Competitiveness from Cross-border Recruitment


The Nordic countries are struggling with a growing shortage of IT talent and the competition for the best talent is harder than ever. We gathered a group of professionals interested in international recruitment and organized a free Nordic IT Talent shortage event in Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen.

Our events featured speakers from successful tech companies such as F-Secure, Frosmo, Penneo, Pleo,, Barona IT and EDI. They shared their knowledge about successful cross-border recruitment, onboarding, and international company culture.

Read below a summary of selected speeches and learn how different tech companies have succeeded in cross-border recruitment.



Arja Martikainen from Barona IT started all the events and she focused on the situation through the latest research. Studies tell a sad story. The Nordic countries are in need for the new talent and in Finland alone, there is a demand for 25,000 new software developers by 2022. Numbers are even higher in Sweden and Denmark. A partial solution to the problem can be found in international recruitment. Attracting the experts to the Nordics is not as simple as you might think as the talent shortage is already affecting whole Europe. Due to the high demand and shortage of the software developers in the whole Europe, Nordic countries can face a difficulty to attract a talent.
"Europe has largely recycled its expertise. At the same time, the traditional market for talent, for example, in Eastern Europe, has already been emptied and a large proportion of the talent has been acquired by Germany, France, and the UK."
During her speech, Arja points out that companies should also explore new countries such as the Philippines and Brazil.
"International competition for recruiting professionals is getting tougher. It is important for us in the Nordic countries to ensure that we operate as transparent as possible and make sure that Nordic countries are interesting and well-known among the talent."

It’s important to ensure that we operate transparently in Nordics and advertise Nordic countries as a great and comfortable place for relocation for skilled migrants providing the best welfare conditions.


In Helsinki, we heard what Sari Holopainen, Director, People Operations and Culture and Senior Manager Karmina Aquino from F-Secure have learned from cross-border recruitment. In their speeches, they focused on diversity as well as on the importance of onboarding.

Sari Holopainen stated that diversity is the key to growth and success. Although diversity alone is not only about different cultures, international recruitment is important for building a diverse company culture.

Sari summarizes the benefits of diversity in five ways:

  • More competence: international and versatile recruitment provides companies with more expertise.
  • Happier and more committed employees: People are happier when they feel they are appreciated regardless of age, gender or background. Happy employees are proven to be more effective and committed to the company.
  • Diversity enhances creativity: employees of different nationalities, experiences, backgrounds create knowledge spillovers that help them to come up with new  innovative ideas and inventions. 
  • Better Employer Brand: When a company is genuinely diverse, it encourages both new employees and customers to seek you out.
  • Diversity helps to serve a more diverse client base.

According to studies, Finland and other Nordic countries are happiest places in the world. Sari admits that such sales arguments are important while doing the comparison . However, it is also important to answer difficult questions such as taxation. However, it is important to look at another angle of the issue which is taxation.
"Taxation may seem a bit strange if its benefits and services are not are not explained."

Sari mentioned that everyone’s involvement is important because people trust when the information comes through the word of mouth. Employers should provide skilled migrants with support, help with integration and make them feel like home not only at work but also in real life.  

"We can't assume that it is easy to integrate here. By supporting the integration of a person and potential family, you will ensure that the person can concentrate on the work."


Helen Chen, People & Culture Specialist, and Jessie Scheepers, Head of People from Pleo joined our event in Copenhagen. Their speech "Let's be real: the realities of foreign talent in Denmark" -introduced us on the reality that foreign talent faces in Denmark.

Helen and Jessie are both foreigners in Denmark. Helen came from California in 2015 and decided to stay and Jessie had been living around the Nordics, but originally came from South Africa. In their current company, Pleo international recruitment has been important from the start.
"In 2017 we had 14 people and 2 of them were Danish. When I joined there were already 80 people from 19 nationalities. Now there is already 120 of us and 31 nationalities."

Pleo has been "a melting pot" of different nationalities. However, a number of nationalities are just a vanity metric to them.
"We want to make a good company become a great one. For that, you need to hire people who can challenge old ways and bring new ways of thinking to the company."
Jessi and Helen both say that it is very major to find a good mix of challengers. You need to have people who can challenge the ways and ideas. Companies need to involve over time. That is why diversity is so crucial for the long term.
"It is not only about nationalities but a diversity of expertise, background and life situations."
Denmark is having a lack of skilled professionals. Yet, there is a big debate around foreign workers. Pleo aims to hire 20 people a month, and if you are aiming to grow you need to look outside Denmark and even outside the Nordics.

At the end of their speech, Helen wants to remind everyone about retention.
"Retention is often forgotten topic when we are talking about the cross-border recruitment. If you can't keep people that you hire for a long time you will be doing the same thing all over again.""
On a global level immigration is a difficult topic, even if the country is called as a happiest place in the World. In Denmark and other Nordic countries there are still a lot to be done to ensure new skilled workforce is welcomed.


In Copenhagen, we also heard the speech from Jan Flora, Founder and CTO and Jesús Otero, Front End Engineer from Penneo. Penneo is a Danish company that helps companies with signing documents online. The company is still a startup but it already has gained much experience from cross-border recruitment. During the event, they shared their story and tips for cross-border recruitment.
"I believe that attracting international talent is super important. If you want to be a successful tech company in the future, you need to put cross-border recruitment on top priority."
After Penneo completed their first funding round, they thought that they have now all that is needed to create a great product. There was only one thing missing, the talented developers.

"We had a big problem. We needed to find the best possible talent so we could develop the best product in the market. First, we were trying to hire developers who already work in Copenhagen. It did not take a long time to understand that there are not enough developers here."
Even though Copenhagen has a booming tech scene, the competition for the best talent is tough. One limiting aspect is also the population. In Copenhagen, there are around only around 600 000 habitants.
"We decided to look at the talent around the whole world. There are 2000 times more people there than in the in the area we were looking before."
Jan stated that cross-border recruitment plays a key role in trying to find the best possible talent for a tech company. However, there are also things you need to know before you can start the process.
"There are big opportunities, but there are also big responsibilities. It is important that companies can support the whole process. You will need to help candidates to get an apartment, support possible spouses and assistance in small stuff like taxes."
Jan says that if you want to succeed with cross-border recruitment you cannot forget about the family.

After Jan's speech, we heard a story from Jesus, who joined Penneo from Venezuela. He found Penneo's job ad online and got interested.
"I did not have any clue where Denmark was, but the company sounded interesting. They also offered relocation services and after small research, I was up for the challenge. There are many things to learn when someone comes from another country. Even though I did some research you never really know how it will be before you move there."
At the end of Jesus speech, he wanted to say that people join companies not countries and it is important to understand the motives.


We also got to hear a speech from Cesar Averi, the CEO of EDI. He introduced us to the Philippines. They have 80,000 IT students graduating each year and a large proportion of them would be interested in working abroad. In addition, to excellent education, there are many international companies in the Philippines that train and employ IT professionals.
“International recruitment enables young people to learn about local businesses, as the authors of the experience have the ability to show their own capabilities around the world,” says Cesar.
The Filipinos have a very European culture, due to the influence of both Spanish and United States on the country's culture. In international recruitment, it is also necessary to consider ethical issues. There are many cases in the world where a job seeker has to pay a partner for access to work abroad. Against this kind of activity, EDI strives to fight the Philippines.
"It is a good idea to use the time to choose an ethical partner and ensure that the employee receives sufficient support and assistance, even before departure."

A Complete guide to cross-border recruitment

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