Friday, September 30, 2011

Is terrorism a real threat to the US?

Update: As one individual has pointed out (and this is an important distinction), "homicide" and "murder" are not defined the same. Further, the study suggests that the majority of this is likely to be justifiable homicide. Thus, my "murder" comment was going too far.

After reading the latest comical terrorism plot (the intent may have been real, but the plan was silly), I've decided to take a bit of a side track from my usual posting because terrorism is a subject of special study on my part. I became fascinated with it years ago and have read voraciously on it and am quite dismayed to find out that very few people have any knowledge of the subject, but they have strong opinions about what should be done.

Of course, my background is also economics. Economics is about the best (whatever that means) allocation of scarce resources. So if you think it will be equally easy to prevent two diseases and one kills 1,000 a year and the other kills 10, if all other things are equal, which do you cure? The answer should be obvious.

Moving along, I couldn't help but be fascinated by this 2007 article a study which details deaths in police custody. The report on the study by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (I didn't find the source material) contains a very disturbing bit of information.
The review found 55 percent of the 2,002 arrest-related deaths from 2003 through 2005 were due to homicide by state and local law enforcement officers.
Note that they make this distinct from "killed while fleeing", "committing suicide",  and so on.

So if you do the match, that's an average of about 367 homicides a year committed by the police, or one every day. A homicide every single day. This isn't some radical liberal group making this accusation, it was the Justice Department under President Bush. If terrorists were killing a person a day on US soil, we'd be up in arms over it. Fox News would certainly have a thing or two to say (and for once they might be right).

Now contrast this to the US State Department which reports that there were only 56 deaths of US citizens worldwide from terrorism in 2005.

So even limiting police behavior to the US compared to terrorism behavior everywhere, in 2005 you were still around seven times more likely to be murdered by police than by terrorists. But why did I compare US activity to worldwide activity? Because if you only consider US deaths from terrorism, the comparison becomes a joke.

According to this FBI report on 2002-2005 terrorism activity on US soil, we had:
  • Two deaths from terrorism related activity in 2002.
  • No deaths from terrorism related activity in 2003.
  • No deaths from terrorism related activity in 2004.
  • No deaths from terrorism related activity in 2005.
While some of this is undoubtedly due to the excellent work our law enforcement officials are engaged in, those same law enforcement officials are murdering Americans at the rate of one a day.

Or they're macing non-violent protestors in New York City right now.

Part of the issue lies in the breakdown of the US judicial system. So many Americans are gung ho about punishment (without thinking about the consequences) and support zero tolerance policies that an extraordinary amount of power has been given to the police without question. And then we punish people with mandatory sentences, not considering the circumstances, such as the homeless man sentenced to life in prison for stealing food. Contrast this to Oregon's Measure 94 which allows someone convicted of attempted murder to spend as little as 2 years and 10 months in prison. Life in prison for a attempted theft of a sandwich versus 34 months for attempted murder.

And how has our harsh crackdown on crime helped? Well, we still have gobs of crime, but the US also has far and away the highest per capita prison population in the world, easily worse than Iran, China, Russia or many other countries we might think have worse crime or more oppressive governments.

But to really nail the point home, we can read well-known security expert Bruce Schneir's article about why there aren't more terrorist attacks on US soil. Part of this is law enforcement, but part of it should be painfully obvious: there just aren't that many terrorists on US soil.

But maybe we think the threat of Muslim extremists is so prevalent that we simply cannot take chances. Except that the FBI report on US terrorism from 1980 to 2005 shows that 94% of terrorist attacks on US soil weren't inspired by Islam. In fact, Jewish extremists committed more terrorist attacks against Americans in this timeframe.

Naturally, the thousands of deaths on 9/11 will be used as a rebuttal and it's a hard one to deal with at that. Take that event away and terrorism in the US is insignificant compared to the threat from our own police. Add that in and rational thought on the subject goes away. That's why we had a 9/11 Commission Report with thirteen sections, fifty-five subsections, three appendices, 567 pages, written after reviewing 2.5 million pages of documents, interviewing 1,200 individuals in ten countries and interviewing most senior officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations — and summing up the motivations for the attack in a single vague paragraph.

