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Recruiting and Selecting Staff

for International

International Recruitment
and Selection

Recruitmentsearching for and

obtaining potential job candidates in
sufficient numbers and quality so that
the organization can select the most
appropriate people to fill its job needs.
Selectionthe process of gathering
information for the purposes of
evaluating and deciding who should be
employed in particular jobs.

International Recruitment
and Selection

It is important to note that

recruitment and selection are
discrete processes.
Both processes need to operate
effectively for optimal staffing
decisions to be made.

International Recruitment
and Selection

The 2 major differences between domestic

and international staffing are:
1. managements international orientation
many firms have predispositions with regard
to who should hold key positions in HQ and
subsidiaries (i.e., ethnocentric, polycentric,
regiocentric, and geocentric orientations.)
2. Constraints imposed by the host
governmentemployment laws and
regulations, immigration rules, etc.

International Recruitment
and Selection

Various factors have an impact on the

MNCs ability to recruit and select high
quality staff.
These factors include:
1. Expatriate failure
2. Individual selection criteria
3. Situational factors affecting selection
4. Dual career couples
5. Gender

1. Expatriate Failure

Expatriate failure refers to the

premature return of an expatriate,
i.e., a return home before the
period of assignment is completed.
Usually defined in terms of early
return home or termination.

Other Definitions of
Expatriate Failure
But could also be defined in terms of:
--poor quality of performance in foreign
--expatriates were not fully utilized
during assignment.
--personal dissatisfaction with
experience (by expatriate or family).
--lack of adjustment to local conditions.
--lack of acceptance by local nationals.

Other Definitions of
Expatriate Failure

--damage to overseas business

--not recognizing or missing overseas
business opportunities.
--inability to identify and/or train a local
--leave the firm soon after repatriation.
--Fail to use foreign experience in
assignment after repatriation.

Expatriate Failure

Reasons for early or premature return of the expatriate:

1. family concerns; family-related problems.
2. accepted a new position in the company.
3. inability to handle the new and larger responsibilities
of overseas work.
4. cultural adjustment challengesinability of
expatriate to adjust.
5. inability of spouse to adjust or spouse
6. security concerns.
7. career concernsfear of the loss of previous
position, or posting in an undesirable position or
department upon future return.

Expatriate Failure

8. mistake in candidate/expatriate selection,

does not meet expectations.
9. expatriates personality or lack of emotional
10. expatriates lack of technical competence.
11. expatriates lack of motivation to work overseas.
12. dissatisfaction with the quality of life in foreign
13. dissatisfaction with compensation and benefits.
14. inadequate cultural and language preparation.
15. inadequate support for expatriate and family
while on overseas assignment.


MNC Mistakes in
Expatriate Selection

An expatriate failure may represent a selection

error due to ineffective expatriate management
MNCs typically do a number of things that lead to
choosing someone who is likely to be failed in
overseas assignment, as a result of ineffective
management policies:
1. Decision to relocate someone made with too
little lead time.
2. The spouse is not included in the decision to
3. Spouse and children not allowed on preassignment visit.

MNC Mistakes in
Expatriate Selection

4. Spouse and children not allowed language lessons.

5. Spouse and children dont receive cultural training.
6. Spouse receives no counseling on jobs and other
7. No systematic and official communication channel
for the spouse to obtain necessary information in HQ
in relation to relocation.
(Note that the management policy fails to include the
spouse and family members in the selection and
preparation of the expatriate for the international


Factors Moderating
Expatriates Intention to Stay
or Leave

Note that many reasons for

expatriate failure are related to the
performance of the expatriate.
There has been a considerable
amount of research that attempts to
identify factors that may moderate
or affect the decision to stay or
leave the international assignment.


Factors Moderating
Expatriates Intention to Stay
or Leave

1. Inability to adjust to the foreign culture.

This adjustment problem has been a
consistent reason given for expatriate
2. Length of assignment. A longer
assignment allows the expatriate more
time to adjust to the foreign situation and
become productive. Japanese firms often
do not expect the expatriate to perform up
to full capacity until the 3rd year. The 1st
year is seen mainly as a period of
adjustment to the foreign environment.

