Six Things You Can Do to Attract Global Candidates

Apr 2, 2007

There’s a largely untapped source of talented Americans working overseas. Many of these expatriates are keen to return home but find it difficult to get a lucrative assignment within the same organization. That makes them excellent targets for recruiters who are willing to think creatively about sourcing overseas.

Non-national expatriates (non-U.S. citizens) can also be a superb source of global talent to tap into because of the unique skills and experience they can bring. It’s worth exploring their unique circumstances to determine whether your firm can assist great candidates in obtaining visas.

As Australia, Canada, the countries of the U.K., and some others have highly educated workforces with similar working environments and a common language to the U.S., they provide fertile ground for recruiters seeking to bring the best people on board, if they can’t be found locally. Recruiters in these countries should look to source candidates from each other’s regions because of the similarities.

Why Global Candidates

Global candidates and expatriates in general are particularly valuable because of the experiences they have gained abroad, working in different cultures and environments, and are networked in ways that many of your local candidates aren’t because of their exposure to different markets.

Expats bring the best of everything to the relationship, including knowledge of your market, and that of one or several others, depending on where they have worked and for how long. They also have to demonstrate resilience, even in relatively similar working environments such as the U.K. and Australia, where there are subtle differences in the way people work and how they think about the role of work in their lives.

People who take on roles in different countries have to adapt to different cultures and ways of working even if the language spoken is the same or customs are similar. Individuals who successfully complete foreign assignments demonstrate flexibility and commitment to their organizations. They’re keen to try new things and to take on challenges. Those are traits that can benefit any company and should be pursued with vigor.

Expatriate assignments typically have a low rate of success, with most failed assignments ending within the first six months. The reasons for this are varied, and in many cases, depend upon the individual circumstances.

For those who do complete international assignments, many will find at the end that there’s no comparable job within the organization to return to and then must scramble for employment prior to leaving the overseas post. This can be a great cause of frustration for people wanting to return home, and provides opportunities for recruiters to engage with and bring such people onboard.

When working in Europe, Asia, or any country, expatriates often have trouble getting employers’ attention at home because of the distance between them, or assumptions made by recruiters that they do not have work eligibility. Resumes with foreign addresses can automatically turn recruiters off, when they should instead be looking deeper to see what the candidate has done, and of course, if they might actually be citizens or permanent residents. Candidates, of course, have a responsibility to make their eligibility clear up front, in as obvious a way as possible, if they want to be taken seriously for roles while overseas.

When assessing global expatriate candidates, eligibility should be the first screen to apply but it’s important to remember that most people sent overseas are the top talent in an organization or at least high-potential employees, and it may be worth investigating the ways of obtaining working visas for such candidates should they require it to work in your country.

Get Creative About Sourcing

To attract global candidates, there are a number of things you can do:

  1. Advertise locally. Consider advertising roles in the country you are targeting, but do so in the most effective local manner. In Australia, the Friday Financial Review is the best place to advertise for senior-level and C-level roles. Similarly, the front and business sections of the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald are a great way to reach out to large numbers of candidates for mid- to senior-level positions and candidates know this, so they check these papers weekly. Another option in any country is to advertise on local job boards. Given the large volume of applicants this method can produce, this approach requires that you pre-screen candidates for eligibility to work in your country as a starting point, but is a good way to reach a potentially untapped pool of candidates.
  2. Contact expatriate associations. Take the opportunity to post jobs with local American or other foreign associations abroad. Such associations or clubs are often a haven for U.S. citizens and others living away from home and are used as a main way of networking and keeping abreast of things in the home nation. Contact these groups and ask them to circulate your open roles to their members by email, in newsletters, or via their website. Take a long-term view of such strategies. While they may not garner the perfect candidate for a particular search, they are invaluable for putting you in touch with great people in other markets, who may be able to recommend candidates at home, or could even help you with business contacts in other countries.
  3. Use your local office. Take advantage of your foreign office contacts to help you find candidates. Tap into the resources and employee pool of people in other markets within your firm. They are bound to know great individuals who either work within the organization locally, or who have approached them for roles overseas. For multinational organizations, this is a simple way to reach global candidates in which you have a distinct advantage over other smaller or national organizations, so use it. Have local recruitment teams advertise on your behalf and work together to short-list candidates. Where possible, do video conferences with those on the short list. It’s a small investment for the right candidate. If your firm is quite sophisticated, you may have mechanisms that allow people to move between global branches and where possible, use those too. If you don’t have formalized processes to make this happen, then use your networks, or build networks with your global colleagues informally. Limit your communications to HR or recruitment teams only if you fear that open advertising will produce too many applications from staff who want international assignments and your firm cannot or is not equipped to manage this. Networking with other recruiters within your own organization to share candidates and contacts is a great way to build your profile as well as to source new employees.
  4. Work with local search firms. In Sydney, and across Australia, a great deal of recruitment is still done by agencies and search firms. Corporate recruitment teams exist in many organizations, particularly large or global ones with U.S. parents, and they often also use Web-based recruitment systems, but ties to the agency world are still prevalent in Australia’s largest businesses. Some companies are using the increasingly popular recruitment process outsourcing arrangements, but many in Australia still have preferred supplier agreements with a number of agencies at reasonable rates that do all their sourcing for them. Partnering with one or two agencies that specialize in your industry or within a functional area is a great way to locate talent. To find out which agencies to use in a given market, ask the local recruitment team of your firm to make recommendations, which might enable you to get the same preferred rates they enjoy.
  5. Share candidates. Consider sharing candidates with other recruiters through various forums and channels. Use things like the split boards on ERE or other recruiters in your network to help the candidate and yourself. Ensure that when you attend conferences, you seek out vendors and suppliers from other countries including Canada, and try to meet as many foreign recruiters as possible.
  6. Go out of your way for the best candidates. Talented people always have options and are in demand. They don’t have to work for your company but they might want to. If you do talk to expatriate candidates, ask if they will require re-location instead of assuming they will. Be honest if you can’t provide it, but don’t rule them out immediately just because they are overseas today. In most cases, costs for returning the employee and his or her family from an assignment will be met by the employer either through contract or local legal obligations. In addition, the expat could be planning a return or home trip very soon, forgoing the need for any investment in long-distance communications through the recruitment process.

View global experience positively rather than as time spent out of the loop. Just because the experience has been gained in a local company or subsidiary office, rather than in corporate headquarters, does not make it any less relevant. In fact, it may make it more so.

Markets abroad are vibrant and challenging, and global work environments often present situations to foreign employees that would never have been faced at home, making for a truly well rounded employee.

Some people go abroad to turn an operation around, or to open a new arm of the business elsewhere. Others go to explore and develop relationships or businesses in the emerging markets of Asia and India. These skills could be just what you are looking for. The value such candidates can bring from time spent overseas is worth the investment of a phone call at least.

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