Working for a foreign company in Russia: pros and cons


By: Alla Panasenko

Comments by Dmitry Larin, Head of Recruitment and Outplacement at Intercomp

Foreign companies have been operating successfully in the vast expanse of our homeland for decades now. What are their requirements for candidates? And why do some Russians seek to work only in foreign companies, while others avoid them?

Dmitry Larin
Head of Recruitment and Outplacement at Intercomp

Agree to the very best

Recruitment specialists working in foreign companies based in Russia have observed the following pattern: foreign employers recruit their new employees with great care, paying attention to details, which, according to Russians, are insignificant.

“The more reputable the company, the more difficult and longer the employment process. This is especially true for most foreign companies with an “institutional and management structure” with two or more managers. In this case, quality is more important than speed” comments Dmitry Larin, Head of Recruitment and Outplacement at Intercomp. “Once a company with high requirements and limited budget looked for a manager. It took them nine months to find the right person. Honestly, we spent more resources than what we earned, but we managed to find the ideal person who still works there to this day, so everyone is happy.”

Recruiting staff for a foreign company is a long process with several stages, including often three-five interviews. Candidates should appeal not only to managers, but also to colleagues and internal customers.

“No matter how rare the professional, professional skills alone – so-called hard skills – are not enough. It is extremely important to meet all the requirements for personal qualities – so-called soft skills – for a specific position and corporate culture in general” underlines Dmitry Larin. “My advice to job applicants: considering the frequent emphasis placed on teamwork by western companies, a team spirit and friendliness would not go amiss, so a simply smile during the interview would not be superfluous.”

Professional and personal tests are other features in staff recruitment for foreign companies. Candidates sometimes need to complete so-called homework assignments (right up to drawing up a business plan), and their recommendations from previous jobs are checked without fail.

“It is very bad practice to skip or doubt the appropriateness of any of these stages. Western companies take recruiting seriously even for junior positions. According to what I have seen over the last 10 years, I can say that the most respectable the company, the more attention their HR department pays to all details, in particular, the verification of recommendations in the final stage” explains an expert.

Whether candidates are competent or not will be found out from several persons: their manager, HR officer and colleagues. One uncomplimentary comment is enough for the representatives of international companies to dismiss candidates.

Interestingly, family ties or friendship does not play any role when people are hired by a foreign company: candidates still have to go through all the selection stages whether they are friends or family.

Two sides of the same coin 

The pros and cons of working for a foreign company may be discussed at length. If you like strict regulations, hierarchy and clear allocation of responsibilities, then you will quickly get on well with a foreign boss, but this will be much more difficult to achieve for people accustomed to chaos and a devil-may-care attitude.

According to Elena Kisel, Partner and Head of Recruitment at Consulting Center SHAG, the benefits of working for a foreign company include the observance of the Labor Code, legal protection, higher salaries, timely payments with no delays, predictable career path, development opportunities (training, seminars, assessment centers, interaction with colleagues from other countries, communication standards). 

These are the reasons why today there is a significant pool of candidates who have already worked and would like to continue working in international companies. Such candidates even submit their resume in English.

They are not fazed by the difficulties arising from working with a foreign boss, such as, for example, limited work scope, work monotony, working during public holidays (New Year and May holidays).

“Many miss the warmth and informality in relationships with colleagues despite the smiles and external friendliness. Some complain about the great number of regulations, guidelines and reports that must be submitted to management” explains Elena Kisel.

Dmitry Larin notes that in 99.9% of cases international companies are completely “white” (i.e. operate in total compliance with all statutory requirements), and gaining experience in such companies is more valuable and looks good in a resume. In addition to bonuses, they offer a clear mechanism for pay rise for all employees (rather than the most persistent and go-getter as is the case in Russian companies) and, accordingly, the possibility of planning a personal budget.

Broad benefits packages also need to be mentioned and often include voluntary health insurance (frequently for close relatives also), compensation for meals, transport, work phone, laptop, car, fitness and sick leave.

It goes without saying that the workload in foreign companies is usually heavy, and there is no time to discuss private matters over tea and cookies. Yet overtime is rare except in consulting companies and investment banks.

“The likelihood of a foreign company closing down in Russia is an obvious disadvantage that has become particularly relevant over recent years. But in most cases, when foreigners close their business, they do warn in advance, and they pay substantial compensation (from 3 to 6 monthly salaries). Key employees are offered to stay until the last day with bonus payments that can reach up to 12 monthly salaries so many candidates remember even such unpleasant cases with gratitude and are even ready to get involved in the most risky start-up” says Dmitry Larin.

Candidate strengths and weaknesses. Would you like to try to be an employee of an international company? Analyze your professional strengths and pay special attention to your weaknesses so that you can work out whether you would fit in this or that organization, the mentality of the people working there, and you will also find the best way to present yourself at interviews.

Practical example from Elena Kisel

“Recently, we met an applicant for a position in a marketing department. This young man clearly experienced some communication difficulties: he was easily irritated, did not very well argue his point, choosing his words and arguments with difficulty, and he found it difficult to adopt a position other than his own. On the other hand, he was a stickler for strict adherence to rules and procedures.

Having worked in a foreign company, he did not even want to hear about any options for employment in Russian organizations. And for him, this was right and clear, because even there are any procedures in Russian companies, they are not always applied just as scrupulously. And a lot depends on direct interactions with colleagues, the ability to convince them of the correctness of your position, and often also simply establish friendly relations with related enterprises.

In this case, the candidate made a wise decision because he does not feel well in uncertain situations, and he experiences difficulties in building contacts so it is right for him to look for a job where the conditions almost exclude such skills.”

That is why it is so important to understand one’s strengths and weaknesses to then show them to employers, be they Russian or foreign.