Factors Moderating
Expatriates Intention to Stay
or Leave

3. Willingness to move or relocate. Willingness to

relocate could be a predictor of intention to stay.
The views of family members and the perceived
desirability of the location of the international
assignment would affect the willingness to relocate.
Negative outlook vs. positive outlook on the foreign
--In the situation where an employee is a reluctant
expatriate or accompanied by reluctant family
members, it is more likely that they may interpret
negatively events and situations encountered in the
new environment (negative outlook).
Negative outlook may lead to higher intention to leave;
whereas positive outlook may lead to lower intention to
leave or higher intention to stay.

Factors Moderating
Expatriates Intention to Stay
or Leave

4. Work environment-related factors. These

include the ability to adjust to the new work
role, the degree of skill utilization, job
autonomy, perceived level of organizational
support from the parent company or host
unit, and the lack of challenge of work.
For instance, higher ability to adjust and
more support received from the
organization would lead to lower intention
to leave.

Factors Moderating
Expatriates Intention to Stay
or Leave

5. Psychological contract. Psychological

effect may play a role in expatriates
For instance, when work becomes less
demanding and no-longer so timeconsuming, the expatriate may have time to
pay more attention to negative cross-cultural
experiences that he or the family is
These negative experiences may sow seeds
for under-performance or early return.

2. Individual Selection

Developing appropriate selection criteria has

become a critical IHRM issue.
Note that selection is a 2-way process
between the individual and the organization.
A prospective candidate may reject the
expatriate assignment, either for individual
reasons such as family considerations, or for
situational factors, such as the perceived
toughness of a particular assignment or

Individual Selection

Because of the nature of most overseas

assignments, selection of successful
candidates is based on such criteria:
1. Job suitability with the required professional
and technical skills or competence. Having a
well-rounded knowledge of and on-the-job
subjects to facilitate discussion with foreign
The candidate should has technical ability for
the job (See Dowling et al. (2013), Figure 5-3,


Individual Selection

Technical ability:
Naturally, the persons ability to perform
the required tasks is an important
Technical and managerial skills are an
essential criterion.
Indeed, research findings consistently
indicate that MNCs place heavy reliance
on relevant technical skills during the
expatriate selection process.

Individual Selection

2. Possessing appropriate personal

characteristicsexcellent health,
adaptability, individual
resourcefulness, maturity of the
candidate, being a self-starter, able
to make independent decisions,
having emotional stability, sensitive
to others who are different, selfefficacy, and tolerance for ambiguity.

Individual Selection

3. Cultural sensitivity, flexibility, and

adaptabilitybe sensitive and able to adapt
to foreign cultures and new environments,
Ability to handle foreign languages and
communication skills, interpersonal skills to
interact with people of diverse
This is about candidates cross-cultural
suitability (See Dowling et al. (2013), Figure
5-3, p.129).

Individual Selection

Cross-Culturally Suitability:
The cultural environment in which expatriates
operate is an important factor in determining
successful performance.
Expatriates require cross-cultural abilities that
enable the person to operate in a new
Desirable attributes should include cultural
empathy, adaptability, diplomacy, language
ability, positive attitude to foreigners, emotional
stability, maturity, and relational abilities
(interpersonal skills).

Individual Selection

4. A strong personal interest in the foreign

experience and a desire for the assignment.
5. The right time in the candidates career and
6. Possession of a favorable outlook on the
international assignment by the expatriate and
his family
7. Family factors and requirementsthe
adjustment and support of the family emerge as
one of the strongest predictors of expat
adjustment. It is a main factor influencing
expats decisions to return prematurely (See
Dowling et al. (2013), Figure 5-3, p.129).


Family Requirements

The contribution that the family, particularly the

spouse, makes to the success of the overseas
assignment is now well documented.
Spouse/partner may have difficulties with
adapting to life in the host location due to
cultural differences.
The spouse (or accompanying partner) often
carries a heavy burden.
The responsibility for settling the family into its
new home falls on the spouse, who may have left
behind a career, along with friends and relatives
(social support networks).

Family Requirements

It is often not possible for the spouse to

work in the host country.
The well-being and education of the children
may be an ongoing concern for the spouse.
The selected candidate may reject the
offered assignment on the grounds that a
move a this stage in the childs life is
Despite the impact of spouse on the early
return, companies appear reluctant to
include the spouse in the selection process.

Family Requirements

Furthermore, the care of aging or sick

parents is another consideration.
Another overlooked issue is about single
Given the increasing divorce rates, this
may become a critical factor in
assignment selection and acceptance
where the custody of children is

Family Requirements

The associated legal constraints,

such as obtaining the consent of
the other parent to take the child
out of the home country, and
visiting/access right, may prove to
be a major barrier to the
international mobility of both
single mothers and fathers.