And what's the reason for the attack? Ultimately, the vast majority of anti-US terror stems from one simple premise: leave us alone. It's an appallingly simple solution to a problem that's not going to go away otherwise. However, the world dependence on oil means that the world is going to heavily focus on maintaining influence and directing events in those countries with plenty of oil (nobody would give a damn about Hugo Chavez were it not for Venezuela's oil).

So while the US is so incredibly focused on a relatively minor threat from abroad, we continue to ignore a very real problem at home. Remember how Rodney King only received justice because the police attack on him was filmed? Now the police are arresting people who film them, even though such activity is generally not illegal.

I believe the vast majority of police in the US are decent, hard-working individuals who have one of the most difficult (and dangerous) jobs in the country, but this doesn't mean that oversight should not be allowed. Nor does it mean that we should forgive their excesses. We do enough of that already and we see the result: a murder a day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amsterdam family photos

Our daughter is almost 8 months old now. Angelina, of Angelina Mok Photography, came to our flat and took some pictures.

Our daughter's new hobby - stealing my glasses.

It's a big responsibility, being the parents of the world's most beautiful baby.

A happy family.

We're very blessed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The great thing about my job in Amsterdam

While I can't say much about what I do on a day to day basis (aside from working on our search engine), I really enjoy the fact that my company has around 90 nationalities (or so I'm told) working in our Amsterdam office.

Yesterday I was stuck on a particularly pernicious problem and didn't know why 中华人民共和国 wasn't returning China. In fact, there were several similar issues I was trying to work out, but the simple way of handling this was to walk over to Lynne, who just happens to be Chinese.

She explained that 中国 is how one would actually write "China" (the first version being the long form I stole from the Wikipedia China entry) and pointed out a few other issues for me.

It's great being able to say "I need someone who speaks Chinese" and there she is.

I've listened to French women at lunch complain (in French) to each other that they were tired of speaking English.

I had a Hungarian translator teach me how to say the most foul thing (I'm not telling) because a lady from our Australian office wanted to know.

I've sat down with Serbian, Brazilians, Portuguese, Italians and so many other nationalities tell me that it is like back in their home countries. To me that's practically the holy grail in a work place. The world is pretty damned amazing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Living in Europe

Preface: I can understand why I've had people accuse me of being "anti-American", but they're wrong. There are many wonderful things about the US, but I believe patriotism should not be blind. It should be the love a parent has for a child: unconditional, but action should be taken when they do something wrong. The "America right or wrong" attitude is repugnant. So what follows is going to sound to some people like it's anti-American, but it's not. It's anti- a certain section of America who thinks they can get something for nothing.

On Saturday, while at a friend's birthday party in the De Baarsjes area of Amsterdam, I think I nailed down a key difference between the US and Europe. For the day to day life, you really won't notice much of a difference. You'll get up, have breakfast, go to work, go home, have dinner, hang out with friends at a pub or their house, and so on. On Saturday, we were drinking beer, talking about my friend's job and how his company is struggling, watching their children laugh and play, snacking on chips and cheese. Aside from lots of Dutch and French also being spoken, you wouldn't have seen much of a difference here.

It's when you step out of day to day activities that things change. Time and time again my European friends are amazed at how Americans are so insistent on not letting the government help people. While Americans give more to charity than other nationalities, many in Europe don't feel as much need to give to as much charity because that's what their taxes are for. And more importantly, they're happy to pay those taxes. Sure, you'll here the usual grumbling about the tax rates, just as you do in the US, but when directly asked, I've had plenty of Europeans tell me that of course they should pay those taxes: you're supposed to help one another.

A typical American response other's suffering might be "get a job, hippie". The Protestant individualist culture which grips America has created a nation of people who often equate money with personal value. If you don't have a job or don't make much money, you're obviously not very important. That it's gotten to such blatant class warfare as Republicans fighting like mad to ensure that millionaires keep their tax breaks (guess who votes for Republicans?) is a bit of a head scratcher.

