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Fishing in the Global Talent Pool

The world may be flat, but there's a learning curve to global IT hiring.

By Mary Brandel
November 20, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As a CIO at Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Jay Crotts knows something about recruiting IT talent on a global scale. The $26.3 billion company employs 8,000 IT professionals in 145 countries, including remote areas such as Iceland, Togo and Mauritius, a small country off the East African coast.

Shell’s goal is to hire the best IT person for every role, no matter where in the world that person resides, according to Crotts. And he’s a good example: Almost two years ago, he moved with his family from Texas to Shell’s London offices when he accepted the job of CIO of the global business-to-business and lubricants segments.

A growing number of U.S. companies — whether they’re global or domestic, small or large — are mimicking Shell’s approach. They may have job openings or skill needs in a particular country, but they don’t limit their IT talent searches to that location. And that makes sense.

Think about it: Some areas of the world are experiencing technology talent shortages — especially in key skill areas. Meanwhile, technology talent pools are cropping up worldwide, particularly in developing economies. No wonder many IT executives are casting wider hiring nets that reach into foreign waters.

New Rules

Hiring foreign labor is no longer just about H-1B visas and offshoring. Thanks to employee referrals, in-country recruiting firms, global job boards such as and Jobster, sophisticated corporate Web recruiting sites and online programmer “marketplaces” like or oDesk, there are more ways than ever before to communicate and collaborate with skilled individuals who happen to live overseas.

Some companies are directly contracting or hiring IT professionals with the understanding that they will continue living in their home countries.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Singapore, China, the U.S., India or Australia — it’s increasingly a global labor market,” says Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources Inc., a Fremont, Calif.-based recruiting consulting firm. “If I can bring the labor to me, that’s good; if I have to take the work to you, that’s OK, too.”

Wheeler sees all sorts of hybrid hiring models cropping up and notes a general move away from blanket hiring of full-time employees.

“Smart companies are really looking at a whole mix of options — contractors, consultants, part-time workers, offshoring — and it’s being driven partly by strategy, partly by the ability to find talent and generally to keep costs lower,” he says.

A common setup might include a U.S.-based management and research-and-development staff working with a few programmers in Ireland, a couple more in China and maybe a dozen in India, he says.

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