Individual Selection

8. Meeting the profiles of a successful international

Some companies and consultants have composed
profiles of a successful international assignee.
These profiles are then used to screen potential
international assignee candidates, on the
assumption that candidates with similar profile are
more likely to do well in international assignment.
These profiles usually include such factors as skills,
experience, education, personal interests and
activities, signs of flexibility, family situation, and
desire for international assignment.


Profile of the 21st-Century

Expatriate Manager

Core Skills
1. multidimensional

2. proficiency in line
3. prudent decision-making
4. resourcefulness

Managerial Implications
1. extensive multi-product,
multifunctional, multicompany, multi-country, and
multi-environment experience.
2. track record in successfully
operating a strategic business
unit or overseas project.
3. competence and proven
track record in making the
right strategic decisions.
4. skillful in getting himself
known and accepted in the
host country political

Profile of the 21st-Century

Expatriate Manager

Core Skills
5. cultural adaptability

6. cultural sensitivity

7. ability as a team builder

8. physical fitness and

mental maturity

Managerial Implications
5. quick and easy adaptability
into the foreign culture
individual with as much cultural
mix, diversity, and experience
as possible.
6. sensitive to cultural
differences, and effective
people skills in dealing with a
variety of cultures, races,
nationalities, genders, religions.
7. adept in bringing a culturally
diverse work group together to
accomplish the major mission
and objective of the firm.
8. endurance for the rigorous
demands of an overseas


Profile of the 21st-Century

Expatriate Manager

Augmented Skills
1. Computer literacy

2. prudent negotiating

3. ability as a change

Managerial Implications
1. comfortable exchanging
strategic information
2. proven track record in
conducting successful
strategic business
negotiations in
multicultural environment.
3. proven track record in
successfully initiating and
implementing strategic
organizational changes.

Profile of the 21st-Century

Expatriate Manager

Augmented Skills
4. visionary skills

5. effective
delegatory skills

Managerial Implications
4. quick to recognize
and respond to strategic
business opportunities
and potential and
economic upheavals in
the host country.
5. proven track record
in participative
management style and
ability to delegate.


3. Situational Factors in
Expatriate Selection

It is a challenge for those responsible for

selecting staff for international
assignments to make the right selection
Situational factors affecting selection
decision include:
1. County/Cultural requirements
2. Language
3. MNC requirements



A transfer may be blocked by the

host government due to the
requirement that the position must
be filled by a local (HCN).
In addition, the accompany spouse
may not be permitted to work in the
host country, this may contribute to
expatriates acceptance or failure.


Furthermore, the host country

itself may be a determining factor.
Some regions and countries are
considered hardship posting
remote areas away from major
cities or modern facilities, or wartorn regions with high physical risk.


There may be a reluctance to select

females for certain Middle East or
South East Asian regions and in some
countries a work permit for a female
expatriate will not be issued.
These aspects my result in the
selection of HCNs rather than PCNs.



On the other hand, many developed countries

are changing their legislation to facilitate
employment-related immigration which will
make international transfers somewhat easier.
For example, the European Union Social
Charter allows free movement of citizens of
members countries within the European Union
It is important that HR staff keep up-to-date
with relevant legislative changes in the
countries in which the MNC is involved.


Language is considered a
situational factor in selection
because it is country-specific and it
plays an important role in the
selection decision.
A PCN who is fluent in a foreign
language may be selected and
posted to that foreign country.


Language skills may be regarded as of

critical importance for some expatriate
positions, but lesser in others.
However, some would argue that
knowledge of the host countrys
language is an important aspect of
expatriate performance, regardless of
the level of position.


Another component to language as a situation

factor in selection decision is the role of
common corporate language.
Many MNCs adopt a common corporate
language (e.g., English, Spanish, German,
French, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc.) as a
way of standardizing reporting systems and
Lack of fluency in the corporate language can
be a selection barrier.
A lack of competency in the common language
may limit the MNCs ability to select the most
appropriate candidate.

MNE Requirements

Organizational factors often have an

influence on selection decisions. These
1. The mode of operation involved.
--Selecting staff to work in an international
joint venture may involve major input
from the local partner, and could be
heavily constrained by the negotiated
agreement on selection processes.

