An Undiscovered Talent Pool – Puerto Rico Where Every Resident Is A US Citizen (Fill mainland jobs with Puerto Rican residents who can work in the US without a visa)

During these tough recruiting times, are you open to learning about the top recruiting source of the year? Well, start by imagining that there was a secret 51st state off the coast of Florida that few recruiters have targeted. And because residents of this secret US state would automatically be US citizens. They could effortlessly travel without restrictions to any other US state where new hires were needed. And as an added benefit, most residents of this secret state were diverse, further adding to their value.

Well, there really is such a secret US “state,” and it is called Puerto Rico. Yes, even though Puerto Rico is technically a US territory, its 3 million residents are automatically US citizens. So they can freely travel to and work in any of the actual 50 states with no barriers or visas. And the best part is that most mainland recruiters have completely ignored this valuable “under the radar” talent pool!

Consider This Superior Alternative To International Recruits 

When most corporations can find sufficient talent in the mainland US, they opt for recruiting international candidates. Which we all know has been a nightmare with the cutbacks to visa processing staff and a lower number of available visas. So it’s time to consider an alternative. Instead of recruiting from the Philippines, China, and India where visas are required,  switch to a much closer recruiting location, Puerto Rico (which is not a foreign country). Where the top-ranking recruits can be on the US mainland ready to work in less than three hours.

Part I – The Recruiting Case – Reasons Why You Should Recruit From Puerto Rico

Here are the top 10+ recruiting advantages for targeting Puerto Rican residents for your mainland jobs.

  • Proof of concept – even with an ad hoc casual recruiting effort, this pipeline has proven to be effective over time. Because 4.2 million Puerto Ricans already live on the US mainland (which is more than the entire current population of Puerto Rico). So getting employment here has clearly already been proven to be attractive for them. 
  • There is a large available labor supply with high acceptance rates – there is ample statistical evidence that many Puerto Ricans are actively seeking new opportunities – Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate for 2021 was 8.27%, which is more than double the US rate. Their search for jobs is so desperate because Puerto Rico has recently been suffering from economic malaise, a barely functional government, a drought, and unrepaired damage from a horrendous hurricane (Maria). So you will find that many of the island’s currently employed hourly and professional residents will welcome an opportunity to work in a more stable mainland environment. So unlike most mainland residents, those that are qualified will be eager to say yes to your interview request and your job offer.
  • As US citizens, they can leave without restrictions – because residents are automatically US citizens, they don’t need a visa or any permission to work on the mainland US. Their passport alone will get them into any state with no questions asked.
  • Most residents speak English – both English and Spanish are official languages in Puerto Rico. And as a result, a majority of the residents living in Puerto Rico now speak English. And because many of the current employees that work in US restaurants, construction, agriculture, healthcare, and hospitality already speak Spanish. You can expect to have few communications issues if you are hiring into these industries.
  • The skills of the Puerto Rican workforce match US needs – Puerto Rico’s primary industries mirror those in the US that are experiencing severe talent shortages. This is because the economy of Puerto Rico is mainly driven by manufacturing (Pharma, textiles, petrochemicals, and electronics). As well as service industries including finance, insurance, real estate, tourism, and distilled spirits. Your recruiting effort can be broad so that it includes professional, technical, and hourly talent.
  • They have an educated workforce – more than 30% of Puerto Ricans have college degrees and 46% have taken college courses. And many of their college-educated residents got their education and universities on the US mainland.
  • Your time to fill will be short – because so many targets are unemployed or underemployed. Coupled with the fact that no visa or government permission is required for individuals. This means that compared to international hires, your time to fill will be short. Because government-approved companies will be able to get their recruits on board in less than a month.
  • Your time to fill will be short – because so many targets are unemployed or underemployed. Coupled with the fact that no visa or government permission is required. This means that compared to international hires, your time to fill will be short because you will be able to get your recruits on board in less than a month.
  • Recruiting is much less problematic than international candidates – recruiting candidates from other countries has become extremely problematic. Both because of the long delays and now because there is an extremely high failure rate for visas. And in addition, hiring those from Puerto Rico will also allow you to save tens of thousands in lawyers and visa fees. 
  • Getting candidates here is cheap – if you’re worried about travel costs. Realize that flights from San Juan to New York can be found for less than $300. 
  • Expect outside-the-job support for new hires to be available – if you’re worried about new-hires easily transitioning into our mainland culture. Realize that other Spanish-speaking US residents from Mexico, Latin America, and Cuba are usually willing to offer your new arrivals outside of work support for their transition (i.e. housing, transportation, and schools). And if you’re hiring for the East Coast or the Midwest. Also, note that many Eastern US states already have a significant Puerto Rican population. That can provide outside-the-job support for your new hires. And finally, be aware that cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Newark have especially large populations of Puerto Rican residents. 
  • Puerto Rico operates under US labor law – because Puerto Rico and the US both operate under the same US labor laws. You should realize that their managers and workers are already familiar with the way that we work and our laws.