So this boils down to:

USA: government is there to promote individual liberty
Europe: government is there to protect and promote the welfare of its citizens

Interestingly, while many Americans strongly object to the government helping people, they're pretty quiet about the government helping the individual states. Specifically, the states whose residents are more likely to vote Republican, object to universal health care or other government subsidies of social programs states who receive more aid money from the federal government than they pay in taxes. In Europe, it's the other way around. People don't mind helping people in their own country; they complain bitterly about helping people in other members of the EU on grounds that often sound rather similar to the Americans who don't want to help the poor.

So as you enjoy the fruits of your education — probably paid for with tax dollars — while driving to work on roads — paid for with tax dollars — and enjoy police protection — tax dollars — and living in a country protected by a vast military — tax dollars — or read mail delivered by your mailperson —educated with tax dollars — or marvel that your cabin on the lake in the middle of nowhere has electricity — tax dollars (Rural Electrification Act) — or are happy that so many criminals are behind bars — tax dollars — or enjoy that park — tax dollars — or admire the courage of the 9/11 first responders — tax dollars — perhaps you should ask yourself why you want your already low taxes lowered even more?

About the book I linked to, "Europe's Promise", I keep hearing good things about it and it's been on my radar for a while. However, many Americans are brainwashed into thinking that theirs is the only way. I don't expect any serious change from the US in my lifetime, barring a complete economic collapse.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How many expats are there?

As reported in Organisation appeals for expat Americans to stand up and be counted, the Overseas Vote Foundation is trying to leverage the Web to count how many US expats there are around the world. Estimates seem to range between four and ten million, but no one is sure. And here's an interesting twist: my daughter is a French American, but she was born here in Amsterdam and has never been in the US. She's clearly not an expat, but will eventually (in theory) have the right to vote.

They're a non-partisan group and they are there to help overseas Americans claim their right to vote.

It's about damned time.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Expat conferences

Future Expats Forum | How to Jumpstart Your Overseas Move

Audience at Humanities Theatre
Someone should be in that chair. Me?
Photo by Mohammad Jangda
This surprised me. I knew there were "how to be an expat conferences", but I didn't realize they were this popular. And this conference looks like it might actually be a good one. In the past I toyed with finding some of these conferences and pitching to be a paid speaker. I already speak quite regularly at technical conferences and I'm fairly comfortable doing it. I thought about just doing "howto" seminars, too.

That being said, I suspect most of them would be better targeted to the US market. After all, if you're here in Europe, you can already easily move to many other countries. Thus, it would be too hard to make howto seminars work, but it was a fun thought for a while. I'll just keep writing this blog.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Buying a house in the Netherlands

My wife and I have considered buying a home in the Netherlands, but obviously the process is intimidating. Last night I went to a seminar on how to buy a house if you're an expat and the lovely folks from Expat Mortgages managed to shock the heck out of me.

Amsterdam house
Amsterdam House
Photo by Michela Mongardi
Mind you, I'm originally from the US but I lived the UK for many years, both places where I saw a different housing market. In fact, the UK today, many young adults simply have no ability to buy a home and the US isn't much better. In the Netherlands today, though, it's still easy and if you're looking to move to Europe and settle down, this might be a big factor for you.

First, most home loans are zero down payment. Sure, you can put money down if you want, but it's not required. Second, like in the US, your interest on the loan is generally deductible from your taxes, meaning that buying, even if you put nothing down, can be cheaper than renting! As for credit rating, it turns out that you really don't want one. Over here, the credit agency generally reports negative items, not positive ones, so if you have no credit rating, that's a good thing!

One gentleman from India asked if he could qualify for a loan. He is a "knowledge worker", has the 30% ruling, a permanent contract, but only a one year residence permit. Not a problem. He's a knowledge worker and apparently the banks consider them a good risk.