MNE Requirements

2. The duration and type of assignment.

--family members tend not to accompany
an expatriate when the assignment is only
for 3 to 6 months. So, family requirements
would not be normally be a relevant factor
in the selection decision in such cases.
3. The amount of knowledge transfer
inherent in the job in the foreign
operation. If the nature is to train local
staff, then the MNC may include training
skills as a selection criterion.

Factors in Expatriate

In conclusion, the primary purpose of the

selection process is to choose candidates
who will stay for the duration of their
international assignments and who will
accomplish the tasks for which they were
sent overseas.
Executives who make these choices
should, therefore, consider both enterprise
and contextual-based as well as individualand family-based factors to enhance the
probability that the international
assignment will be successful.

4. Dual Career Couples

The increase in the number of dual-career couples is

a worldwide trend, one that is posing a dilemma for
both companies and employees.
The rise in dual-career couples, along with the aging
population, combine to make more people immobile.
A major finding was that dual career issues were the
most common reasons for rejecting international
assignments reported by North American and
European firms, but were rarely cited by Asian firms.
Rather, concern for children and aging parents were
barriers to assignment acceptance for Asian firms.


Dual Career Couples

It seems that career orientation not only

affects the couples willingness to move,
but also may negatively affect performance
and retention in the foreign location.
MNCs are being forced to select from a
diminishing pool of candidates who may be
less qualified.
This has strategic implications for staffing
policies, and may be a reason why more
TCNs are being utilized.

Dual Career Couples

Some MNCs are trying to come up

with solutions to the dual-career
These can be divided into 2
1. alternative assignment
2. family-friendly policies.

Dual Career Couples

Alternative assignment arrangements

1. short-term assignments: between 3
months to 1 year.
2. replacing assignments with business
3. virtual assignments: conduct international
responsibilities for the organization in
another country from home-base; the
manager heavily relies on communications
technologies such as telephone, the Internet,
email, or video conferencing.

Dual Career Couples

4. commuter assignments or commuter

The spouse may decide to remain in the
home country, and the couple works out
ways to maintain the relationship with
the help of the firm.
Alternatively, couples may move to jobs
in adjoining countries, or within the same
geographical region to make commuting
(relationship-maintenance) easier.

Dual Career Couples

Family-friendly policies include:

1. Inter-company networking
2. job-hunting assistance
3. intra-company employment
4. on-assignment career support


Family-Friendly Policies

1. Inter-company networking:
The MNC attempts to place the accompanying
spouse in a suitable job with another MNC,
sometimes in a reciprocal arrangement.
To illustrate, a US MNC may enter into such an
agreement with a German MNC also operating in,
say, China.
They find a position within their respective
Chinese facilities for each others accompanying
Alternatively, a local supplier, distributor, or joint
venture partner may agree to employ the
accompanying spouse.

Family-Friendly Policies

2. Job-hunting assistance:
Here the MNC provides spouse
assistance with the employment
search in the host country.
This may be through job-finding
assistance, employment agency
fees, career counseling, or simply
work permit assistance.

Family-Friendly Policies

3. Intra-company employment:
This is a logical but often somewhat difficult
It means sending the couple to the same
foreign facility, perhaps the same department.
Not all MNCs or couples are comfortable with
the idea of husband and wife team in the same
work location.
There often be difficulties obtaining work visas
for such arrangements.

Family-Friendly Policies

4. On-assignment career support:

Support includes providing lost spouse income,
establishing business contacts, and career
development activities.
Motorola is an example of how a MNC assists spouse
to maintain and even improve career skills through
its Dual-Career Policy.
This consists of a lump-sum payment for education
expenses, professional association fees, seminars
and workshops, language training to upgrade workrelated skills.
If the spouse is unable to find suitable employment,
the time can be spent on career development

5. GenderAre female
Expatriates Different?

One final issue in terms of selection

for international assignments is
related to gender.
The typical expatriate tends to be
Researchers have attempted to
discover why so few expatriates are

GenderAre female
Expatriates Different?

Due to several reasons:

1. General acceptance of women in
managerial positions.
--Men in some cultures, such as certain Asian
and Islamic countries, do not like to report to
female managers.
2. Women are perceived as less wellperformed than the male counterparts.
--Generally, women are perceived to be less
satisfactory in their performance in
comparison with the male counterpart.


GenderAre female
Expatriates Different?

3. Culturally tough locations or regions preclude

female expatriates.
Performance of female expatriates is found to be
affected by the prejudice regarding the role of
women in certain countries especially those
considered as culturally and physically tough
assignment locations.
4. The attitude of HR managers.
--HR managers may have a gender bias, which forms
a major barrier to the selection of female
--They are reluctant to select female candidates due
to stereotyping in their minds that influence

GenderAre female
Expatriates Different?

