Stanton Chase
10 Common Mistakes German Companies Make When Hiring in the US

10 Common Mistakes German Companies Make When Hiring in the US

February 2024


Video cover

Thousands of German companies already operate in America—and their numbers are growing.

According to the international news outlet Deutsche Welle, German organizations see the US as a “safe harbor” where they can conduct business with minimal risk, low costs, and generous subsidies.

While there are incentives, there are also plenty of considerations that German companies in the US should keep in mind. As a German-born director at Stanton Chase, here are 10 common mistakes that I’ve found German companies tend to make when hiring in North America.

1. Neglecting Cultural Differences

This is number one on the list. It’s easy to overlook cultural nuance when setting up shop across an ocean. 

When you underestimate cultural differences, it can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications. Make sure to invest in your team’s grasp of US culture as they prepare to hire and lead an American workforce.

2. Language Barriers and Communication Concerns

More than half of Germans may speak English, but the ratio is much smaller when going the other way. Don’t assume your American workers will understand German — let alone grasp the nuance that comes with different German idiomatic phrases and sayings. 

Often, Americans misinterpret the German communication style as arrogant or overly direct, too (even if it’s just a stylistic difference). Invest in training your leaders to communicate in a clean, consistent, and relatable way as they select their American workforce.

3. Poor Job Market Research

Hiring requires job market research—overseas, even more so than at home. When a German company seeks to hire American workers, they must invest in understanding what makes those workers tick.

You can’t achieve this through shortcuts. You have to put the time and resources into understanding the specific trends and demands of the US job market at the time you intend to hire.

4. Salary and Benefits Disparities

Salary structure, benefits packages, and employee perks vary from one country to the next. There will be important differences in the US that aren’t the same as in Germany, and offering a sensitive and understanding compensation package can improve employee satisfaction and retention.

For instance, minimum wage laws are different. Health insurance requirements, while similar in some sense (both nations have state-run and private options to choose from), are also different in key ways and always changing. Invest in understanding the American requirements for salaries and benefits before you create your job descriptions or start making offers to qualified candidates.

5. Inadequate Understanding of Labor Laws

Both the US and Germany have labor laws. Like compensation, though, there are key differences.

German laborers, for example, have a strictly regulated workweek length and must receive a certain number of vacation days per year. These laws are different (and often looser) in the US. Make sure you know where you have more leeway and where you need to be more careful.

6. Mismatched Recruitment Strategies

German and US companies often have different recruitment strategies. Much of this relates to cultural differences (see Mistake 1). For instance, while social media is effective for recruitment in both countries, many Germans use XING, whereas Americans might use Twitter.

LinkedIn remains popular in both countries, making it a good compromise. Consider your strategy carefully when translating it to the US job market.

7. Underestimating Diversity and Inclusion

While the DEIB acronym may be undergoing scrutiny, there’s no doubt that America is honed in on diversity and inclusion initiatives. Germans must keep this in mind when hiring overseas.

Not only should German employers remain sensitive to the diverse, multi-generational American talent pool. They should seek to address the natural diversity barriers that come with their own international leadership, too. Address this proactively, as it can lead to greater workplace dynamics and productivity.

8. Overlooking Regional Differences

The US job market is massive. A good comparison is the entire EU rather than the German economy. As with any larger marketplace, it is important to remember that there are many regional differences across the United States. 

For example, those in the Southeast generally work at a steadier, more methodical pace than those in, say, California or New York. Invest in understanding these regional nuances, as they can make a big difference in how effective your hiring strategy is.

9. Inadequate Onboarding Processes

No matter where you’re recruiting, hiring is just the first step. From there, you need to effectively onboard and train your new workers. When this takes place poorly, it can exacerbate turnover and dissatisfaction rates.

When you’re hiring overseas, this is a common problem. Use the plethora of remote onboarding, training, and communication tools available to make sure you have a rock-solid onboarding plan in place to help American workers enter and acclimate to your organization.

10. Lack of Flexibility in Work Practices

The ability to adapt is an essential element of the 21st-century business landscape. When hiring internationally, this remains in full effect.

If you’re going to hire American workers for your German company, you have to go beyond your initial recruitment strategy. Make sure to build in the time and resources to remain flexible in your hiring and work practices over time.

Hiring in the US: A German Perspective

As a native German and a Director at Stanton Chase’s Nashville office, I’ve spent my fair share of time observing recruitment differences between my home country and the United States. Over time, I’ve found that if German brands can approach US recruitment thoughtfully, they can create some of the most effective and dynamic workforces in the global marketplace.

If German brands can approach US recruitment thoughtfully, they can create some of the most effective and dynamic workforces in the global marketplace.

The fusion of European and American cultures in the workplace is a powerful and worthwhile endeavor. However, employers must approach the activity with sensitivity and strategy. Use the list above to hone your US recruitment efforts so that you can attract, onboard, and retain the best American talent for your brand.

About the Author

Tim Fetzer is a Director at Stanton Chase Nashville with over 10 years of global search experience. Tim has successfully completed searches for various management roles in sales for DAX 40 companies, financial institutions, and start-ups. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Hult International Business School in London. Tim is from Germany and has lived in several countries.  

Executive Search
Talent Management and Employee Well-Being

How Can We Help?

At Stanton Chase, we're more than just an executive search and leadership consulting firm. We're your partner in leadership.

Our approach is different. We believe in customized, personal, and fearless executive search, executive assessment, board services, succession planning, and leadership onboarding support.

We believe in your potential to achieve greatness and we'll do everything we can to help you get there.

View All Services