So want a home? Get a job here in Amsterdam, get your permanent contract and buy. It's that simple (well, with the help of experts to guide you through the Dutch legal system).

If you're an expat living in Amsterdam already, check out the Expat Housing Seminar. It's free and, even if you don't buy a home, you at least get free drinks and snacks.

And no, I wasn't paid to make this advertisement :)

Update: I removed one comment from this post for using profanity in a derogatory manner. I don't object to profanity per se, but when it's directed at someone else I'm going to remove the response. It's a shame because otherwise that response would have been perfectly appropriate. Here's that anonymous response, minus the profanity:

try anywhere else in the world... any you'll realize you have it much easier than most. I'm nearly 30 and can't even think about buying a place for even 20% down on average home prices in the $700k range.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Short the euro, and make a buck

Just a quick note for today.

Short the euro, and make a buck - David Weidner's Writing on the Wall - MarketWatch

If you're not paying attention to the economy in Europe, it may get a lot worse very fast ... and that's not going to help the US. Basically, a lot of people are expecting Greece to default on her debt. Much of that debt is held in various European countries, including Spain and Portugal, two countries who are also struggling.

The US dollar works because it's a single currency across a single economy. The Euro is a single currency spread across multiple economies and without central coordination, it may be hurt very, very badly.

Those are storm clouds on the horizon and they're not going to help anyone.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Expat spouses and social issues

Case Study: The Expat Dilemma - Boris Groysberg, Nitin Nohria, and Kerry Herman - Harvard Business Review

I really enjoyed reading this case study. Not only did it show the difficulties one might have in retaining international staff, it might just give you, the would-be expat, some idea of just how emotionally difficult the expat life can be, particularly for expat spouses.

Lonely under the clouds
Don't underestimate the dangers of loneliness
Photo by Kazi Hirok Al-Arafat
I should write more about the latter. I've spoken to so many people who want to move abroad, were it not for their spouse. And for those who do so anyway, it can be very difficult. Many people forget that the spouse is often not legally able to work, or if he or she is, they often can't find work. Who wants to hire a foreigner who doesn't speak the language or might leave in a couple of months? Even if they don't want to work, they certainly want to have friends and a social life. They'll start with neither and their spouse is often working long hours, compounding the problem.

My wife and I have solved the latter problem by the simple expediency of yelling across our garden to neighboring balconies, inviting confused strangers to dinner. It's an unconventional strategy, but it's been successful. We've had fine dinners with new people and are slowly rebuilding a social network.

Becoming expats is a great start on a divorce if you're not careful. The homesickness which often grips the expat can be doubly difficult for them as they may not even have the distraction of work to help them adjust. You need to work hard to overcome this and if you don't take it seriously, you'll regret it. So try inviting your neighbor for dinner. Heck, how many of you know your neighbors even in your home country?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Discrimination in teaching English around the world?

What an interesting dilemma. If you want to travel the world by teaching English, you might find that:

Fun, eh? Reminds me of job adverts I've seen in programming where they ask for more years of experience in a technology than the technology has existed.

By the way, the above links are from the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Tips blog. It's a good source of information if you think teaching English might be your ticket to another country.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blue cards in Slovakia

Great news! Blue cards are now available in Slovakia.

Bratislava Skyline
Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Photo by xlibber
The European Blue Card is a joke compared to the US Green Card, which it was designed to compete against, but it's a small, halting step forward in Europe's attempts to deal with their skilled labor shortage (after years of living in the UK, I still spell that as "labour"). However, Slovakia's implementation is nice because unlike some others, you need a university degree or five years of professional experience. I only have an Associate's Degree but with over a decade of experience, a book under my belt, many published articles and a speaker at numerous conferences world-wide, I still don't qualify for the Dutch Blue Card thanks to the AS degree only being a two-year program. Of course, with a French wife it really doesn't matter to me, but when you're trying to get to move abroad, issues like this become extremely important.

