Strategic Recruiting for European and Canadian Businesses in the US

Since 2007, DSML Executive Search has been a trusted partner to many European and Canadian-based companies who are seeking to hire talent across the United States.

From start-ups, SMEs, to well-established corporations at all stages of development in the US market, we’ve been exposed to all types of scenarios. While the core of our business remains recruiting for executive level positions, we have recruited diverse functions, even entire teams, for a variety of industries over the years.

We know that successful recruiting in the US is instrumental to business success in the US: a company successful at recruiting in the US, by extension creates a successful business in the US. It is not only about finding the right talent for key roles, but it also implies a thorough understanding of the US marketplace, business culture and its HR practices.

We have identified the most common areas where our clients need support and are now able to share this guide with you, in the hopes you are able to make an educated decision before you establish your subsidiary and start hiring.

Advice for New Subsidiaries

We have created a brief, action-oriented task list for companies who are new to the US Market. The best advice we can give you is to explore all your options!

  • Choose an Attorney and Tax Adviser who has experience helping foreign entities establish themselves in the US. Take your time and ask for references. We can refer several companies.
  • Determine which location is best suited to establish your US Subsidiary. The United States is vast. Taxes and other costs associated with establishing a business vary greatly from state to state and city to city. Just as an example, in downtown Boston, you’ll encounter higher business space rental fees in comparison to a city like Indianapolis. When determining a location, be sure to have a good understanding of compensation expectations for the type of employee(s) you’ll be needing to hire or refer to a firm like DSML Executive Search for a compensation analysis (one of the many services we offer). Besides costs, the ability to find talent in a specific region/city also needs to be considered.
  • Contact the local Chamber of Commerce to learn what is available to you in the form of incentives. Perhaps you are considering renting a warehouse or manufacturing facility or require a small office space near a major airport. Consider also contacting your own country’s Chamber of Commerce or Trade Agency for additional guidance.
  • Set up a US bank account. Hiring a professional accountant will also help when setting up payroll for your first hire(s).

Work Visas in the USA

We are often asked about ways an individual can obtain residency and work authorization in the United States. There are 5 ways, but we’ll only address, in layman’s terms, numbers 1 & 2 below, as it pertains to our clientele.

  1. Sponsorship Visa by an employer
  2. Investment Visa
  3. Sponsorship by a close family member in the United States
  4. The Diversity Visa Lottery Program
  5. Asylum & Refugee Status

Please consult with a US-based immigration firm for more precise information as this is subject to change.

H Visas


For temporary workers (other H visas do not generally apply to your clientele)

As a H-1B visa application requirement, a specialty occupation requires practical application of specialized knowledge. Examples of specialty occupations include engineers, nurses, professors, researchers, computer programmers, technicians, and other professionals. Foreign workers must possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, and this equivalent requirement can usually be met by having a 3-year degree and 3 years of relevant post-graduate experience. There is a quota for the number of H-1B visa approvals per year and a specific application date, usually at the beginning of April.

L Visas

L-1 Visa

The L-1 visa includes the L-1A visa and L-1B visa. The L-1 intracompany transferee visa allows managers, executives, and especially knowledgeable employees who work outside the US for a company that has an affiliated entity inside the US to come to the US and perform services for that entity. The L-1 visa is primarily used to assist multinational companies that experienced difficulties in bringing to the United States critical personnel temporarily from abroad. Executives and managers enter the United States on an L-1A visa. Employees with specialized knowledge enter the United States on an L-1B visa.

B-1 Visa

The B-1 business visitor visa is used by foreign business people to conduct meetings, attend conferences, perform market research and undertake training in the US. It is used for people entering the Us for a limited duration and who intend on departing at the expiration of their stay. They must maintain a foreign address which they have no intention of abandoning. Nationals of some countries can enter the US for up to 90 days as a B-1 business visitor without needing a visa stamp on their passport.

NB. This is a very good option for executives who are coming regularly to the US to explore business opportunities and/or visit their subsidiary.

E Visas

E1 and E2 Visas

The E-1 treaty trader visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows foreign nationals of a treaty nation to enter the US and carry out substantial trade. A treaty trader belows to a nation that maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation or a bilateral agreement with the US. The E-2 non-immigrant classification allows a national of a treaty country (a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation) to be admitted to the United States when investing a substantial amount of capital in a US business. Certain employees of such a person or of a qualifying organization may also be eligible for this classification.

TN Visa

The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN non-immigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry (up to three years) into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN non-immigrants are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists and teachers.

US Job Market

In order to be successful in the US, businesses must remove their “European lenses” and familiarize themselves with the American perspective, business culture and job market.

The current US job market is very much an “employee’s market”, meaning the current unemployment rate is quite low at 3.7% (July 2019). Highly qualified, passive candidates (those not actively looking for a job) tend to be very selective in choosing their next career opportunity. Longevity in a company is diminishing, retaining employees with benefits that go beyond the ‘standards’ is becoming more commonplace.

