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What tech leaders get wrong when hiring developers in Central and Eastern Europe

Central and Eastern Europe have a strong pool of developer talent, yet it remains untapped by tech companies. Here's how to hire the best.

Programmers in Ukraine. Credit: Unsplash
Sergiu Matei

By Sergiu Matei

There’s a reason why Romanian is the second most spoken language at Microsoft. If you don’t have at least one developer in your team from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), you’re missing a trick. 

The region, known for strong maths and computer science education, is home to more than one million engineers, or 6% of the total global pool. In fact, Slovakia was named the number one country in the world for finding the best developers, while Poland, Hungary and Ukraine also featured in the top five.

But businesses that try to hire there often forget that CEE comprises more than a dozen nations, including EU and non-EU countries, each with their own culture, laws and hiring expectations. 

I was born and raised in Moldova and have spent the majority of my career building platforms to help teams find and hire talent from around the world. Along the way, I’ve learned that CEE — although full of talent — still remains relatively untapped because recruiters and business leaders aren’t speaking the same language as the talent located there. These are the most common mistakes I’ve seen, and how to avoid them.

Not scratching beneath the CV surface

People in CEE tend to be more humble and shy than people from the United States. We don’t brag about our achievements, and often, we don’t even class them as achievements. If you compare the resume of someone from the US with that of someone from CEE, the US version will likely be a lot longer — but that doesn’t mean the CEE candidate is less qualified. 

When recruiting, you can’t assume that the applicant has told you everything about their skills, experience and extracurricular activities. I was once interviewing an engineer and discovered that he was building rockets, despite him never mentioning it during the vetting phase. Another time, an engineer had won two Olympiad medals for maths, but felt like the awards weren’t appropriate to bring up for the job he was applying to. 

Tech leaders in CEE have to be aware that talent in the region is much more than the surface information individuals give about themselves. They have plenty of hidden talents, but recruiters have to dig deeper and actively offer examples of accolades that impress them, so that developers know what to specify. It can feel unusual to have to prompt someone to sell themselves, but without doing so, you could easily miss top tier people when they’re sitting right in front of you. 

Not doing payment and contract due diligence

There are six currencies used across CEE, and a number of the most popular international payment platforms (Wise, PayPal) are restricted by some countries. For example, money can be sent via PayPal from Ukraine, but it can’t be received. Yet when it comes to hiring tech talent, companies mistakenly believe that they can use their existing tools to send salaries, or easily send money in dollars or euros — which is not always the case. 

Leaders must research the channels via which developers can — and want to — receive payments based on their country. In Poland, BLIK is the most used financial transaction app, in Serbia QIWI is popular, and in Moldova Payoneer or a local bank is common. In Ukraine, developers typically register their own company for employers to pay into, to take advantage of the government’s lower tax bracket for software development businesses. 

Companies also sometimes overlook how they put together their employment contracts. Many countries in the region will ask for documents to be translated into the local language and be guided by local laws. For overseas recruiters, that means having two versions of the contract and having to work with embassies, chambers and bodies like AmCham to understand the lay of the land.

In Russia, authorities are already cracking down on companies that employ foreign nationals without local contracts.

Not knowing engineers’ preferred communication

Attracting developers in CEE requires using channels that tech leaders might not be familiar with. Rather than reach out to people via Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram are often more common. Dev.to is also a great forum to scout out engineers in CEE, as are forums in the local languages or local Facebook groups. 

When contacting engineers for the first time, recruiters should take care not to write long, overly introductory messages — a concise message that states the salary and challenge being addressed in the role will best capture people’s attention.

At the same time, remember that while CEE does have a range of tech abilities, PHP, Java and Net developers are most prevalent in the region. For example, if you’re looking for Ruby engineers, you’ll have a harder time getting traction from candidates.

CEE is undoubtedly home to some of the world’s most promising tech talent, but businesses need to know how to appropriately appeal to the developer communities there. Probing engineers to share more about their achievements, researching contract and payment compliance and adopting the tools that best speak to developers in the region are the first steps to bring CEE into global teams.

Sergiu Matei is founder of Index, a developer hiring platform. 

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Anna
Anna

The article omitted the most important question that is asked during the interview at Index, which is crucial in hiring a candidate, depending on their answer to it: “What is your favorite day of the week?”