Recruiting for Global Operations

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October 13, 2023

7 minutes

Recruiting for global operations 


“If you think it's expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur”. This quote from the famous oil well firefighter, Red Adair, nicely encapsulates the importance of being thoughtful and structured when recruiting. Whether it’s employee number one, or the fifteenth product manager to join a growth-stage company, there are a number of frameworks and strategies teams can employ to radically improve outcomes. For all the times thought leaders and executives with microphones say “people are everything”, there’s surprisingly little actionable advice for entrepreneurs and hiring managers.

Hiring from the right “schools”

Ignore “Ivy League”, “Russell Group”, or any other educational prestige for just a moment. When building a winning team, the schools we want to hire from are the companies that are most likely to have shaped and trained talent to a point where it’s a great fit for our own organizations. This schooling can range from specific technical or hard skills all the way down to the transmission of cultural values or attitudes. In startup land, people talk of “mafias”, popularized by observations of early PayPal employees (the “PayPal mafia”) and their post-PayPal successes founding multiple leading startups and venture capital firms. More recently, many well-funded companies that reached significant scale have been hunting grounds for the next generation of winners. These include companies like Uber, Revolut, Nubank, Grab, Flipkart, Alibaba, Rocket Internet. 

In many cases, it makes more sense to follow this effective strategy than to reinvent the wheel. 

What to hire for

As a general rule, you should be doing everything yourself manually at least once before you decide to hire or automate. Not only does this save costs in the early stages of a company, product or projects lifecycle, but it gives the hiring managers a deep understanding of the underlying work streams that are to be delegated to an incoming individual contributor or manager. 

Once you know what workstreams you need to hire for, turn it into a role. This means creating a job description and requirements, as well as starting to fill out a pipeline of candidates. As previously recommended, the best idea here not to totally reinvent the wheel, but to simply emulate what’s already working:

  • For job titles and descriptions: do not draft from scratch, but take initial inspiration from what other companies in a similar space are doing
  • To find the archetype of an ideal candidate: find the profiles of people that do the role you are looking to hire for at similar companies – if the company itself is successful, it’s likely due to strong talent, so there’s significant merit in “reverse engineering” the fabric that makes up the team
  • Find “recruiting grounds”: understanding the inputs to the profile of an ideal candidate, it’s now time to flesh out a list of “schools” we want to hire from by finding “lookalike” companies

Recruiting strategies

There are 3 key methods to recruit great talent: outbound, inbound, and network. 

For outbound, LinkedIn is still a superior tool, as it effectively serves as a directory of the majority of educated talent globally. To use it effectively:

  • Create pipelines to search for talent from the “schools” you have found
  • Make catchy message copy that is 300 characters or less, regardless of whether you’re reaching out via a connection invite or an InMail
  • Use a CRM or ATS to track every candidate you engage with, and leverage reminder functionality to set a follow-up process for unresponsive candidates
  • Network can be extremely powerful – Uber famously rewarded talent referrers with company equity and built a large global team of strong operators
  • Draft a simple, punchy message that is forwardable and includes a link to the job description
  • Send it to anyone in your network who may be connected with relevant candidates
  • Follow up with referrers on a regular cadence until they are able to make at least one introduction
  • Job boards are self-explanatory but are still important to reach folks who are actively looking to transition to a new role but may not land in outbound message campaigns

Considerations when hiring for global operations 

It’s hard enough to hire successfully in markets we know well, but that complexity increases significantly when hiring abroad:

  • You may not know the “recruiting grounds” in a foreign country, as they will likely be local champions
  • Your recruiting scorecard may be biased towards attributes that are more important in the environment you are from

When launching a new market, it’s important to give an extra buffer of a couple of weeks to gather knowledge:

  • Use your existing network to find anyone familiar with the target market who can give an initial lay of the land: which companies to consider hiring from, what to look out for
  • Leverage the first few conversations you manage to have by asking for advice for your recruiting process – you’d be surprised at how willing people are to share advice, especially if they believe in the product or service you are launching

Always remember: “people” are not your most important asset, the “right people” are.

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