Over the last several years, there has been a clear trend for non-US companies to establish US subsidiaries to manage the sales, marketing and customer support functions for US customers. Gone are the days where non-US companies only sold their products in the US by seeking a US distributor or strategic partner. In today's highly competitive business environment, more and more offshore companies are opening US offices, hiring American staff and overall "setting up shop" in America. As I wrote in my book Marketing to America, from the view of US customers, if you aren't local, you simply don't exist!
One of the key elements in opening a US subsidiary is hiring a senior manager to run the American operation. Whether the new office will start off with one person or will have several staff members, the recruitment of an experienced US based sales and marketing professional to develop US sales opportunities is critical. American human resource professionals state that the average American manager does a very poor job in interviewing potential candidates for executive positions. The non-US manager, coming from a different culture, is at an even greater disadvantage.
Based on our experience conducting many successful searches for American managers hired by non-US companies, we offer the following list of recruitment tips:
I. Prior to the search, define very precisely the responsibilities of the manager to be hired and the type of background you seek.
A common problem in this area stems from the fact that many non-US managers fail to differentiate between "marketing and sales". American companies have marketing managers who handle functions such as market research, trade show organization, advertising, web site management and customer satisfaction surveys. They also have sales managers who handle functions such as sales force recruitment/management, calling on key accounts and overall making sure sales are made. Many non-US managers say that they are seeking a marketing manager but what they really want is a sales manager.
II. Find Candidates from a wide range of sources
We find candidates from many sources and unfortunately have not found any one source that has brought the most successful candidates. Sources of candidates include: networking with working professionals in your industry, contacting sales managers at competing or related companies, advertising on Internet job search sites, trade magazine advertising, networking among job search clubs and speaking to relevant trade associations and trade magazines.
III. Review resumes carefully. Most of them have been written by resume experts and not by the candidates.
The US has a very sophisticated job market. There are hundreds of books, seminars and other training tools available on how to look for a job. Most high level job seekers work with a resume writing service when they begin a job search and many attend training sessions before going to interviews. Read between the lines.
IV. Do telephone interviews first
Speaking to candidates via telephone before deciding whom to interview is a worthwhile investment of time. While face to face meetings are still needed, it provides another opportunity to weed out unqualified candidates.
V. Conduct in-depth face to face interviews
When reaching the face to face interview stage, some non-US managers spend 30 minutes presenting the company and then end the interview after an hour. That doesn't leave much time to get to know the candidate. We suggest preparing a list of questions in advance and spending 2-3 hours per candidate. That may sound like a long time, but the decision about whom to hire is a "life and death" decision for any company opening a US office. In addition, always have at least 2 people interview the candidate in order to get a broader perspective.
VI. Order background checks
Candidates should be asked to provide a formal application for employment which includes a long list of references and other information. In addition, a series of reports should be ordered for the top candidates to include a credit report, university degree verification and criminal record reports. While many searches do not uncover anything substantial, a recent credit report on a top candidate revealed serious financial difficulties. This is important information to know, especially when the candidate has responsibility for the company's finances.
VII. Plan a second round of interviews - at company headquarters
Bring 1-3 top candidates to company headquarters to meet with top management, other employees, investors and trusted advisors. Spend time with the manager - formally and informally and see which candidate fits in with the team.
IX. Move carefully … but also quickly
Many non-US managers have a tendency to delay making a decision about whom to hire. This is problematic because candidates usually interview with numerous companies concurrently. If you wait too long, your ideal candidate may decide to take another job.
X. Make an employment offer that is attractive under current market conditions
Some hiring managers like to take advantage of a weak employment market, offering a lower than normal salary to unemployed senior managers who are desperate to find a job. This strategy can save money … but usually only in the short run. Once the economy gets a bit stronger and the manager gets a better employment offer, he will leave, resulting in the need to find a replacement.
Tremendous sales opportunities exist for non-US companies in the US market, especially for those companies that open an independent sales and marketing subsidiary. Hiring the right people who can be successful both in developing the market and in interfacing with the parent company in Israel is no simple task. Investment of time and effort in the executive search process, keeping in mind the issues raised above, can help companies increase profits and avoid mistakes in the highly competitive American market.