Slovakia's economy has been struggling with high unemployment, but overall the country seems like it's heading in the right direction. It's one of a number of emerging Eastern European nations which would-be expats should keep an eye on, particularly if you're looking at the long term.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's wrong with Stockholm

What's wrong with Stockholm -

Our friend Armgard (in the middle)
Every paradise has a downside. Admittedly, as a travel article it's going to look at things differently from how a native would, but it's a lovely discussion of a country that one of my best friends, Armgard, lives in (and one who hopefully will be joining us for dinner tomorrow with her boyfriend (sorry guys)).

I've also a friend Nadim who lives there and linked to the above article. I really need to get a flight over and catch up with all of them. Of course, once again this is the beautiful thing about Europe: hopping over to another country is so easy.

Speaking of which, I should be in Prague for a few days next month. I'll be working, but hopefully I'll get a few photos to toss this way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - Minister to stop 30% tax ruling for low-earning expats - Minister to stop 30% tax ruling for low-earning expats.

How on earth could they be so stupid? I really like the part where they're suggesting workers must be at least 150 kilometers from a Dutch border to qualify. Guess what? Kleve, Germany, is about 140 kilometers from Amsterdam. With a law intended to attract skilled workers taking away their most likely destination, I suspect some people have been shooting off their mouth without thinking about what they're doing.  There are very few places in the Netherlands you could both find a job and not be within 150 kilometers of an international border.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Retaining international employees

I previously wrote about recruiting international employees and today we're going to cover retaining them.

I've written about homesickness before, but I was curious just how prevalent this problem is. In Chapter 2 of the US Expatriate Handbook, I found the following:
Consider the following percentages, provided by the Business Council for International Understanding, of expatriates who return to the US prematurely from a foreign assignment: London 18 percent, Brussels 27 percent, Tokyo 36 percent, and Saudi Arabia 68 percent.
Why? It's difficult to generalize this study because it focused on employees who were transfered from the US to international assignments rather than employees directly recruited abroad, but from my personal experience and research, I would suggest that recruiting someone from Dubai to Saudi Arabia might have a better success rate than recruiting from the US to Saudi Arabia. This is because the more foreign a culture is, the more homesickness an international employee might feel. If you're hiring someone from the UK and your target country doesn't have a "pub culture" that employee enjoys, that might be a warning sign.


This is your biggest obstacle. Read my homesickness post if you really want to understand this. Most of the expats working for my company with whom I've chatted about this topic all tell me it's a problem: they often don't want to move home, but there's a lot that they miss. We hire enough people from around the world that you often can find a couple of people from your country, but at the end of the day, when you can't even figure out how to write a check or find a dentist who speaks your language, that added stress contributes to the homesickness.

Form a Welcoming Committee

This could be a single person or a group of people, but if you're hiring someone from another country, there's a good chance that people in your company will be just as curious about the new hires as the new hires are about their new home. If you can create a welcoming committee, someone from that committee can be introduced to that person on their first day and offer to "show them the ropes." When I first moved to Nottingham, UK, one of my new colleagues, Paul, offered to carpool to work with me and he quickly became a good friend and we even took a road trip to Corsica together. We're still in touch even though we live in different countries. Having a local I could turn to to ask stupid questions was invaluable in helping me adjust to the British lifestyle.

Of course, you could also designate an HR representative to this role. This has the benefit that they're more likely to know relevant laws and have a better appreciation of confidentiality, but having "volunteers" for this strikes me as a way of finding something more welcoming than someone who's paid to do it.

Language Courses

If their primary language is different from that of the new country, consider helping them enroll in language courses. Even here in Amsterdam where everyone speaks English, virtually all government and banking paperwork is in Dutch. Even if that wasn't the case, it's much easier to integrate into a culture when you speak the native language. This is particularly true in areas such as Paris where not speaking the language can be seen as rude.

Offer Financial Advice

This might seem strange, but employees won't necessarily know where to bank, what housing they can afford, or where they can affordably shop. The first time I lived in Amsterdam, I did all of my food shopping at Albert Heijn, not realizing that Albert Heijn is one of the more expensive supermarkets in the Netherlands. That had a significant impact on my budget. Today we do most of our shopping at ALDI or Dirk van den Broek and only go to Albert Heijn for specialty items.

