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How to hire engineers from Eastern Europe

This post is a contribution from Yulia Bondar.



Being a highly skilled migrant in the Netherlands and a professional, who constantly recruits from all over the world, I’ve personally encountered a lot of cultural differences at work. After relocation, I realized that my experience of day-to-day work within Eastern Europe culture was quite different from the way people used to lead work ethics here.


I’ve made a culture analysis and compiled a couple of insights that can shed light on some hiring misunderstandings I’ve noticed. As a basis for this analysis, I used the country mapping tool made by Erin Meyer to compare any counties you’d like between each other. If you want to do that for any other cultures, you can easily do it via this link — https://www.erinmeyer.com/tools/culture-map-premium/


Let’s compare Dutch culture with Eastern European culture in order to understand if the behavior that candidates are showing during the interview is inappropriate, or just culturally different? And how we can use this knowledge in order both to educate our Hiring Managers and inform our candidates on the way in which they can succeed in the process.


Meyer claims that you can improve relationships by considering where you and your international partners fall on each of these 8 scales, and today we are going to speak about 4 of them: Communicating, Evaluating, Persuading and Leading.



Comparison table for the Netherlands (NL), Poland (PL) and Ukraine (UA)


Communicating scale: explicit vs. implicit.


Dutch people are well-known for their straightforward (low-context) communication when Eastern Europeans are at the other end of a scale and are used to high-context interaction. In high-context communication, a message cannot be understood without a great deal of background information.


Productivity depends on relationships and group processes. An individual’s identity is rooted in groups (family, culture, work). Social structure and authority are centralized. Nonverbal elements in interaction, such as voice tone, gestures, facial expression and eye movement are significant. Verbal messages are indirect, and communication is seen as an art form or way of engaging someone.


Hiring tip: It may lead to the thought that candidates from Ukraine, Romania, and Russia are sneaky and not transparent, but this is not always the truth.

Dutch people, vise versa, are direct, which is often being perceived as impoliteness. Verbal messages are explicit, and communication is seen as a way of exchanging information, ideas, and opinions. Disagreement is depersonalized; the focus is on rational (not personal) solutions. For candidates who are having interviews with Dutch companies, I would advise you to practice a straight-forward way of communication and avoiding too much side explanation.


The communication scale


The communication scale goes along with the evaluating scale, which seems to be pretty similar between Dutch and the Eastern Europeans but in this case, is pretty similar between 2 groups.

Both Dutch people and people from Eastern European are direct when we share negative feedback.


Hiring tip: when you’re rejecting a candidate or trying to emphasize the improvements that have to be made in the test assignment, do it the natural way :)


However, be aware that Poland, Hungary and especially the Czech Republic tend to be less direct in their expression of negative feedback. With these candidates, you might use a Sandwich Method (https://www.wikihow.com/Give-a-Feedback-Sandwich) in order to make it softer.


Leadership Style


When we are talking about the leadership style, which depends on the culture, we have to contrast between 2 styles: egalitarian and hierarchical.


In the Netherlands, it is understood that the managing director is one of the guys in with no hierarchy. This represents an egalitarian style. So, in order to be a successful team leader in a Dutch company, you need to show your ability to delegate tasks and the ability to stay equal and have the same work conditions as your teammates. This is one of the core things Dutch recruiters might search for.


And, if you’re hiring from Eastern Europe, the situation is completely the opposite: Ukrainians, Russians, Romanians, and Polish people tend to have a hierarchical structure to their leadership. This means that in order to show how capable they are in team management, they will act “bossy” and will expect that decisions are made by them as manager. In this case, Eastern European leaders who show a strong hierarchical leadership style might be a good option for big hierarchical corporates but not start-ups, where a flat structure is a key.



Persuading is another scale we are going to discuss now. People can negotiate things in two different ways:


  • “Concept first” — people are trained to develop the theory or complex concept before presenting a fact or a statement;

  • “Application first” — is a vice versa: you first emphasize the facts or opinions (or conclusions) you are promoting and then (but not even always necessary), you have a back up with the theory and the concept.


For Eastern Europeans, it’s common to use the first method and present the solution which is based on the concept, when for Western Europeans it’s more common to start with the action points and opinion they have. That can influence all the presentations or performance during test assignments and challenges, as well as answering tech questions during an interview.


Hiring tip: When you see a Ukrainian starting to reply to the “solution-oriented” question with a deep math theory, don’t give up on him/her and wait for a couple of minutes — that’s their favorite “concept-first” way of explanation.



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