7/24/2015 | Chuck Leddy

Recruitment is tough, especially when you can't find the person to fit your precise needs. Imagine you've scoured your area — and then other areas across the country — for talent to fill a specialized engineer position at your middle market company, but you've come up empty-handed. Now what? You can expand your recruitment reach to overseas job markets. While finding, interviewing and hiring a qualified foreign employee might not be easy, it could be your only remaining option. How, then, should you go about it? Here are seven important considerations:

Always try hiring locally first. If that doesn't work, then foreign recruitment is your best bet.

  1. Attempt to hire locally first. U.S. labor laws require that your middle market company makes a legitimate effort to hire local and regional employees, and you'll need to offer a competitive compensation package for your region and for the particular position. Before you can hire a nonresident foreign worker, recruiting website Monster.com says you'll need to show that there are not enough qualified local candidates to fill the job.
  2. Look for contacts. Seek out referrals from existing employees who may already be working on an H-1B work visa, for example, or who otherwise have contacts overseas. Of course, you should offer your existing employees a referral bonus, but it will be minimal in comparison to what a headhunter would demand for the same service. It's likely that employees working for your company on H-1B work visas have networks abroad and know someone who is looking to work in the U.S. Tap into these hidden recruiting networks.
  3. Reach out to local universities as a recruiting resource. These may have foreign alumni working or living outside the U.S., and may also have recruiting offices overseas. Universities are great resources to find talent in general, and they can be invaluable for identifying foreign prospects who might be able to fill a particular opening. The career center or alumni affairs department of any institution tends to be rife with people willing to go above and beyond to help a local middle market company like yours.
  4. Carefully screen any foreign candidate for their willingness and ability to relocate. Older foreign candidates may have the skills and experience you want, but may also be married with children and therefore less likely to want to move. Younger foreign candidates may be more open to relocation, though they could require more skill or language training. In any case, explore each candidate's willingness to move before making a hiring decision.
  5. Know labor laws inside and out, and be fully ready to support foreign workers with legal requirements. At a basic level, you must understand the requirements for work visas. The H-1B work visa, for example, has limited distribution each year and has very specific requirements. As the United States Department of Labor writes, "The H-1B program allows employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant basis in specialty occupations. ... A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or the equivalent in the specific specialty (e.g. sciences, medicine, health care, education, biotechnology, and business specialties, etc.)." If you're not absolutely sure how these regulations apply to your prospects, hire a lawyer or adviser.
  6. Tailor your messaging. Know how to reach relevant foreign candidates with your recruiting messages, and be sure to sell your company, the experience of working there and the benefits of living in your region. Explore the possibility of listing the job description in a relevant, internationally read trade journal, or consider attending an international conference to use it as a recruiting platform. Reach out to nearby foreign consulates, which are always looking to increase commercial ties with the U.S. Online recruiting tools such as LinkedIn Groups are also popular, accessible ways to expand your reach. Headhunters can help, but they're costly.
  7. Prepare to make the investment. Be ready to invest money in supporting foreign candidates, whether it's flying them in for face-to-face interviews (which are better than digital meetings for spreading your message), or relocating them after making a job offer. You may find yourself having to be more flexible than you expected with benefits and support activities, but this shows your commitment to the employee, which will solidify retention. If you want to hire a nonresident foreign worker to save money, then you have the wrong — and an illegal — motivation, and you shouldn't even begin the arduous process. If you do want to hire a foreign employee, do it as a last resort and plan to invest in recruiting and retaining that person.

Has your company hired abroad? What were the biggest challenges when recruiting employees? Did you encounter any legal difficulties with visas? Let us know by commenting below.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.