While you're at it, consider buying your employees travel cards/passes, or whatever your local area offers. When transportation costs are less of an issue, it's just one more stress that the internatioanl employee doesn't have to worry about. Traveling a bit and getting to know the area will make them appreciate it more and the cost of the pass is an inexpensive way of building loyalty and showing that you care.

Understand Cultural Differences

US workers are often encouraged to speak their minds very directly. This works well here in the Netherlands, but it's decidedly less popular in the UK. An international employee who isn't aware of these differences can easily offend people without meaning to. Crossing your legs and bouncing your foot up and down might entail the grievous insult of showing the bottom of your shoe to someone. With all of the work an expat has to do to get up to speed in a new culture, getting advice on the differences is very welcome.

Adjusting to a new life in a new country can be challenging, but you can earn your new employee's loyalty by helping them however you can. There's a lot more to recruiting internationally than simply offering a nice salary and benefits.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Recruiting international employees

I've written about international recruiting before. However, as I get more involved in recruiting I'm discovering that many companies don't have a clue how to go about it. It can be a difficult task, so don't hesitate to get in touch with me if you need advice.

Recruiting employees internationally breaks down into two parts: recruiting and retaining. You can't retain employees you don't recruit and recruiting an employee who leaves a few months later is a huge waste of time and money. Today, however, I'll focus on recruiting.

Why should you listen to me when I write about how to move abroad rather than focusing on recruiting? Because even though I'm just a software developer for, I've found that I'm bringing in more referrals than some of the professional recruiters we work with.

Recruiting Internationally

If your company wants to recruit internationally, this is probably because you simply can't find enough local workers. At this point, you might want to ask yourself if it's worth recruiting local interns or entry-level personnel and training them. You could contact local universities about upcoming graduates or possibly arranging intern time for students that earns them work experience and college credits. You could also look into retraining your current staff who may work in different areas and are willing to switch. You could also consider opening a remote office or allowing workers to telecommute. There are many ways to deal with domestic labor shortages, but not all are appropriate for your needs.

Know your immigration laws

That being said, you may not be in a position to do this. If you've exhausted all opportunities and you want to try recruiting abroad, your first step is to learn your country's work permit laws inside and out. Some countries make it easier than others and, at least when I was hired in the UK, there was a slightly different process for companies who had never sponsored a work permit before (they had to prove they were a legitimate company and not formed merely to provide someone with a work permit). If you find an international candidate you want to hire, you need to provide them with extremely clear expectations of the timeframe and process. They won't be happy quitting their current job only to find out they have an extra four months to wait before they can move.

In the process of researching the work permit laws, talk to specialists in this field. I met a gentleman who was staying overnight in an airport hotel because he was being refused entry to the UK to accept the university professorship that he had received a work permit for. This is because he was the first international recruit for the university and they didn't know that a work permit wasn't enough. He also needed entry clearance to move to the UK. You don't want to trip up potential recruits by missing out on key portions of immigration law.

Know your target market

You're probably recruiting experienced professionals in a field which requires specialized skills. The people who will mostly likely jump at the chance to live and work in another country are younger, more adventurous individuals who are less likely to have the skills and experience you are searching for. The older, more experienced worker is more likely to be married, have an established social circle, own their own home or have any of a number of reasons why they can't move to another country. I've had so many excellent candidates tell me "I would love to but my spouse won't move" that I've joked about hiring divorce lawyers.

Don't advertise for things you don't need.
So if you're at a trade fair and you're trying to recruit someone, one of the first things to find out is whether or not they're willing to move abroad. If they're not, nothing else matters. If they are, this is what you focus on first. Why? Because you're trying to attract skilled workers who've heard plenty of job pitches and words like "agile, autonomy, fun working environment" tend to make their eyes glaze over after a while. Buzzword Bingo is a mockery, not a selling point. I've had plenty of jobs where UML was listed as a requirement but I've never used it professionally. I've learned to ignore this in job adverts. Potential employees have learned to ignore a huge amount about job adverts. What they haven't heard is "we will pay you to have an adventure in another country." This is what really sets you apart from your competition.

