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June 17, 2022 · 5 min read

Hiring developers internationally

One way to turn your candidate pool into a vast ocean of opportunity is by hiring developers internationally.

If you are hiring developers, and you will only look to your local area for candidates, you aren’t looking to hire the best, you are looking to hire the most convenient. 

-Cal Evans

If the recent pandemic has had any positive impact, it is that it has forced managers to actually figure out how to get work done with distributed teams. Managers who previously stated that to get things done, we all had to be in the same room were faced with the new challenge of figuring out how to make it work when that room was a Zoom room. 

Everyone learned how to adapt to the new reality of distributed teams, and many have come to the realization that they like it.

Since–in tech, at least–we are now working in a distributed world, more possibilities come into play, and with those possibilities come more problems. Not the least of them is the question: How do managers now consider candidates from other countries?

Here are three things that every manager needs to reflect on before they proceed with their first international hire.

Know the job before you find a developer

It always amazes me, but many managers get a position approved and dive right into the hiring before they have even thought things through. If you’re at this point, pause for a day or so, and consider a few things before you move forward.

Know the position’s primary purpose

What will this person be responsible for, once they’re hired and settled in? This is different from “what will they be doing?” They may primarily be writing code, but they are responsible for the development of the new system or the maintenance of the old system. 

Knowing their purpose beforehand will help you find the right person.

Have a plan for the new hire’s first 30 days

Now that you know their purpose, take out a sheet of paper, and list out the tasks and goals you want accomplished within the first 30 days. Think about this carefully. This isn’t an “I’ll fire them if they don’t get at least this much done” list. You want to set them up to succeed, so give them tasks and goals that can be accomplished as they get settled into the role. 

Pay attention in the interview

Now that you’ve worked through the details of what you want done, you are in a much better position to find the right candidate. Now let’s talk about the selection process. More important than where a candidate sits is how well they can communicate their ideas to you, the team, and the stakeholders. 

Video is a must

A hard and fast rule is that the candidate must be able to participate in video chats and calls. If this is a technical barrier (they don’t have a camera), offer to send them one. Cameras are a lot cheaper than bad hiring decisions.

Body language is important

As humans, we communicate a lot non-verbally. There are a lot of good books out there on body language, but the two that I would recommend every hiring manager read are The Like Switch, by Jack Schafer and Marvin Karlins and What Every BODY is Saying, by Joe Navarro. Both are great, and honestly, candidates should read them as well. 

Pay attention to how the candidate reacts to your questions. Do they look nervous during the interview, or do they look comfortable? Even with the position hanging in the balance, once the conversation gets going, all participants should warm up to each other and get comfortable. I would never pass on a candidate just because they were nervous, but if they stay nervous through the entire interview, it could be a yellow flag.

Language barriers

Language barriers are a much bigger problem than location is when hiring developers internationally. Any candidate you talk to should be able to express their ideas in a language that you and your team can easily understand. The easy version of this is that if your team is primarily English-speaking, then all candidates need to be fluent in English. 

The other side of this is that for developers, all candidates need to be able to express their ideas in your primary programming language. A candidate may be a top-tier Java programmer, but if the team’s primary language is PHP, they will struggle to express their technical ideas.

A candidate that can express their ideas in a way that is consistent with team norms can sit anywhere from Boston to Belize and be a productive member of the team. 

Work with a partner that understands international employment laws and rules

I almost forgot–you’re probably wondering where to find these candidates. Yes, you can use your usual sources, like job boards, but there is a problem with doing that. Each country has its own set of laws about employment. Before you hire someone from a different country, you need to understand your obligations as an employer. 

This is a serious issue, and the main one that keeps most companies from hiring international candidates. If you have an HR department, you have help already. However, if you are a small startup, this single task can be daunting. 

Another problem that you will run into while hiring developers internationally is vetting candidates. International candidates will most likely have international references. This makes following up with their references difficult. Whether it is a matter of a language barrier or a timezone matter, reference checks are going to be a challenge unless you are prepared.

In both situations, you have three choices:

  • Gut it out, and do it yourself regardless of the challenges
  • Depend on your in-house HR department (If you don’t have one, this option is not valid)
  • Find a partner that understands the challenges and can help you navigate them successfully

That third option is usually the best option. Find a partner that can help you:

  • Source quality candidates no matter where they live
  • Vet candidates to ensure that you are interviewing qualified professionals
  • Navigate the local rules and paperwork to allow you to quickly onboard a new developer 

The third option will get your team up and running faster and with fewer problems. When looking at hiring internationally, look to a partner like can help, whether you need a contract, contract-to-hire, or full-time employee. Our team of experts will help you find the best developer to fit your needs, and from there, our account managers will handle the rest.

When you’re ready to make your next international hire, call Let us help you get it right the first time.