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Sourcing Global Talent: The Challenges Faced by Overseas Recruiters


Besides the obvious hurdles of language barriers, cultural differences and lifestyles, the red-tape of relocation can be a huge barrier when hiring from abroad. The web of administration is unfamiliar and the process is longer, as trying to source talent in a country not of origin, can be a huge challenge for overseas recruiters.

Kerry Voellner interviewed George Birch of Silven Recruitment, the food and drink recruitment specialists, who opened a second office in Dubai last year, to find out more about the issues faced when recruiting in the MENA regions.

After considering the potential to expand the business (whose first office is based in Manchester) into a global market, the decision to open an office in Dubai was a speedy one. George says,

“Everything moved quite quickly, the idea was initially discussed back in October 2015, after we visited the region with our Managing Director, Ian Simkins.

“I moved to Dubai in May 2015 with my wife after we both secured employment overseas. The first few months were hard to adjust to, as it is a completely different lifestyle, which is to be expected.

“For me personally, my wife was interested in emigrating, so it seemed the perfect choice to not only start a new life from scratch, but also a new business at the same time.”

Although Silven Recruitment had only been based in the UK prior to the expansion, Dubai seemed the perfect location for market entry into expanding, global markets.

Albeit a bold move, George and his team in Dubai and his directors in England believe they made the right decision,

“I was already working in the region before Silven MENA, so as well as research it was predominantly based on first-hand experience.

“The region is increasing rapidly with major investments from large multinational food/drink manufacturers. Several years ago the majority of food and drink products were shipped into the region and the few manufacturers based here supplied only the domestic market.

“This has now changed and several manufacturers within the region now export to over 30 countries between Europe, Asia and Australia.

“Sheikh Mohammed recently declared that his intentions for the UAE is to be a manufacturing capital across many industries, one being Food and Drink, so the future looks very bright.”

Traditional methods of winning business is of high importance in the MENA regions. George continues,

“Aside from language or cultural differences, the biggest challenge is gaining trust with clients. It is extremely rare that you will win new business without meeting your client face to face.

“This is a challenge when you are based in Dubai and your client may be in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.”

George’s MENA clients have high expectations when it comes to sourcing talent. However, one obstacle is the increasing lack of interest in Western candidates,

“I don’t think the attraction is as strong as it once was.

“Obviously candidates from Europe, USA, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have always been sought after within the region due to their experience working at an extremely high level within their home countries and having to adhere to stringent audits, for Example, BRC.

“That being said, there are some extremely strong and experienced candidates coming out of Lebanon, Jordon, Egypt, Pakistan and India.

“The region is a melting pot of different nationalities working together and MENA clients simply want the best possible candidates.”

The visa and movement process in a foreign market can be demanding.

“Quite often, your successful candidates may have to go through relocation before they start their new job” George says.

“This obviously means the process is often a lot longer than it is in the UK. Also sometimes a client may only have a visa allowance for certain nationalities when recruiting positions which seriously limits your search.

“Also many years ago it was easier to source candidates as most companies offered a salary, schooling and housing too, which is very rare in the current market.”

Regardless, of the fact that most companies no longer offer housing, the UAE in particular still offers a tax-free, high-income lifestyle, with an excellent standard of living, particularly for young families.

“The visa process is something that you learn over time. Regarding the packages companies offer today, it is a case of finding the candidate that opportunity appeals to.

It’s not just lifestyle that attracts candidates to the MENA regions. Career prospects and experience are also important. George continues,

“Within specific job roles, the chance of progression is a lot higher, as staff turnover tends to be higher. 95% of the workforce are from overseas, therefore people are always moving in and out of the region.

“The experience is also a big driver for candidates, having the opportunity to work with or manage international colleagues.

“Aside from the job roles, the biggest attraction is obviously a tax-free lifestyle that enables many overseas workers to save a substantial amount of money.”

After recent successes in their second office, George has now started to build a team of Middle Eastern recruiters, and works with two other established specialists, Waqas Kidwai and Faysal Waheed.

Although overseas recruitment challenges are faced on a daily basis, the reception from clients and candidates alike has been warm and welcoming.

“Everyone is keen to know about Silven as a company.

They’re excited by the fact that we only work with FMCG companies. When we mention our global head office is in Manchester, UK, it is always followed by the question… United or City?