Ready to recruit in the US? Don’t commit these cultural faux pas when you get started

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As many UK recruiters may already be aware, the US boasts a rapidly-growing employment market. If you have ambitious growth plans, you may be thinking of expanding to, or you may already be dabbling in the US recruitment market. We’ve already outlined the reasons why now is a great time to consider branching out to the US, the pitfalls to avoid when getting started and listed some of the best states and industries for recruitment in the US, so if you haven’t already, make sure you give those a read.

Now, however, it’s time for some on-the-job practical pointers. If you use an Employer of Record (EOR), they will help to ensure you comply with all the legal requirements of operating in the US, but there are some essential differences between UK and US recruitment practices that you’ll need to know to ensure you can build great relationships as well as a solid reputation across the pond. In this article, we outline some of the essential dos and don’ts to keep in mind for when you start recruiting in the US.

Salary expectations

Do: ask what the candidate is expecting in terms of salary and benefits

Don’t: ask what they are earning in their current role

One of the primary differences UK recruiters will encounter in the US is the approach to salary enquiries. Unlike in the UK, where it is common to ask candidates about their current or past earnings, US employment practices dictate that recruiters refrain from directly inquiring about what people earn. Instead, the focus should be on what candidates aspire to earn. This shift in perspective respects the privacy of individuals and aims to create a fair and equitable negotiation process.

Data protection requirements

Do: develop a US-specific data protection policy with your EoR

Don’t: collect personal information on your candidates yourself

In the UK, recruiters often collect a broad range of personal information, including date of birth and gender. However, in the US, collecting sensitive personal data directly is discouraged. This is typically handled through the employer of record (EoR) and specific forms to ensure compliance with data protection laws. Failure to adhere to these guidelines may expose recruiters to diversity and inclusion (D&I) lawsuits, so it’s really important to make sure you adopt a consistent and compliant approach to the handling of personal information.

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Getting used to US time zones

Do: embrace time zone awareness and communicate clearly about time zones

Don’t: assume everyone has a universal schedule

avigating time zones is a critical aspect of recruitment in the US. The vast geographical expanse of the country means that recruiters must be adept at coordinating interviews, meetings, and communications across different time zones. Understanding and respecting these time differences is key to maintaining a smooth recruitment process and ensuring that candidates are not inconvenienced.

Use tools like world clocks and scheduling apps that automatically adjust for time zone disparities. Clearly communicate the time zone of your location and confirm the time zone of the candidate or client and use unambiguous language in emails and calendar invitations to avoid any confusion.

Working behaviours and habits

Do: understand and respect the strong work ethic in the US

Don’t: assume uniformity in work-life balance priorities

The US work culture is characterised by a strong work ethic, with employees often taking fewer vacations and working longer hours compared to their counterparts in the UK. The pursuit of the "American Dream" ethos often translates into a dedication to professional success and a willingness to invest significant time and effort into one's career.

Recruiters should be mindful of these cultural norms when discussing work-life balance with candidates. When communicating with candidates or clients, acknowledge and respect this commitment to hard work, and highlight how the role aligns with these cultural expectations. However, avoid making assumptions about individuals' preferences for work-life balance. Recognise that expectations regarding work hours and personal time may vary among candidates.

Shorter job tenures

Do: embrace the “at-will” employment culture

Don’t: judge stability by job tenure alone

Unlike the UK, where longer tenures may be the norm, the US operates under the principle of 'at-will' employment. This means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory. Consequently, shorter job tenures, such as 1-2 years, are often deemed satisfactory in the US. Recruiters should be attuned to this cultural aspect and avoid making assumptions about job stability based on shorter tenures.

Instead of viewing shorter tenures negatively, inquire about the candidate's achievements and contributions during their previous roles to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their professional background

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Saying it like it is

Do: embrace direct communication

Don’t: misinterpret directness as rudeness

In the realm of communication, US work culture is marked by a more direct and explicit style compared to the UK, which has a more nuanced and indirect communication style. It's therefore essential not to misinterpret straightforwardness as rudeness. In the US, direct communication is a cultural norm and is not intended to be disrespectful. It’s not quite at the level of directness that’s considered normal for some countries in Europe, but recruiters should be prepared for it and adapt their communication style accordingly to encourage clear and effective dialogue.

When communicating with candidates or clients, be concise, clear, and straightforward in your messages. Avoid taking offence or assuming negative intent based on the directness of communication. Instead, focus on the content of the message and the intended meaning, recognising that cultural differences may influence communication styles.

Finally… don’t do it alone

From navigating salary discussions to respecting data protection laws and appreciating the American work ethic, understanding and embracing all of these cultural nuances will undoubtedly contribute to forging positive and lasting connections with both candidates and employers in the United States.

As UK recruiters venture into the US job market, it’s good to have experts on your side to help you build successful recruitment strategies. Contact the 3R team today to find out how we can help support your venture into the US with innovative funding, contractor management and back office solutions.


About Daniel Harfield

Dan PP

Daniel has worked within the staffing industry since 2012 with experience in the UK & Melbourne, Australia where he worked for and ran his own agency. He partners with our SME clients & prospects to discuss their motivations and empower their growth through creating bespoke solutions.

Daniel is also our USA specialist in the UK, working closely with our US teams and partners to support agencies to expand into the US securely and confidently.

Connect with Daniel on LinkedIn.

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