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Main Factors - the Selection Process for High Caliber Employees on International Assignments

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What are the main factors that multinational enterprises will usually take into account in the selection process for high caliber employees on international assignments?

As international assignments are always costly to multinational enterprises and they have to provide training and allowances for the expatriates, they have to select expatriates carefully to avoid international assignment failure.

In order to select the suitable candidates and have a successful performance in the international assignment, the multinational enterprises would consider the technical abilities and managerial skills, cross-cultural suitability, family requirements, country requirements and situational factors in the selection decision.

The selection criteria include technical abilities and managerial skills as the expatriates are going to work abroad, the system, political, legal structures may be different and the headquarters’ technical expertise cannot provide advises on the matters related to the job often. Therefore, the expatriates must be experiential, technical and with good managerial skills to adapt into the new working environment.

Besides, the expatriates may work in a place/country with totally different culture and the cultural environment is important to determine successful performance so the cross-cultural suitability is also one of the selection criteria. The expatriates require cross-cultural abilities such as cultural empathy, adaptability, diplomacy, positive attitude since value systems, beliefs, manners and ways of conducting business may differ from people with different culture. Even though English has become the international language of business, it is still important for the expatriates to have a working knowledge of the language of the countries they are assigned. Dealing with customers, suppliers and co-workers is best done in the local language and ability to speak the local language helps the expatriates to adapt to the host culture and to be accepted into the culture. Both are the keys to successful performance.

Family requirements may also be another selection criterion, in a survey of the Harvard Business Review,
of the 82 leaders they surveyed, 32% said they had turned down an international assignment because they didn’t want to move their families, and 28% said they had done so to protect their marriages. [1] The expatriate’s spouse/partner may have left behind a career along with support networks like relatives and friends, the spouse/partner may not be able to work in the country of assignment. Moreover, the education of the children may also be a concern; these may cause the patriates to turn down the international assignment. The multinational enterprises may need to help the expatriate to find job, school for his/her family members so that the expatriate will accept the international assignment.

The country requirement is also one of the selection criteria because for some countries of the assignment, there may be a reluctance to select female candidates, for example, in Saudi Arabia, females are not allowed to drive and work, their statuses are lower than the males. And in India, raping is commonly found, in 2012, in New Delhi, there were more than 600 cases of raping. As a result, the multinational enterprises may not be able to select female candidates to that kind of countries.

Last but not least, situational factors may influence the selection decisions, the mode of operation could affect the selection of staff, if it’s a joint venture, the local partner may also have its requirements for the staff, and the selected staff may not be able to meet the requirements required by the local partner. Therefore, the multinational expatriates need to consider the mode of operation and the local partner’s requirements. The duration of assignment is also a concern, if the assignment is of a short period, for example, half a year, the family members of the expatriates may not accompany, so the family requirement may not be a relevant factor in selection decisions.

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