US and UK talent sectors: Catherine King on culture and the human touch

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Karen Haynes

Anthony Haynes writes: We’re delighted here to publish the second part of our interview of Catherine King  comparing the talent sector in the UK and US.

Catherine has vast leadership experience in the talent industry. She is the founder of Crown Talent Assets, a US-based talent firm specialising in senior executive recruitment for North America and European markets.

The interview as conducted by Karen Haynes.

KH: We’ve discussed technology : let’s now consider the human touch – any differences there?

CK: In my experience, UK/Europe has a deep appreciation of communication and cultural differences.

For example, when groups are advising candidates in the United States on interview techniques – dress code, eye contact and so on – the coaching nearly always assumes there is a single ‘right’ way.

Culturally, that ‘way’ is about self-promotion.  These self-promotion norms are at odds with how excellent candidates from different cultural backgrounds might present themselves.

If they are from countries where modesty is a core value, eye contact rules, how you talk about yourself – these may well be different.

As a result, opportunities to recruit good people can be missed if we are country-centric.

KH: Do you find many US/UK cross-cultural misunderstandings?

CK: The most obvious ones involve differences in how the English language is used!

Candidates need to take care how they describe their background and experience. For their part, recruiters should probe and not make assumptions about the nuances of the meaning of English words.

An example is how people will describe their education.

In the UK, a ‘public school education’ is an indicator of quality – attending a fee-paying school. In the US, the opposite applies. Public schools are mainly state-funded and, sadly, overall quality has deteriorated over recent decades. ‘College’ is another word with different shades of meaning.

When hiring internationally, people don’t always pick up on the semantic differences between Commonwealth countries and the American use of the English language.

The cultural differences go beyond language.

Employers can make erroneous assumptions that can cost them dearly.  For example, I’ve known European companies that enter the US market and give little thought to how transportation differs from Europe. They assume the US transport infrastructure will be like the ones they’re used to in Europe.

So my advice is: have humility – yours is not the only way. Try to think about what you may be taking for granted.

KH: You and FJWilson have been talking, I believe, about how together you can add more value for your clients who operate internationally?

CK: Indeed. Crown Talent Services and FJWilson are working together from 2020 onwards to provide ‘across the pond’ coverage for our respective clients. I’m very much looking forward to that.

KH: Any final thoughts?

CK: On a personal note, I’d love to return to Europe one day from a business perspective – England especially is a country that’s very special to me.

And on a professional note: Companies, appreciate and value your talent! Wealth and prosperity are absolutely tied to your people.


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