In the following you will find some pertinent points to consider:

  1. Being new to the US, a company may not be well known to the general public. We encourage clients to ‘market themselves well’, not just to customers but to potential candidates. A few examples: ensure the English version of your website is clear and up to date, illustrates what makes your product or service better than the US competition, convey the values and cultures of your organization that you’d like to transmit to the US subsidiary. Regarding the topic of culture, it will be important to build and to allow for its own unique Company Culture. One that will grant the US team a certain level of autonomy and will allow for a blending of both the US and headquarter’s company cultures. We could write an entire chapter about managing your US team but it is important to strike the right balance between a certain level of autonomy and control. Allow for things to be a little different here and enable managers to manage.
  2. A big difference between European and US employment contracts is the concept of “at will employment”. While it may at first glance seem very favorable for employers, it is, de facto, a two-way street. While European employees and employers are legally bound by lengthy notice periods meant to safeguard both parties, this is not the case in the US and employees can leave their organizations from one day to the next, if they choose to. This can be detrimental to your organization, especially if it affects key positions.
  3. While US labor laws do not require a specific amount of vacation time to be offered to an employee (as is the case in Europe) this does not mean that a reasonable amount of time off should not be offered. Vacation time is an important part of the overall employment offer and can ultimately attract a candidate to a company. When looking at most recent candidate expectations, we have found that most executive level candidates expect no less than 15-20 business days of vacation time (3 to 4 weeks).

Our Services

We see ourselves as your partner in providing you with the best talent that will help your organization achieve success in the US market space and pride ourselves on our transparency, integrity and reliability during the process.

While the core of our business remains recruiting for C-level positions, we have conducted searches for multiple functions across a variety of industries over the years, such as:

  • Searches for the first employee(s) in the US for our European or Canadian clients
  • Searches to replace an executive after an acquisition made in the US by our clients
  • Confidential executive searches to replace a poor performing executive
  • Searches for existing Operations with the need to fill multiple positions

We consider ourselves to be generalists with a focus on recruiting the right candidate to a specific company culture combined with the desired functional expertise and soft skills. We approach every search with fresh eyes and never get comfortable in one industry. As such, we have the capacity and curiosity to gauge new concepts and approaches to best assist you with your recruitment needs. Over the years we have acquired expertise in the following industries:

  • Manufacturing and Industrial
  • Capital Equipment
  • Consumer Goods
  • Medical Devices, Life Sciences and Health
  • Tech (IoT, Connected Products, Software)
  • Professional Services

We serve as an ambassador to your company and represent you in the best light. The candidate experience is important. We aim for a quick, smooth process for both the client and candidate.


Setting aside the appropriate budget for your hiring needs is vital in the early stages of establishing your US subsidiary. Comparing American salaries to other European nations is something to avoid doing as they simply do not compare for a variety of reasons. While on the surface, American employees are earning a relatively higher income, they also have to set aside more money for things like health insurance co-pays, higher education bills, local taxes, etc.

Companies should develop a strategic hiring plan and budget for the roles to be filled.

We encourage clients to always set aside an additional 25-40% of an employee’s base salary for personnel costs that will include Payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) and Benefits (healthcare insurance, etc., see next chapter for more details).

Not many people from Europe are aware that the majority of sales executives expect to have a base plus a bonus or commission structure from results on sales targets achieved.

Our goal is to help gather market intelligence and help you make a decision based on our findings.

Understanding Benefits

Employee benefits include various types of non-wage compensation provided to employees in addition to their normal salaries. When it comes to recruiting and retaining the top talent, companies have become creative with their approach to benefits. Examples of benefits include:

Traditional (Expected) Benefits

  • Group Insurance (Health, Dental, Vision, Disability and Life Insurance)
  • Retirement Plan (also called a 401k Plan)

Additional Benefits

  • Company vehicle (for sales executives especially)
  • Gym membership
  • Subsidized childcare centers
  • Unlimited paid time off
  • Parking
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Etc.

It is important to understand that the benefits are a way to be more appealing to prospective candidates and to retain them once hired. We have seen situations where a potential candidate would not leave their current employer because their benefits were so great that the “new” company could not match them or compensate. Again, the key is being open to adjusting your expectations to the American market and understanding that in the candidate’s market we are in, it is quite competitive.

About DSML Executive Search

DSML Executive Search is a US-based retained executive search firm with offices in Chicago and Boston, recruiting for European and Canadian companies doing business in the US. We noticed there was a need to serve this niche. Our multi-cultural team knows how challenging it can be to find the right talent, especially when there are cultural differences within organizations; including values, vision, norms, habits, and beliefs. The organizational culture affects the way that people interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders and ultimately impacts the success of the organization. We are especially good at finding talent in the areas of General Management, Sales, Marketing, Finance, and Operational Management.

Our consultants work diligently to support our clients throughout the entire recruitment process. Some of the types of searches we conduct include:

  • Confidential executive searches to replace a poor performing executive
  • Search to replace an executive after an acquisition made in the US by our clients
  • Searches for the first employee(s) in the US for our European or Canadian clients
  • Domestic searches from Director to C-level executives through DSML Search

DSML is also part of the CFR Global Network of Recruitment professionals since 2010.