Using talent mapping to break into international markets

August 15, 2023

Using talent mapping to break into international markets

Discovering and retaining talent poses an increasingly difficult task in today's landscape. The duration and expenses associated with hiring have surged, while trust in the recruitment sector has waned.

These factors present obstacles for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) seeking to expand into new markets. However, SMEs can overcome these challenges by adopting a strategic recruitment approach, such as talent mapping.

Why is it becoming harder to find talent for niche industries?

The average time to hire has been increasing over the past four years. It now takes around two month to get a candidate in place. Then there are onboarding and training times to account for. However, Global Mobility actions can help immensely with niche talent acquisition.

While vacancies go unfilled, huge opportunity costs can overwhelm your teams. This has a drastic impact on productivity, leading to missed deadlines, staff turnover and reduced team morale.

Additionally, the cost of a bad hire is substantial. Hiring missteps can cost in the range of €15,000-100,000 depending on the role and the rarity of the skills required.

The following factors make it more challenging to hire:

  • The internet has made it easier to advertise and apply for jobs. This increases the volume of unsuitable candidates applying and makes it easier for competitors with digital marketing expertise to attract the best talent.
  • Globalisation and remote working has increased competition and the expectations of candidates with specialist skills.
  • A lack of dedicated job boards makes it harder to attract people with experience in your industry.

For companies working with technology, the skills and experience you need might be very specific. Furthermore, you are competing with global players with the funds and brand to attract talent like a magnet.

How can SMEs and start-ups with limited resources compete for talent?

Speaking to clients, it was clear that they want more than a random set of CVs on their desk. They want a strategic approach that is laser focused on specific skillsets.

To meet this objective, I began to ask myself an important question:

“How can recruiters support businesses looking to expand into or conquer new markets?”

To do this, Airswift embarked upon a discovery journey and had open, honest discussions with our clients’ senior leadership teams in the pump sector.

We wanted to further understand the challenges customers faced when hiring high-level candidates.

The overwhelming response was that the majority had lost confidence in their usual recruitment suppliers

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Many recruiters were generalists with no vertical experience in the market
  • A contingent approach to recruitment meant a lack of time was being spent on each position, as the recruiter was trying to fill as many roles as fast as they could
  • Traditional agencies were trying to chase a fee and not listening what the client wanted

This was also based mainly on the fact that their suppliers didn’t always truly understand their needs and it was difficult for clients to understand their recruitment partners’ sourcing methods once a project had been assigned.

An approach that has worked well for clients with these challenges is a visual map of talent with real-time project visibility at every step of the process via cloud technology.

At Airswift, we call this a talent mapping solution.


What is Talent Mapping?

Talent mapping refers to the process of identifying and assessing the skills, competencies, and potential of individuals within an organisation or industry. It involves creating a comprehensive overview of the talent pool available within a specific company or industry sector.

Ultimately, the final objective of the talent mapping process is to find high-potential employees, whose future development aligns with your strategic priorities.

The primary goal of talent mapping is to have a comprehensive understanding of the available talent pool and align it with the organisation's strategic objectives. It helps in identifying high-potential individuals, addressing skill gaps, and ensuring a steady supply of talent for critical roles.

What are the pros and cons of a talent map approach?

The benefits of using a talent map are that it is:

  • Search driven
  • Targeted
  • Designed for niche, specialist and hard to find talent
  • More consultative with mutual understanding of client needs

The disadvantages are:

  • That it is not ideal for urgent, short-term hiring requirements
  • It may be too costly for lower level hires

How does a talent map work?

To explain the talent map process, here is an example of a recent client project. They were looking for a centrifugal design engineer and fluid vacuum design engineer:


  1. Requirement gathering on site
  2. Building the project team
  3. Research & competitor benchmarking
  4. Expanding our search criteria
  5. Shortlisting
  6. Interview process
  7. On Boarding

Step 1: Understanding the specific requirements

We flew to Germany and spent a full day on site meeting the various teams and understanding their culture. This helped us uncover the small intricacies in their business that made them unique.

We were incredibly impressed with the company culture and felt very passionate about what they were trying to achieve.

Step 2: Building the team

When we returned to the UK, we established a project team of consultants with expertise in resourcing for process manufacturing.

Step 3: Research & competitor benchmarking

Then things started to take more shape. Within a week, we had identified and profiled every single technical design engineer who was working with 75km of their office.

Key details we looked for were:

  • Their current professional situation
  • Likeliness of moving companies
  • Experience

Importantly, we also discovered what was being said about our client in the marketplace. Their employer branding proposition gave us an insight into market perceptions and ability to attract talent.

This information allowed us to redesign the businesses hiring process, ensuring that candidates were given a smooth and satisfactory interview experience.

Step 4: Expanding our search criteria

After spending two weeks on the search, we expanded the radar to 250km. This allowed us to find out which cities harboured different skill sets and provided an interesting insight into other businesses. This helped our client understand their positioning more clearly.

Step 5: Shortlisting

After we had completed our research and assessed candidate openness to relocation, we trimmed the shortlist from 250 candidates to the best six.

This was time consuming, but ensured we had a comprehensive understanding of client-candidate fit. We had to assess which candidates were the best fit for location, role, salary and family commitments.

Step 6: Interview process

I like to be heavily involved in the organisation of the interviews and screen the candidates before they are even considered.

I do this using sets of questions that are developed by myself and the client. I am the middle person between the candidate and client, and it is vital that I represent both parties to the highest standard.

Time is a huge factor when trying to find the right candidate.

There is nothing worse than losing out on a perfect candidate because they accept another offer due to a timing conflict. I would recommend that hiring managers always clear their diaries for a candidate that can take your business forward.

Step 7: On Boarding

This was the essential final stage of making a strategic hire. We ensured that we were on top of all the correct paperwork and ensured both the client and candidate were in constant contact upon the contract being signed.

We often provide relocation support for the candidate if they are from outside the area, as it can be hard to settle in a new city and environment. We made sure that this was planned and communicated clearly to assure our candidate that we were there to help.


End results

Our client gained access to a team of professionals that can expand their product line, meaning they have been able to tap into a $28 billion market. This has given them an edge on their competition from Europe and will generate between €6-8 million in sales over the next three years.

This was a challenging piece of work, but certainly one of the more fulfilling projects for me. When a client puts their full trust in you, the hiring process can be seamless and having the correct team in place will give you the confidence you need to deliver on your projects.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do” - Steve Jobs

When your business is looking to expand globally, don’t go in alone. Airswift are here to provide support like we have done over the last 40 years. 


This post was written by: Tomás Battaglia, Content Marketing Coordinator