is the "international" hub of advertising, and agencies should hire more top international talents irrelevant of their location.
    Indeed, the world gets smaller.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

Creative Commons License