Recruiting for expatriate roles? Choose candidates with the right traits

This past year has seen controversy and concern over immigration laws. From H 1-B visa updates and a US president-elect promising to deport millions of undocumented immigrants to the Brexit movement, there has been turmoil. The world has become smaller and recruiters everywhere are wondering what's to come.

The state of expatriates around the world

Much of the talk as of late has been about bringing jobs back to the U.S. But there are still a large number of companies that are planning on expanding operations into other fast-growing regions in the Middle East, South America, and Asia.

Based on most recent figures from AARO, there are some 8 million Americans living and working abroad at this very moment. This figure doesn't include military personnel. It isn't an easy lifestyle as it requires a greater world view and the ability to adapt to new cultures, but it's the right opportunity for those who have what it takes.

What are the skills that indicate candidate success with expatriate jobs?

Recruiters are tasked with selecting the very best candidates for expatriate roles.  For the most part, a willingness to pick up and move to a new environment takes courage. A new study conducted by cut-e, a psychometric assessment firm, highlights the traits that predict the success or failure of candidates chosen for expatriate roles.

Aptly named Predicting who will be a successful expatriate, the cut-e survey results stem from research on 35 companies that participate in expatriate recruitment and employment activities. Over the course of the study, information was gathered directly from employees, managers, and peers in their home and alternate regions. Headed up by cut-e's research director, Dr. Katharina Lochner, the focus of the study was to understand the impact of being an expat on job performance, personal success, and how well each employee was able to integrate into new surroundings, including overcoming language barriers.

What the study effectively does is provide a laundry list of traits and skills that all recruitment professionals should consider before placing candidates into the challenging role of an expat employee. Lochner told a source that this is critical because, “sending employees overseas to live and work is a significant expense, therefore companies must look past technical skills to make sure they are sending the best people for the job.”

The cut-e study identified the desired skills and traits for expatriate employees to be the following:

  • Mental and emotional stability
  • Willingness to change
  • Sensitivity to other cultures
  • Deep perspectives of business practices
  • Above average interpersonal skills
  • Ability to embrace new customs
  • Respect for diverse viewpoints
  • Demonstrable flexibility and resilience
  • High level of professional autonomy
  • Good sense of humor

Obstacles to using expatriate employees

In addition to identifying the best skills that can predict the success of an expatriate hire, there are some other challenges that recruiters face in the international scene. Several recruitment experts contributed to Recruiter.com about what they see as potential obstacles.

Kathleen Kischer, a Senior International Recruiter, advised that longer than average timelines can put a damper on things, sharing that in Canada getting a work visa can take months and this can prevent an employer from earning revenues during this time.

Andrew Stetsenko, founder of Relocate Me, said that finding people who are willing to relocate to a foreign country can pose a huge challenge for recruiters. Consider also that families sometimes don’t have the immediate means to relocate together and there are additional costs and complications from this factor.

It takes a unique candidate to qualify for an expatriate assignment, and this must be someone who is dedicated to fulfilling the contract terms. Some experts think that eventually it will become less necessary to send people overseas to work, due to technology that connects every country and time zone. People can work together from wherever they happen to be, and this reduces the need for expats, on some levels.

But, for the time being, recruiters must stay on top of legal updates and requirements surrounding the use of expatriates for international assignments, while hiring the best candidates to do the job. 

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Filed Under: Recruiting