Struggling with your international executive job search?
One of the things I'm asked to advise on and help with on a regular basis is international executive job search.
Executive job search can be difficult at the best of times, but when the additional component of 'national' and especially 'international' is added into the mix, things can quickly become even more challenging!
If you're struggling with an international executive career move or considering this as an option, this article provides important advice on some of the things you need to consider and the approach I'd advise you take.
Executive job search is the same all over the world:
Wherever you're currently based in the world and wherever you're looking to move rest assured that the challenges the executive job market presents are uniform whatever your country and no matter what your industry sector.
I work with clients from all over the world and one of the questions I'm initially asked is whether I know how the executive job market works in a prospective client's country. It's a great question and one they have every right to ask, but my answer often comes as somewhat of a surprise.
Although there will be nuances as to how things work at a local level and within a particular profession or industry sector, the fundamentals of executive job search remain the same throughout the world.
In the executive job market there are people on both sides of the transaction – executive jobseekers looking to move and employers wanting to hire. No matter what the language or country of origin people don't tend to differ that much – we're emotional beings programmed to act and respond in a certain way. Unless checked we can be a slave to our emotions and often our own worst enemy, which is one of the reasons I emphasis psychology as being the most important thing when it comes to successful executive job search.
The system I've developed to help executives from across the world to define, find and secure the executive position they really want has four stages (I give an overview of each in Super Secrets of Successful Executive Job Search) – environment (how the executive job market really works), psychology (your own and the psychology of those you come into contact with), planning (a clearly defined destination and a plan to find it – your toolbox) and process (the strategies and tools to run your own recruitment process – your toolkit).
Environment and psychology are the most important components of successful executive job search and form the foundations for success. Environment shapes your understanding of the EXTERNAL executive job market and psychology your INTERNAL mindset in approaching it. Both are rooted in an understanding of the beliefs, behaviours and actions of people – something that changes very little wherever you're based in the world.
International executive job search is risky:
Employers are naturally risk averse and in my experience often look for reasons not to hire over reasons to hire! This may sound counterintuitive, but the opportunity cost of missing out on the right candidate is often drowned by the fear of making a hiring decision that could go wrong.
The interview process and candidate vetting goes some way to mitigate this risk, but how someone performs at interview is never a guarantee as to how they will actually perform in the job.
The risk for an employer is magnified when the candidate is unknown. This is usually the case where a candidate is sourced via an executive job board or by an executive search firm (the executive recruiter may have known the candidate over an extended period, but possibly as a client and not necessarily as a candidate).
Where a candidate has been introduced by a connection in common (I call these people 'marketmakers' and they are an important strategy to uncover and even create executive career opportunities in the 'hidden market') there is reduced risk, but an element of risk will always exist – after all the successful candidate will be joining a new organisation in a new position – there are a lot of unknowns.
The question of whether an executive hired into a new position will settle in the organisation and perform as promised at interview is one thing, but add in an international relocation and the secondary question of whether they'll settle in their new surroundings also needs to be raised. While they may be excellent at their job the pressures associated with settling and acclimatising in these new surroundings, which will undoubtedly form a distraction make even national and especially international relocation all the more risky for both the employer and indeed the executive candidate.
Two things can potentially go wrong – the job and the geography. For many an employer that's a risk they'd rather not take.
As a former professional recruiter I regularly received applications and approaches from candidates that looked great on paper, but would need to relocate to take up a position I was recruiting. I had to be cognisant of the risks associated with relocation and how my client would potentially feel about them – rightly or wrongly this meant that preference for a place on my shortlist was usually given to candidates more locally based. There had to be a very good reason indeed for a national or international relocator to make the grade.
However, please don't be discouraged – relocation is still possible. However, it requires a careful approach, which is focused, and emphasises retention or intention.
Focus not flexibility:
Despite what you may think, flexibility in the executive job market is not a good thing. During my time in the recruitment industry the most difficult candidate for me to place was the one that claimed they could do anything for anyone, and anywhere!
While the candidate my have thought they were helping, they were actually hindering my ability to help them move in the executive job market. If they weren't clear about what they had to offer and who to, it made my ability to champion their cause very difficult indeed.
Nowadays a general message to a general audience rarely works, which modern marketing understands well – to cut through all the noise you need a targeted message to a very specific audience.
When it comes to international executive job search being geographically flexible is not a strategy I would recommend. Communicating a message that says you will relocate to a number of countries or indeed in some cases any country magnifies the risk I discussed above.
For example, as a professional recruiter based in the UK, if an executive candidate made my shortlist who needed to relocate to take up the position if offered, the risk was magnified if they were also considering opportunities in other geographical locations. I would be less convinced about them having a clear intention to base themselves in the UK and even if offered there was an increased risk that they would not accept and take up the position, if they were also considering opportunities in a number of different countries.
Even if the reality of your situation is that you would consider an international relocation to a number of countries, my advice is to focus your attention on one. This will exponentially increase the chances of you being taken seriously by the executive recruiters and employers in the destination country and the probability of you making their shortlists – especially when you build in a message of retention or intention.
The importance of retention and intention:
Pursuing an international relocation to a country you have no previous connection to or very little knowledge of is a very different proposition to positioning a message that communicates retention or intention.
Retention – where you have retained ties to a country due to origin, previous employment or family ties the risk associated with your relocation is reduced in the eyes of an executive recruiter or employer. I recently advised two clients looking to undertake international relocations, which were made more probable due to what I call retention.
Intention – if you don't have retention it doesn't mean that an international relocation is not possible providing you can demonstrate and clearly communicate your intention. Even if you have no family ties and have never lived in your destination country there are other things you can do to encourage an executive recruiter or potential employer to take you seriously.
For example, have you:
- Visited on numerous occasions in the past – perhaps through business or even on holiday?
- Gone ahead of family to physically base yourself there to be available for interview?
- Been in contact with estate / real estate agents in relation to renting or buying a property?
- Investigated schools / local amenities to ensure a soft landing for you and your significant others?
- Complied with any legal matters associated with your move e.g. visa requirements. [These have not been specifically discussed in this article, but could be a very real constraint, particularly if sponsorship is required by an employer in your destination country. Consideration will usually be given to the uniqueness of your skills and experience compared with what's available locally.]
And finally, is your relocation going to happen anyway whether you secure this job or not? If it is, this sends a very powerful message to an executive recruiter or employer – they know you're committed to the geography and that it's not contingent on their position.
Executive job search is difficult, but international executive job search can be even more challenging, although not impossible.
Getting focused on a target destination and being able to communicate a message of retention or intention to an executive recruiter or employer will increase the probability of you making their shortlists.
I hope you found this article useful, but if you need further help or advice specific to your situation, please feel free to connect with me and send a message through LinkedIn or to get in contact via the website.