Part II – The Business Case – Business Impacts That You Can Expect

In addition to improving your recruiting results, you can also expect several specific positive business impacts.

  • This hiring focus will dramatically improve your diversity – if you are, like most companies, falling behind in your diversity targets. Hiring from this mostly Hispanic group will easily enhance the diversity of your corporate culture and workforce.
  • It will improve your customer interactions – it’s a fact that a larger percentage of the world’s population speaks Spanish than English. If you hire workers that speak Spanish and that understand the Hispanic culture for customer service, customer support, or sales roles. Both your sales and your customer service scores are both likely to increase significantly.
  • Expect easy new-hire integration – because Puerto Ricans now live in a highly mixed culture. They have a long history of integration. So they will likely have no difficulty in integrating with your current employees from many diverse backgrounds.
  • A data-driven recruiting approach will give you a competitive advantage – the best recruiting teams are always trying to provide their organization with a competitive advantage. So it is important to realize that because this is a first-time effort for most companies. In order to guarantee success, all sourcing and recruiting decisions need to be based on data, metrics, and candidate research (rather than trial and error). And because the sun recruited town hall is so large. You should be able to eliminate many of your current talent shortages.

Part III – Recruiting Tips And Action Items To Consider

If you decide to pilot a recruiting approach focused on Puerto Rico. Here are some recommended recruiting tips.

  • Local recruiting support is available on the island – the Puerto Rican government and its Chamber of Commerce offer support to companies that are trying to recruit in Puerto Rico. And there are many private recruiting agencies that can help you sculpt your local recruiting strategy so that you can be guaranteed to extract the best talent. 
  • Referrals work especially well in this connected community – referrals often produce the highest volume and quality of hires. And in this case, they are even more powerful among Puerto Ricans. Because they often have large and well-connected families and communities. 
  • Also, recruit the Puerto Ricans that are already living on the mainland – as part of your total recruiting effort. It also makes sense to target the 4.2 million Puerto Ricans that already live on the US mainland (82% are fluent in English). You should also actively recruit the many Puerto Rican students that attend US colleges during the year before they graduate. 
  • Also, recruit Puerto Ricans for your remote work jobs – one element of your recruiting effort should be to recruit island residents. However, with the option of allowing them to work remotely without leaving their home on the island. You might also encourage your current mainland remote workers to consider residing in Puerto Rico. Because of its tropical climate and its 8% lower cost than the US.
  • The best time to recruit may be around hurricane season – you can recruit in Puerto Rico at any time. However, its residents’ fear of another dangerous hurricane season makes the fall an ideal time to recruit. 
  • Targeted onboarding may be required – because these new hires come from a slightly different culture, they may need extra help as they begin work. So it makes sense to modify your preboarding and onboarding programs so that their unique needs are met.
  • Do your benchmarking – successful benchmark firms to study in Puerto Rican recruiting include Bayada Home Healthcare, Norcold Inc., and Integrated Staffing Solutions. The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce also offers recruiting support and sample recruitment plans.
If you can only do one thing – identify all of your current employees that are Puerto Rican or that have connections to the island. And specifically, ask them to convert their most qualified connections into referrals. And then use the success of this pilot effort as an indication of results that a broader recruiting effort will likely produce. 

Final Thoughts

In today’s highly competitive recruiting world. I have found that many knowledgeable recruiting leaders are surprised to learn that there is such a large, easy-to-access, extremely diverse talent pool that largely goes unrecruited by mainland firms. So in my experience, now’s the time to take advantage of this” under the radar” talent pool. Because an effort with his focus has so many pluses and so few minuses.

Dr. John Sullivan 9/5/22 – This originally appeared in the DJS Aggressive Recruiting Newsletter 

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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