5. Self-established barriers.
--Women are partly to blame for their
under-representativeness due to selfimposed barriers.
--Women tend to be less willing to
relocate due to their age and career
established in the home country.
--Women tend to behave according to
the gender-based role models.

Female Expatriates

However, there is an increasing trend in

the proportion of female expatriates. We
will see more female international
managers as:
1. The proportion of women in the
domestic workforce continues to increase.
2. International experience becomes an
essential criterion for career progression
in MNCs.

Recruitment and Selection


Methods used in the recruitment and

selection for international assignments is
probably not much different than the
methods used in domestic staffing
However, as with everything international,
the differences lie in the impact of culture
in how these procedures are applied and
in the focus in each procedure.

Recruitment Methods

(1) Internal recruiting methods promotion

and transfer; job posting; employee database;
referrals by current employees; re-recruiting
former employees; Intranet.
(2) External recruiting methods the Internet;
school/college/university recruiting; job fairs;
private and public employment agencies;
walk-ins, executive recruiters/head hunters
media sources (TV, radio, newspaper,
magazines, billboards, banners, business or
trade publications.), referrals from employees.

Selection Methods

1. Interviews (with international assignee and

Interviews may be best done with:
a representative of the home office
(representing the technical requirements of
the position),
a representative of the foreign office (possibly
the host manager), and
an interculturalist, i.e., someone with the
ability to assess the candidates and familys
ability to adjust to the foreign culture.

Selection Methods

2. Formal assessment
There are a number of formal assessment
instruments (e.g., personality and interest
tests) designed by industrial psychologists
that primarily evaluate a candidates
personal traits that have been found to be
important to successful foreign cultural
adjustment such as adaptability, flexibility,
proclivity for new experiences, and good
interpersonal skills.

Selection Methods

3. Committee decision
In many MNCs, the process of selecting individuals
for overseas assignments is a committee decision.
A committee made up of someone from corporate
HR and host-country HR, director of training and
development, and relevant functional managers.
The decision is based on the individuals
preferences, assessment of past performance and
future potential, needs of the foreign assignment,
and development needs of the individual


Selection Methods

4. Career planning
The choice and selection of an international
assignee is part of the individuals career plan
with the MNC.
5. Recommendations
Recommendations from senior executives or
line managers with overseas HR needs.


Selection Methods

6. Assessment centers
MNCs may use assessment centers as a tool for
evaluating candidates for suitability for overseas
An assessment center is a process (not a place)
by which individuals are evaluated as they
participate in a series of situations or exercises
that resemble what they might be called on to
handle on the job.
Examples are problem-solving, case study,
management game, role-playing, and leaderless
group discussion.

Selection Methods

7. Self-selection
Many MNCs use some combination of the methods
mentioned above but rely, in the end, on selfselection by the candidate.
In particular, the MNC is interested in candidates
(a) take the time to look at the issues involved
with relocation to a foreign country and culture.
(b) assess themselves whether they are ready for
the overseas assignment.
(c) assess themselves whether they have the
necessary skills and attitudes to be successful in
the overseas assignment.

Global Differences and

Similarities in Recruitment and

Cultural differences have some impact

across countries in recruitment and
In some Asian countries, having the right
connections was important.
Employee tests were one of the common
selection methods in China, Indonesia, and
Korea, but not in the US.
Ability to get along with others was one of
the selection criteria in Japan and Taiwan.

Global Differences and

Similarities in Recruitment and

American MNCs usually attract high-quality

Usually American expatriates are selected to fill
the top-management positions, while middlelevel managers and professional positions are
filled by locals.
In selecting local candidates, these MNCs
ensure that the applicants fit well into American
style organizations.
Selection favors those who are already
Americanized such as fluent English speakers
educated in the US, or who have worked for
American companies before.

Global Differences and

Similarities in Recruitment and

The common selection methods used in

Malaysia and Singapore are application
forms, interviews, and medical
examination or health checks.
But in Malaysia, it is also common to use
tests to measure candidates
intelligence, skills, and personalities.
In Singapore, it is common to use
reference checks.

Global Differences and

Similarities in Recruitment and

However, a study showed that:

Many companies around the world
use similar criteria and methods for
selecting employees. These are:
Personal interview
Persons ability to do the job
Proven work experience in a similar