Dublin, Japan, and beyond: How HubSpot approaches recruiting candidates in international markets

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9 mins, 9 secs read time

With more and more companies going the route of opening international offices, it’s no doubt that challenges are going to arise. One of those challenges is scaling the recruiting function. In new global markets, you need to consider and accommodate different cultures, regulations, and customs, all which affect your recruiting process. It takes much more research and strategic planning than does recruiting for new domestic offices.

Just ask Declan Fitzgerald, Global Recruiting Director at HubSpot, the leader in inbound marketing. He oversees both North America and all international offices around the world. In our recent sit-down with Declan, we learned how HubSpot, headquartered in Cambridge, MA, has successfully recruited and hired in 4 new global markets: Dublin, Australia, Singapore, and Japan.

Read on to get a better understanding of what HubSpot did to recruit (and onboard!) in these global markets—and grab tips & tricks to help your recruiting team achieve similar success.

International recruiting philosophy

To set up a new international office and figure out which recruiting strategy to use, Declan examines companies that have already done it and determines if their way makes sense for HubSpot. Here, he leverages his own network of recruiters, particularly from his previous companies like LinkedIn and Microsoft and sees if he can pull tips from them—what to do and what not to do. These companies have already “been there, done that,” so he listens to their recruiters to better understand the differences between various global cultures, which can be a tricky thing to tackle without the experience. His go-to question is “If you were to do it all again, what would you double down on or do differently?” Clearly, he’s solidified HubSpot’s recruiting philosophy as learning from others and taking the best of what they offer, and then forming their own unique strategy from that.

Further, Declan’s team is taking measures to create a brand new recruiting process that is helping attract talent from a distance. Just like how HubSpot is teaching its customers to generate leads using inbound marketing, it’s applying this same strategy to recruitment—a process everyone’s calling “inbound recruitment.” The foundation of this strategy is found in the company’s culture deck which touches on the company’s mission and values and gives prospective candidates an accurate depiction of what it’s really like to work there. By focusing on the culture, the deck, which has been viewed almost 3 million times, shows prospective international candidates how important culture fit is at HubSpot, and thus works to attract right-fit candidates (and deter unfit candidates) from entering the recruiting process.

In general, the team also spends a lot of time thinking through how to drive referrals and leads through their employees’ networks as well as specializing in direct sourcing of passive candidates through their recruiters but also through their hiring managers who they teach to source as well.

Now that we have a better understanding of HubSpot’s recruiting philosophy, let’s see how they’ve applied this to building out teams in a handful of distinct international markets.

Dublin: Building a referral-centric, proactive sourcing program

Having over twenty years of experience in the Dublin market, Declan was able to immediately identify the critical nature of employee referrals there, considering Dublin is home to many of the top software companies in the world. This meant that there was a lot of high quality talent right in town, so the point was to take advantage of it! Thus, the team ventured to build out the Dublin location based on a referral-centric, proactive sourcing model, having employees lean into their own networks and offering them a strong monetary reward for doing so. And the results have been great, with 2016 so far showing a whopping 35% of hires worldwide coming through the referral channel. Just as important is using a variety of tools to hunt down top talent in Ireland and from Europe which Declan has built an entire recruitment team around where he handpicked talented recruiters who have experience sourcing before they join.

Australia: Using recruiting agencies and sourcing remotely for the first wave of hires

Next, Declan and his team decided to go the recruiting agency route when recruiting for their new Australia office, as time to hire was critical in getting the project off the ground. Speed was of the essence. They had aggressive timelines to make their first 10-15 hires, so they decided to lean into some trusted partners on the ground who could provide quick and easy access to quality talent.

But that’s not all—the team combined the agency approach with a lot of passive sourcing on LinkedIn and used the culture deck as a conversation starter to engage with passive candidates. After the first wave of hires was made, Declan quickly hired a recruiter, and then took the model to 100% sourcing-based. Declan says that hiring a full-time recruiter for an international location is justified if you’re trying to hire more than 20 people in a year. Otherwise, you should consider enlisting the help of an agency with each hire needed—and potentially couple this with giving your recruiters in other regions a stretch goal to work the new region if they have bandwidth and feel it could be an opportunity to develop their skill set. As a bonus, this helps give these recruiters a holistic view of the entire operation.

