International Recruiting for Global Success, with Alariss’ Joyce Zhang

OnePiece Work
April 3, 2020
OnePiece Work

OnePiece Connect is a series designed to start the conversation on cross-border trends. It’s a sharing of ideas, opportunities, and innovation among the OnePiece Work community - which includes international brands, founders, marketing professionals, agencies, influencers, and investors.

We recently caught up with Joyce Zhang, Co-Founder and CEO at Alariss, a global talent marketplace connecting international job seekers with emerging market employers. The Harvard-educated Ms. Zhang, a two-time co-founder and veteran of the startup culture, shared her insights into cross-border hiring - and why the future of work is global.

Joyce Zhang, CEO & Co-Founder of Alariss

Can you define Alariss’ mission?

Our mission at Alariss is twofold: first (and most important) is to bring the world closer together, and help create more win-win solutions for cross-border companies. Second, to do that by reversing brain drain - and instead promoting global “brain gain.” In other words: help connect talent educated and trained in one country with high-impact opportunities in emerging markets, particularly Asia.

What was missing in the talent placement market?

So much! First and foremost, a lot of recruiting and job searching is done locally, so it becomes more challenging from both a brand awareness and trust perspective to bridge the divide between the U.S. and Asia.
Someone based in the U.S. that wants to work in China has a really difficult time figuring out the job market there. Challenges include figuring out which companies based abroad are trustworthy, and figuring out how to add value to those companies while achieving personal growth and fulfillment.

From the company perspective, they struggle with finding really great talent - especially when they’re looking outside their own local market. Many clients don’t know that there are many Americans that want to work in China, and how they should reach them.

What value does Alariss provide to its clients?

We don’t just connect talent with highly curated jobs, we provide cultural context for the job seeker and the employer. Alariss provides relocation support, acts as a cultural arbiter, and eases several other key touchpoints between U.S. and Chinese parties.

For example, even when a candidate wants to work with a company, the two parties can struggle on issues. The candidate may not know whether the company is “real” and can fulfill their promises, or candidates may be turned off by certain signals sent out by the employer, such as only interviewing virtually.

Alariss as a platform helps to establish trust as a broker between both sides and solve these issues.

Pagoda set against a Chinese cityscape at sunset

Why has Alariss been able to execute on this model better than past recruiting platforms?

There aren’t that many established firms doing “reverse outsourcing” - recruiting from the U.S. to foreign markets. But Alariss saw a huge opportunity in Asian countries outsourcing Western talent. It’s hard for Westerners to wrap their heads around this trend being real - but it’s happening! So many hiring firms are already optimized to Western audiences. Alariss saw the need for a cross-border collaboration platform that caters to customers in Asia, and we filled that space.

Reverse outsourcing has grown in an increasingly globalized business landscape.Why?

In the future it won’t even be called reverse outsourcing, because the future of work is global. It won’t just be East to West, or West to East. Previously, outsourcing was based on which market was more developed, which market was expanding abroad. Now with more developed markets in many regions around the world - teams will be globalized from the start. Your talent strategy needs to include key players that can help you execute on a global strategy.

In which industries or verticals do you see the largest need for U.S. talent?

There’s no single industry that’s seeking this talent profile more than any other. In the past, when economies were going through stages of development, the path was based on the natural resources of a country, like oil and gas. Today most economies are based on human capital. Services economies are the goal of most markets, and human capital has become more essential than ever.

Some of the largest talent gaps leading Asian companies to seek out globally-educated talent is in strategic roles that require critical thinking and a refined business acumen. Ideal talent for many Chinese companies are people who were educated and grew up in China (so they understand local culture), but did a graduate degree abroad (so they understand international business). Any company going abroad needs broad-thinking, global-thinking talent.

What are top international companies looking for when they source U.S. talent?

To clarify: it’s not just U.S. talent they’re seeking, but U.S.-educated talent as well. Two of the most in-demand skills that international companies seek are assimilation and domain expertise: can the candidate be successful in the local environment, and can they address the talent gap in question with a deep understanding of their field?

Young Asian woman listens intently in an office setting

Conversely, what does U.S. talent expect when looking to work for an international company?

One thing U.S. workers can expect is a more attractive wage scale. For instance, English teachers and other education professionals are paid very little in the U.S. and might even struggle to support their families. In China, English teachers are compensated really well - even more than in the U.S. when converting RMB to USD. The cost of living is lower - so quality of life in China can be better than what they would have in the U.S. This can even be true working remotely: the hourly rate tutoring rate from the U.S. to China is higher than the domestic U.S. rate.

We often focus on the differences between U.S. and Chinese cultures, but it’s important to keep in mind how we’re similar: people appreciate being appreciated, and people like to feel needed and respected.

What are some habits of highly successful international companies in recruiting U.S. talent?

Actually providing a lot more trust and autonomy for their international talent. Establishing good relationships and open lines of communication with employees. Adopting a collaborative, bottom-up, “best idea wins” American-method culture. It’s about making talent feel they’re respected, and acknowledging what they’re doing is valuable and what they suggest is being considered by leadership. Managers need to realize that if they bring in globalized talent, the best way to leverage them is let them shape work processes per global trends.

How can companies do better or worse in the recruiting process?

Chinese nationals working for American companies have a sense of security, because American companies have a reputation of taking care of their employees. Unfortunately, the reverse assumption is true for U.S. talent seeking work in China. U.S. talent does not trust Chinese companies, so the Chinese must do more to earn that trust.

For example, Chinese companies have a different mindset when it comes to contracts. The Chinese may view changing job scope or compensation as asking people to be flexible, but the U.S. interpretation is instability. Trying to renegotiate contract terms after an initial agreement will trigger anxiety among job candidates. Chinese companies need to understand that it’s a big risk for Americans to work for an unknown company.

What are some of the most common mistakes international companies make when trying to establish high performing U.S. teams?

A lot of companies go with a figurehead manager as opposed to a true local manager. They look for someone who is aesthetically what an “American Manager” should look like, but the person has no real authority and decision making power. The person may have an industry background - but that doesn’t mean they’ll be effective establishing a new company in the U.S.

Another common misstep is a “penny wise, pound foolish” mentality. In other words, the company wants to do everything themself, they think it’s too expensive to engage with local partners. They end up spinning their wheels and wasting time when they could have had experts (like OnePiece Work or Alariss) upfront.

What amenities/tech/features should an office have to best foster international communication & collaboration?

Having a convening point, whether a physical space or an online forum, for people passionate about global expansion and cross-border connections, is really valuable. Especially if it’s a curated office space specifically for people that want to access resources, talk to peers doing the same thing, or discover service providers or partners.

Young Asian woman sits with a group of mutli-cultural professionals in a busy conference room setting

Where do you see Alariss in 5 years?

As the go-to marketplace for people looking for high impact talent from the U.S. coming from Asia, and the top location for U.S.-educated talent that wants to work abroad to seek new opportunities.

More than a co-working space, OnePiece Work is a community for global citizens and entrepreneurs looking to connect with like-minded industry leaders through collaboration. We provide a customized one-stop-shop for global expansion resources and connections, like international service providers, a cross-border VC network, and a seasoned Chinese and American venture capital industries expert team.

Are you an international founder with a story to share? Drop us a line and let us know how you recruit (or have been recruited) internationally. Contact today!


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