Positive Outlook on Hiring in Localization, Finally!
By: Denise Spacinsky and Inger Larsen (Larsen Globalization)
10 October 2009
Hiring is back! Isn't that good to hear? It is even better to write! We are excited to say that after more than a few calm months of recruitment in the localization industry, business is now heating back up. In fact, the GALA Third Quarter Member Pulse Survey indicates that nearly half of member respondents are planning to hire in the next three months.
Earlier this year, from about January until July, we saw clients becoming cautious and slowing their hiring activities. Ever the optimists, we were sure that hiring would continue as usual. After all, our company, Larsen Globalization – a specialized recruitment firm with offices in the US, UK and Europe doing placements worldwide – has consistently had a steady flow of business for almost 10 years. We were sure that would continue and the recession wasn’t going to hit us. Right? Well, hiring kept slowing. Significantly.
Many (though not all) business owners in the localization space retreated into a “wait and see” mode for the first half of this year. The companies decided to make do with the staff they had, and put on hold plans for expansion and extensive hiring. When recruitment did happen, it was more focused on replacement hiring at senior levels and a fair bit of core production and business development roles. These last six months have proved to be a time for planning, strategizing, and streamlining as opposed to acting and investing in new talent.
But in the last month or two, companies have started to stir again. From what we can see, third quarter is the time when companies intend to begin implementing the dream strategies they developed through the well-touted recessionary period.
The good news is that we did not see any clients close their doors. We did not see any mass exodus of localization business leaders to new industries to reinvent themselves. The fact is our industry was not as hard hit as others. We did, though, see some reduction in staff. From the vendor side we saw this happen in a more reactionary way to be cautious and “hunker down”. From the client side, the reductions were due to sweeping, mass layoffs that here-and-there touched localization and related roles.
There were some industries that avoided any impact to hiring. Computer gaming did well, QA , testers were still in demand across most languages. This also was the case in areas where there is traditionally a shortage of supply, notably for Nordic localization talent who can relocate. Some of our clients also confirmed that translators within legal and life sciences were still hard to find and in demand. We also noted, surprisingly, that localization companies connected to the financial industry did very well and kept hiring, as did those in the healthcare and medical industries.
The tide has turned and we are seeing plans of hiring looking after September. A big flow of hiring is now starting. Much to our delight.
What are the most popular positions?
Most viable jobs are project Managers and sales – these are core positions and support business growth and delivery. Also popular are roles related to these positions, including solutions architects and account managers. Other notable positions include vendor managers and other specialist management positions (like quality control, engineering and production managers).
On a broader level, we see a need for transnational employees – those willing to relocate from one market to another. Some companies have opened low cost centers in new regions but want the talent of experienced localization professionals from the higher cost markets to come across. We have helped develop a number of those new organizations recently.
There have not been many senior positions available lately. When companies look to invest in more divisions or in-country offices we will likely see those roles appear in the market.
What are the greatest challenges for professionals in localization?
There are a couple challenges, but they are not necessarily due to the recent economic period. They seem to be endemic to our industry on the whole.
Pigeon-holing is popular.
Once a project manager, always a project manager. Once a business development manager, always a business development manager. This is all fine and good if a person has found their life’s calling in their current field, or if they understand that in making a change to a new position they will move laterally.
The fact is that each individual is unique in their career objectives, and even more unique in their reasons for deciding to make a move. If it was due to a layoff or reduction in staff, then a lateral move might be okay. But after some time an individual may want to make a change. And not all changes are upward into management in the same discipline. Some may want to go more or less technical in their job. Or try their hand in a different function related to localization. Some look to jump the fence from vendor to client, or vice-versa.
The unfortunate part of this story is that hiring managers in companies have increasingly been insisting on narrow and focused profiles. Exact matches. No exceptions. This is a shame from our perspective. We are sure that if our clients open up their requirements to include candidates looking for career growth and development, they may well find fresh and motivated talent at their door.
Highly experienced people are not being considered for more junior positions.
This is a phenomenon from a recruitment perspective. Our job is to know our clients well, know what they need for their business and search and qualify candidates that match what they need.
When we have the good fortune of finding a person with all the qualifications ‘and then some’ we get pretty excited about that. Maybe they have been a manager in the past, or have had a higher title then the new position offers. Provided all the proper screenings come out positively, the company will have an excellent candidate to consider.
Much too often, however, a “more than” candidate is rejected without even a first introductory meeting. There is a level of suspicion about a senior candidate will not want to “stick” with a more junior position. Or possibly the hiring manager does not want to hire someone who is more-or-less a peer.
Our perspective is often rather different. As noted above, there are a number of reasons for people to make a move, and still more for people to consider and really want positions they apply for – even if they are more junior than what they had been accustomed.
Some reasons are connected to lifestyle choices. There are a significant number of people today looking to dial back, if only temporarily, to reduce stress, enjoy life, and do something that comes easily in their job. This ease takes the form of a less senior, well-known role in a company. Another reason for shooting lower may be linked directly to the job market. People have become realistic about what has been “out there” and are more than willing to take a step or two back if it means getting back or staying in the game.
All said we believe that this is an excellent opportunity for companies to hire amply experienced professionals, if they open up to it.
What do we recommend?
Because everyone will be scrambling to recruit, plan well and find a partner.
We understand that recruiting is not the core business of localization companies (just like translation is not the core business of localization clients). A partner in recruitment can be instrumental in bringing new talent in the door. And as you will not be the only one scouring in the market, a recruitment partner can speed up the cycle for you.
By working with someone, you keep your eye on your business and let recruitment just ‘happen.’ As there are now many résumés already in company inboxes, you can request more unconventional services from your recruitment vendor (like pipelining candidates or sorting and prequalifying candidates that went directly to your company) as well as more traditional search services.
We are painfully aware that many recruiters have a bad reputation and don’t follow basic rules such as briefing their candidates fully about the positions and companies before sending around résumés. If you invest a bit of time in sharing future potential growth plans with your recruitment partner, then we can keep an eye out for unique talent for you.
Another option is to hire a part-time, short term internal recruitment specialist to work on your behalf. As long as they are experienced and know the industry and positions well, it could be an effective option for you.
Bring in some big talent and develop jobs around them.
Plenty of the new talent on the market have impressive résumés. The places that did layoff earlier were especially sophisticated client-side companies at mid to upper levels. We recommend that you not look for the perfect match – pick up the great talent and find or adapt a role for them.
Consider – seriously – remote working models and flexible schedules.
When a company looks to recruit, the conventional expectation is to have the person hired work from one of the company’s physical offices, regardless of position. Our industry, in particular, is masterful at working remotely with around-the-clock production and several time zones. This model can be extended to the core business teams as well as your linguist, engineering and testing/quality teams that you may have established in other locales.
We encourage you to look to loosen up your location requirements to capture the best talent – wherever they are. These days, we see candidates willing to move, but are constrained by housing, school or spouse job requirements. With the flexibility of remote working models (that, incidentally, many companies have implemented beautifully) you can have excellent professionals working on your behalf, to immediately increase your talent pool.
Inger Larsen and Denise Spacinsky are partners and directors of Larsen Globalization, the leading global localization industry recruitment company.