Singapore: Fostering an ongoing healthy recruiting pipeline

In Singapore, the team took a similar approach for its first wave of hires to that in Australia by hiring a local recruiting agency and then sourcing directly. They determined that it was best to combine efforts, having a recruiter drive the sourcing from Dublin and coupling that with hiring an experienced recruiter on the ground in Singapore to help further drive their recruiting pipeline. Again, through the agency, sourcing, and recruiting process, HubSpot’s culture deck was instrumental in identifying talent that they felt could thrive in the company and fit the unique culture—a culture they wanted to make sure spanned oceans and didn’t get lost in translation.

Now with the Singapore office at 25 in headcount, employee referrals are becoming more important to continue growing the team. Declan also points out that implementing employer branding initiatives and using the PR-angle works wonders in driving traffic to the careers page. Specific to Singapore, the team did a strong PR push at the start of the hiring campaign, garnering excitement by announcing how many jobs HubSpot was creating in this market.

Japan: Taking a westernized approach to interviewing

HubSpot just moved into Japan two months ago. From the get-go, the recruiting team decided that because of the large culture gap between the U.S. and Japan, if they wanted to ensure that the Japanese office was going to maintain the HubSpot culture, they needed to take a westernized approach to interviewing, especially for wave one of their hiring. They wanted the interview process to be less formal and traditional like in other Japanese businesses and instead have it be more westernized and informal, consisting of face-to-face meetings, giving candidates plenty of opportunities to ask questions, have easy back-and-forth conversations with recruiters, and overall get a real feel for what it would be like to work for an American company like HubSpot.

Currently, there are a small team in the Japanese office, but in the coming years it expects to expand rapidly. It hasn’t been the easiest process, as the recruiting team has had to take measures to overcome the language and cultural barriers, like creating a Japanese extension on the website and having a recruiting team member use a GoPro camera for a day to record the office and city so that prospective candidates can get a real-life sense of it—more so than just what could be perceived from viewing the culture deck.

There continues to be a strong learning curve, questioning, “Do we have the right salary ranges and benefits structure in place, etc?” But to answer these questions and offer guidance, the team turns to Japan’s JETRO organization which helps global companies like HubSpot open offices in Japan. The team also questions how to best convey HubSpot’s value proposition to Japanese hires—what does inbound marketing mean in Japan? The team has considered hiring a Japanese trainer to be on site to assist with terminology and comprehension, but is questioning the most opportune time to bring this person onto the team—is at 50 employees? 100 employees? What? For Declan and the team, this has been the most challenging market to execute on to date. The learning curve has been steep with Japan, having to figure out that LinkedIn is not heavily used for professional networking and needing to adjust interview etiquette and contract negotiation here and there to better fit with local customs. The learning has been an ongoing process—one that continues to this day.

Onboarding international hires

As we know, proper recruiting flows right into proper onboarding, and HubSpot takes its onboarding process very seriously.

The company brings every international hire to the U.S. headquarters in Cambridge for 3-4 weeks, where new hires receive general training, meet the executive team, and learn about the product. New hires even go through a test where they use the software to build out their own campaign or web page! And, new hires are treated to events like Boston Red Sox games, where they can get a taste of the local flavor. The team also holds a sake tasting night for their Japanese hires as a way to show respect for their culture and, of course, have some fun!

But it’s not just their experience at headquarters that the recruiting team is concerned about—it’s also their experience back at their local HubSpot office in their home country. To ensure that everyone continues to feel taken care of, the People Ops Team regularly sends members to international offices to help oversee and streamline processes like obtaining work visas and conducting training for specific roles. And for larger offices, it’s the People Team’s goal to house a permanent HR business partner on site, showing employees that HubSpot is committed to making things work—and that their office is just as important as the others.

What’s next?

Though HubSpot has made major strides in its international recruiting efforts, in the bigger picture, it’s still just getting its feet wet. HubSpot sees growing even further beyond these 4 locations and will need to continue to research each market as it comes so that it can approach it on a personal level, taking its unique culture, regulations, and customs into consideration. As they grow, they continue to push the boundaries on culture innovation and define the playbook for “inbound recruitment”, both of which have been a tremendous success to them in the recruiting realm thus far.

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