US Vs European hiring – The differences you need to know

Many of our clients are exciting entrepreneurial businesses looking to set up or expand their operations on the other side of the Atlantic from their US or European base and this brings a number of challenges particularly when hiring. 

This has given us a real insight of the critical differences to be aware of when hiring for the first time. Get it wrong and it could be costly in terms of time and money. 

There are big differences in labour laws, cultural norms, and business practices. In Europe hiring laws and practices also vary within individual countries. The summary here is based on our experiences and is a general view. There can be large variations to this between sectors and specific markets.

The Hiring Process

One of the key differences you first see is the Resume or CV. In the US, resumes can often be typically one page, concise and often top line. In the UK and Europe CVs (Curriculum Vitae) tend to be more detailed, highlighting each job,  education, qualifications, and specific skills.

In the US, hiring is typically fast-paced with shorter, more focused interviews and they often make decisions quickly. In Europe, there may be more stages and be more formalised with multiple interviews and even assessment centres and tests. It typically takes longer.

Cultural differences really influence hiring.  In the US, there is generally a stronger emphasis on individual achievements, rapid career progression and entrepreneurial spirit, and it can be a very competitive hiring environment. In Europe, there may be more emphasis on work-life balance, collaboration,  job security, and in some sectors adherence to procedures. Trade unions and collective bargaining are far more common.

Networking is essential in your career but the approach may differ. In the US, networking tends to be more informal and relationship-driven. In Europe, there are many professional networks and industry-specific associations which play a more prominent role in certain sectors

In the US, interviews can be relatively informal, with a real emphasis on the candidate’s fit within the company culture. In Europe interviews may have a more formal structure, and competency-based questions are commonly used to assess skills and experience.

The US tends to place greater importance on references and personal recommendations. The UK often employs assessment centres, aptitude tests, and psychometric assessments to evaluate candidates.

In both Background checks, reference checks, and drug tests are common in certain industries or for specific positions.

Recruitment and Advertising

Recruitment and advertising are overall very similar in the US and Europe allowing for the legal differences mentioned above.

Platforms like Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Monster are popular in the US for job advertising as well as Industry specific websites as well as social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to target specific demographics or industries.

Company Career Pages are critical for many organisations and Professional Networks are particularly important: LinkedIn is particularly important in the US

Europe is very similar to the US but there are clearly more ‘national’ job boards and you need to research these if advertising.

Professional Associations can play a critical role in some sectors

If you try to contact someone in the States about a new position, they are much more open to talking to you and they seem to have more immediate trust in recruiters expertise. When you compare this to candidates in the UK, a lot of people are often wary of your intent and it can take a few conversations before they begin to open up.

In Germany headhunting was relatively uncommon until ‘recently’ and there is still a reticence to reply to ‘unknown’ approaches. In fact, in Germany Xing is often preferred to LinkedIn for example.

Legal Framework:

In the US, employment is generally at-will, so employers can generally terminate an employee at any time (some reasons prohibited by law). There are federal and state laws that provide certain protections to employees, but the overall framework is more flexible for employers.

In Europe, employment laws often lean more towards protecting employees with stricter regulations regarding hiring, termination, and employee rights.

Compensation and Benefits:

In the US, compensation packages often include a base salary, and some additional benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans (e.g., 401(k)), and paid time off (which is often low or limited compared to European standards).

In Europe, compensation packages vary between countries but are typically much more comprehensive compared to the US and often include higher social benefits and stronger worker protections with typically more paid vacation, generous maternity and paternity leave, healthcare coverage, and pensions.

In the US, salary negotiations are relatively common, and candidates may have more flexibility to negotiate their compensation package. In the UK, negotiation is less prevalent, especially for entry-level positions, as salaries are often based on established pay scales.

Our next article on this topic will cover what this means in terms of candidates’ expectations in each of the markets and what companies need to be aware of.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the points raised here please contact Peter Brophy via