Code Name “Zambia” – How to Start Recruitment in a New Country

Updated: Oct 27, 2018

Approximately two years ago I was invited to a meeting about recruitment in Africa. During the meeting it transpired that a project was planned to take place in an African country I had never heard of (for the purposes of this blog we will call it Zambia), and that the aim of the meeting was to do some thinking as to how we should prepare ourselves for the recruitment. I recall sitting in the office, opposite the screen, and simply feeling the anxiety coming up my body. I was not even sure where that country was located, let alone which recruitment sources were available there. The only country in which we carried out recruitment in Africa, at that times, was South Africa. I was Lucky enough to have on the other end of the line,

my manager. She helped me to take a deep breath and start thinking what to do.

Since then, I have already recruited in other “exotic” countries, but this experience has been locked in my mind as a case study, we still use this as a code name in my team for something which comes out of the blue – “have you already recruited in Zambia”?

The first ten steps for recruitment in a new country-

1. Open Google maps - firstly, it is important to know and understand the geographic

features of that country: its location, its bordering countries, is it located in the middle of a continent or along a coast?

2. Open Wikipedia - or open google and start collecting information. What is the

breakdown of the population, what is the capital and other central cities, how many

universities are there and their location, what are the traditional/developing industries in the country? If you focus on a certain area in this country, learn its characteristics.

3. Mapping – what needs to be recruited and when? Can the project leader provide a

detailed report of the required roles, and the required skills for those roles? Is there a planned time-line for the project? Is it known which roles would be required at each phase of the project? Any such piece of information can direct you to better planning of your recruitment strategy, allowing you to focus on your next steps.

4. Gathering focused information – based on the mapping and understanding of the role, it is important to start researching the local market; which other companies

exist in that area, who are the competitors, which universities/colleges teach the subjects we are focusing on? One of my preferred methods is to look through the local job vacancy adverts for similar roles. Such adverts can give me information about

competitors, professional terminology used in the market, type of qualifications/

experience needed etc.

5. Establishing leads/contacts – in my opinion this is one of the key factors, finding a local person who knows the market and is, therefore, able to provide information and tips for the future. Is there a local manager/team member you can speak with? Is there a supplier or point of contact on behalf of the client? Do I know anyone who has already carried out recruitment for this country? You don’t know anyone?

In the case I referred to, I simply started by addressing local HR people on Linked-in, asking for assistance. Once you have the details of a local point of contact, contact them with a set of clear questions such as: where do candidates usually look for work? Who are the competing companies in the specific field? Level of salary? The candidates’ level in English? What is acceptable in recruitment processes?

6. Recruitment strategy – At this phase you already have enough preliminary information at hand to think about a recruitment strategy. For example, am I going to carry out the recruitment together with the internal recruitment team, or maybe it is preferable to acquire the services of a local recruitment company? Alternatively, shall I start by recruiting contractors and freelancers? Any such decision will depend on variables such as – the roles, the objectives of the project (the timetable for the recruitment), and the “difficulties” in that country (the next phase…).

7. Know your limits – this is an essential commodity and is true in every sphere of life. It is Important to understand which type of help you will need at which point along the

process. The first consideration should be the language. In countries where English is not the common language or the candidates’ level of English is poor, communication with the candidates and all advertising will have to be carried out in the local language. In such cases, it might be more difficult to carry out the recruitment by myself, and I will need the services of a local recruitment agency to help me communicate with the candidates; or I will have to count on a local manager/team member to support me during the process.

Another consideration relates to the schedule of the project – What is the deadline of the project? In the event of a tight schedule, maybe it is preferable to acquire the services of a local company for support, as I will not have

enough time to learn and experience the local market.

8. Regulations and local employment laws – In the event that you recruit the first employee in a certain country, you should first check whether there are any local regulations that you as the recruiter should adhere to, such as: registering at the local employment office, providing the correct documentation, a contract in two languages, etc. If you don’t have an internal legal adviser, it is advisable to find a local adviser who will help you through the process.

9. Stop and communicate - in many cases we, as recruitment team, invest efforts in searching for information, understanding the new country, checking the recruitment sources, etc. while for the manager in charge of the project, things have not yet progressed. Managing expectations is a must, so the manager understands that we are all facing a new challenge and what we think are the best methods to cope with it.

10. Try – if you don’t try you don’t know… There will be times when you start a campaign or a certain move and then realise you have made a mistake. It may be the case that you

directed your efforts to advertising on Facebook but it did not work, as the more

popular platform was Twitter. You must keep your finger on the pulse to see what works

better for you, revert to the local contacts and team, ask for advice or a second opinion

and then try again.

#recruitment #inhouserecruiter #recruiternotes #sourcing #africa

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