Recruiting Talent Around the World

October 08, 2018Alec Green

International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a global nonprofit organization focused on providing humanitarian aid and long-term relief to refugees and those displaced by war, persecution, or natural disaster. They have teams actively working in crisis-affected regions supporting refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in 40+ countries around the world. 

Key to IRC’s program model is establishing field-based offices within the countries in which they operate. Once the teams establish these local offices, the focus shifts to recruiting qualified local and international humanitarian staff. At any one time, IRC can have between 500 and 800 open job requisitions across the organization. Finding the right people to fill these roles, getting them hired, and onboarding them quickly can be a challenge for any multinational organization. Recruiting staff in countries besieged by war or natural disaster introduces new layers of complexity, even for a well-established NGO like IRC.

Part of the complexity comes from the fact that recruiting is a function spread globally across 190 field offices. Because some of these offices do not have a full-time recruiter on staff, the typical recruiting functions — developing the job requisition, posting and promoting the open jobs, reviewing resumes, coordinating interviews, drafting offer letters, and finalizing employment — fall to IRC employees who must balance recruiting with an array of other job responsibilities. For many of their high-volume positions, such as drivers, interpreters, and cooks, their local offices receive hundreds of applicants per week. 

In recent years, some IRC offices were still using a manually intensive process to manage recruiting. Local staff would have to review every resume and, in many cases, call or email candidates to determine if they met basic qualification criteria for the position. Some offices were using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), but the HR team found it difficult to keep the business processes uniform across all offices and deliver a recruiting solution that would be simple for local staff to use. Across their field offices, frustration with the recruiting process was increasing for the candidates, hiring managers, and local recruiters.

Fassero (Center) with IRC Team in Syria

In 2017, the Cornerstone Foundation awarded IRC with a technology grant to implement Cornerstone Recruiting and Cornerstone Onboarding across the organization. IRC’s Director of HR Operations, Nick Fassero, was responsible for deploying the new ATS worldwide. Before implementing the system, his objective was to create a step-by-step process that local offices could follow. According to Fassero, IRC “needed this process to be simple enough and the technology powerful enough to deploy a uniform recruiting system worldwide.” Each office was given the flexibility to tailor the recruiting page and candidate experience to their local audience, but, the backend administration, processes, and reports were standardized across the organization. 

As he began establishing their new approach to global recruiting, Fassero worked closely with Andy Burgbacher, a volunteer from Cornerstone, on establishing processes and configuring their new system. Having been at the company for 5+ years, Burgbacher was given the opportunity to volunteer his time in support of a Foundation grantee. Additionally, given his extensive background in recruiting, this project with IRC was a logical fit. Over the course of 12 weeks, Burgbacher consulted with Fassero and his team on how to configure the system so it provided uniform analytics across the organization. This allowed for a customizable candidate experience in every location. Together, they created a series of quick guides which allowed local staff members who did not use the system on a regular basis to easily set up job requisitions and issue offer letters. He also helped them take advantage of the automation functionality in the Cornerstone ATS so that emails would automatically be delivered to candidates as they advance through the hiring process and alerts would be sent to the local staff when they needed to take action in the system. The result was a standardized process across all offices and a powerful system that saved time and made the job of recruiting far easier for local staff.

The HR team at IRC has taken a very hands-on approach to implementing the ATS. Before going live, Fassero travels to every office, meets with the local team, and trains the key stakeholders in person. He has already traveled to Southeast Asia and the Middle East to visit each of the IRC offices and provide intensive one-on-one training with each recruiter. This month, he will deliver their immersive training program in Europe and will spend time training the teams in Africa in November. 

One of the most complex but rewarding implementations took place at their offices in Syria. Getting into the country to meet with his teams posed its own set of logistical barriers. However, once there, he instantly saw how the Cornerstone Recruiting solution could make a positive impact for the local staff. For example, they needed to ensure their applicants were residents of a particular Syrian governorate since travel between regions is restricted. Additionally, because their candidates speak multiple languages, the system would have to be flexible enough to post jobs and accept applications in those languages. Finally, because the majority of Syrian nationals access the internet via their mobile phone, candidates would have to be able to seamlessly navigate from the IRC career page to the Cornerstone ATS and complete the entire application process on their phone. Having the ability to post jobs in a variety of languages, add pre-screening questions to the application process, and provide a mobile-first experience to their job candidates has been “an absolute game changer” for the local hiring managers in Syria.


Fassero and his team intend to roll the Cornerstone ATS out to every office by the end of this year. Once he has trained the remaining offices and the system goes live in those locations, Cornerstone Recruiting will be the first HR solution IRC has successfully deployed worldwide. 

Although the months of travel to train each office in person has presented its own set of challenges for Fassero, the rewards for him personally and for the IRC staff have been innumerable. In his words, “Everywhere I go, everyone I speak with, they tell me how we’ve made their life so much easier with Cornerstone Recruiting. They now have an efficient way to build a short list of qualified candidates and get the best people hired and onboarded quickly. They appreciate getting time back in their day to focus on providing relief to the refugees and internally displaced people in their area.” 

About Alec Green

As Chief Marketing Evangelist, Alec Green is responsible for developing the overall marketing plan and strategy for the Foundation, executing all outbound communications, increasing visibility of the Foundation’s programs, and building engagement with our partners... more

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