Recruiting for “Cultural Fit” in Latin America

Published:12/28/2016 | Posted by Juan Moreno

How do you hire exceptional talent for the long-term? It is not enough in today’s international business market to simply recruit executives with the right qualifications. What is essential to a successful hire is the selection of executives who are also a natural fit with the company’s values and culture.

One of the major problems that multinational corporations face when hiring in-country executives or bringing expatriates to work in foreign jurisdictions is that the individual is not able to align well with management at the multinational level and/or is not able to fit within the local team.

Recent studies from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) show that a bad hire can cost the organization multiples of the person’s annual salary. This includes the high cost of recruiting, legal fees, separation packages, and lost revenue through client attrition. Having spent the last 10 years focused on recruiting in-country executives for companies with operations in Latin America, I have seen the pitfalls of hiring the wrong people. They not only include financial costs but also costs that are hard to quantify. These include lowered employee morale and productivity, customer dissatisfaction, and reduced quality of products or services. Additionally, whenever someone is let go, it creates uncertainty and distraction, not to mention the increased workload they have to take on to cover the other person’s job.

In today’s international business practice, one of the most common mistakes is that employers do not identify the personality and leadership competencies required at the onset of the search. This analysis is important because it can help hiring managers detect upfront whether the executive has the leadership and soft skills to thrive in the company’s culture.

Another major hazard that I have experienced when consulting and assisting with multinational companies is that hiring managers often rush to hire the individual without clearly defining the deliverables of the job in the first 6, 12, and 18 months. This is also very important as both the hiring manager and the employee need clearly outlined and measurable goals in order to demonstrate what success should look like in order to select the ideal candidate.

In summary, we recommend that our clients prioritize soft skills and intangibles, provide clarity on what they want out of this hire, and do some benchmarking with other top candidates. Applying these recommendations in advance can help companies make the right hiring decision the first time around.

Juan Moreno is the Vice President of Latin America Search and focuses on in-country search needs across a number of industries including Financial Services, Manufacturing, Mining and Oil and Gas.

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