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Recruiting beyond borders – a global mindset


Companies with international mindsets consistently reap the rewards – and there couldn’t be a better time than now to broaden your horizons, says Alex Cooper, Director of executive search firm Cooper Edwards Ltd

Irrespective of the challenges of Brexit and the travelling and working restrictions of the Covid pandemic, the world keeps on getting smaller – so for many UK-based businesses, keeping a global mindset and continuing to hire beyond borders has proved to be a recipe for success.

Whether organisations are seeking to increase their global footprint or to address local talent shortages, we continue to see an increasing demand for global talent, both for the UK sites of European-owned organisations and for overseas sites and sister companies of UK-owned organisations.

In today’s world, it is right and prudent to look beyond borders when recruiting the calibre of candidates that organisations need in order to deliver and ensure the future proofing of their business strategies.

Since Cooper Edwards’ inception five years ago, it has noticed a significant change in hiring managers’ outlook as they come with specific “hard-to-fill” assignments: from recruiting Polish, Taiwanese and Maltese candidates for UK-based technology manufacturers, to Egyptian, Turkish and Dutch senior sales professionals for British and French equipment manufacturers.

Cooper Edwards have recently completed several assignments for a multi-billion-euro manufacturer of construction equipment: those key placements, for both their UK and European bases, will underpin the success of their long-term export strategy throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, the war for talent has intensified. Regardless of sector, senior UK candidates have been especially reluctant to move roles amidst the uncertainty most businesses have been facing.

Although typically the demand for overseas profiles has been fuelled by M&A activity, Cooper Edwards have more recently seen a trend towards demand for international profiles due to a distinct lack of local expertise – driven by a steep decline in completed mergers and acquisitions due to the uncertainty of UK-EU relations.

In the past 12 months, 30% of our placements, from middle management to board appointments, have been of non-UK born candidates. As firms gain confidence going forward, M&A activity is expected to ramp up significantly. This is usually followed by an increase in restructuring and demand for senior executives.

Across the board, there has been an increase in overseas-born professionals employed in the UK: in Q4 of 2021, 2.2m EU-born nationals, and 3.5m born outside the EU, were working in the UK, totalling 18% of the UK working population (compared with 10% in 2004).*

Indeed, since the mid-2000s, the employment rate of EU nationals in the UK has been higher than the employment rate of UK nationals: 77% of UK nationals were in work in 2019, vs 83% of EU nationals. **

Sensing the overarching value of organisational cultural fit and skills over location and origins, UK businesses especially have benefited from expanding their worldview and looking beyond national frontiers to plug the gaps in their middle and senior management structures. It is essential for them to work closely with their search partner to ensure a thorough understanding of their culture, whilst search firms need to demonstrate thorough international search experience and an agile mindset.

Ironically, there is no better time than now to broaden your horizons…


* Migration Observatory source
** ONS source

Cooper Edwards is a French speaking, UK based global executive search firm with extensive experience in search and selection for functional leadership roles.

Alex Cooper - Cooper Edwards Group alexcooper(@)

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