Case in point: I was recruiting people move to Amsterdam and the booth next to us on the trade show floor was doing the same thing. We heavily, heavily pitched the "Amsterdam" angle and they pitched the "job" angle. We had plenty of qualified applicants. They had none. They seemed like fun people and the job sounded great, but you really had to look hard to know that they wanted you in Europe.

Evaluating candidates

This is hard. It's particularly difficult because you have a higher risk than normal, but most companies don't do a great job of assessing a candidate's suitability. Personal references are rarely helpful. The only time I've received interesting feedback from a personal reference was from the candidate who accidentally provided me with the phone number of her lover's wife. I did not schedule an interview. Work references are also often useless. Calling previous employers is difficult as they often are not willing to provide much information due to the risk of lawsuits.

Education can also be problematic as at least one study found 10% of candidates lying about their education background. Diploma mills can make this even harder to sort out. Does your company verify (or care about) education? Do you accept a photocopy of an applicant's diploma as proof?

The interview process is also abysmal. Most interviews I've been in have been informal "chats" with hiring managers. Admittedly, I'm fairly well-known in my field, but sometimes these "chats" are idiotic.  I was once asked if I carried a knife (excuse me?)! A far better strategy for hiring is the structured interview. It helps to minimize bias and focus on your company's specific needs. A structured interview tends to weed out candidates faster, but you really want more false negatives than false positives here. Hiring the wrong candidate, particularly for international recruiting, is expensive. If you don't have good results interviewing domestic candidates, it will be even worse for international candidates.

Offering a job

You know your labor laws, you know who you're trying to hire and you've found a candidate who you want to hire. You need to pitch the job. You'll need to remember that their primary motivator could well be "move to another country." Ironically, this is probably their biggest fear. They don't know how to find a place to live. They don't know how to open a bank account. They don't know how to find a doctor. They don't even know how they're going to move over there! You need to make saying "yes" as painless as possible.

You're going to tell them how to do all of this. Due to the skilled labor shortage here in the Netherlands, the government has created the Expat Center. They can help the new expats with the various legal requirements for getting integrated into society, right down to advice on finding a veterinarian or buying a car. Assuming your country doesn't offer anything similar, designate (or hire) someone in HR to assist in these matters. If you're trying to convince a candidate to move to Barcelona and they're afraid of the hurdle of reading bank documents in Spanish, it's good to have someone on hand they can turn to. Of course, this is a very sensitive position and must be handled by a very trusted employee. Helping translate a medical document could be a humiliating experience.

You're also going to pay their way over. In fact, if you look at the cost of paying a recruiter to find someone, if you do it yourself, paying for someone's relocation and putting them up in a short-stay apartment for a couple of months might be extremely cost-effective. Also, consider paying for language lessons if appropriate. Even here in Amsterdam where everyone speaks English, the paperwork is invariably in Dutch.

You might also consider a clause in the contract asking them to pay back a percentage of relocation costs if they voluntarily leave within a set amount of time. Getting a work permit to move to the UK is hard, but once you have it, switching employers is often easy. Having a repayment clause might scare off candidates, but it's worth considering.

Where do I find these people?

You'll know your business better than I do. New Scientist magazine has many "help wanted" ads aimed at scientists. Many tech companies send recruiters to conferences. Ask your current employees who they could recommend. Buy advertising on Web sites your potential employees will likely read. Make a good pitch on a relevant group. Many times you'll find specialty web sites like which are free and cater to exactly the market you are looking for. There is no magic formula for finding international candidates and my experience with professional recruiters is very hit or miss. Be creative! Make a video about how wonderful your city is and what a great work environment you have and put it on Youtube! Really take the time to understand your industry and what your potential employees read or do and you'll find out how to get in touch with them.

My next post is about retaining international employees.