With a fierce global war for talent on, executive recruiters are actively seeking out passive candidates worldwide for international executive posts. A common assumption being that the best performers are already being successful at work – not actively looking for jobs.

But once an executive is contacted by a recruiter about their interest in pursuing an interesting opportunity overseas, how do they know if the recruiter is really in a position to make things happen?

Here are six questions an executive can ask themselves when evaluating a recruiter proposing an international assignment:

  1. Can they build rapport and trust quickly – even across cultures?

    Recruiting for global positions is not just about selling positions and candidates. It's also about building relationships, educating and influencing highly qualified candidates and decision makers – often across cultures. Since influence in these situations can require trust, the ability to sell and cross cultural communication skills, the search consultant who can’t quickly build trust is going to have a harder time getting the job done.

    If they are talking more than asking questions and listening, or you are feeling sold to, that could be a red flag. You especially need recruiters that can influence (versus just sell to) the hiring manager when the fit for the job is not perfect or obvious. This is often the case when it’s clearly a growth opportunity, or when you have a limited or no track record of success working abroad.

  2. Do they ask smart questions first and sell the position second?

    Recruiters shouldn’t ask questions that could be easily answered by simply looking at your online or Linkedin profile. It should be clear they’ve done at least a quick screening of you as a potential candidate. By asking about your career goals and/or for you to explain what have to offer for a highly desirable global position, they get a better understanding of potential fit since what is online does not always tell the whole story. Establishing potential fit at the start is critical to an effective and efficient hiring process for all involved.

    If there is a clear disconnect between your goals and/or qualifications and the role from your perspective, they know they need to either help you to see the possible fit or just say so and move on. This approach respects both of your time and gives you the best chance at being put forward for jobs that you are a real potential fit for executive placement versus those where you simply match "checklist" of employer qualifications.

  3. Do they know the job, organization and industry for which they are recruiting?

    A good recruiter may not give you information about the job right away, but can give you a sense of what the job is like well beyond the checklist of skills, experience and credentials listed in the job description. They can convey important information about the organization and its culture that is critical to assessing fit. And they can speak intelligently about the industry rather than using vague buzzwords. The more accurate and credible information you have, the more informed decision you are able to make.

  4. Are they asking questions about your previous experience overseas from a personal as well as professional perspective?

    Executive recruiters searching for candidates for overseas positions are usually looking for people with prior experience working abroad. They know that a history of performance in another culture is one of the best indicators of future performance abroad.

    But they also know the decision to take a job abroad goes well beyond the employment opportunity and is not made alone. It could mean relocating the family abroad, a commuter situation, extended business travel, or another variation on the assignment.

    Understanding how previous international assignments went for you and your spouse or family will help them assess whether or not a future relocation - with or without the family - would be something they would support. Since the number one reason for assignment failure is spousal dissatisfaction and assignments can cost upwards of 1 milllion USD, making sure the family would be receptive to the offer is important to assessing potential fit for an executive placement.

  5. Are they talking about the opportunity in terms of the benefits to your career, not just the compensation and benefits package?

    Good recruiters know that top talent is interested in more than just money. And they know organizations are looking for people to grow with them. They don’t want to hire someone just looking for some global experience but will be ready to jump ship when something bigger and better comes along. By looking more closely at your professional history on your online profiles and asking the right questions, they are in a position to see if the position aligns with your overall career management strategy.

  6. Do they have a relationship with the hiring manager?

    A smart recruiter knows that the close does not happen without the hiring manager. Having a relationship with the hiring team means it will be easier to help guide them towards a hiring decision if they see you as a fit. Building this relationship is not always easy as hiring managers have competing demands for their time and they don’t always have a realistic picture of what sourcing top talent is all about - and hence aren’t always open to extended meetings to discuss hiring needs.

    The best way to learn this is to ask questions about what the hiring manager is like and more about what they are looking for that isn’t in the job description. The more the executive recruiter knows about the manager and the back story on a position, the more likely that a relationship exists.

Whether or not you are being contacted by recruiters for global executive roles, if you are interested in them I recommend two things.

The first is to insure your online profiles are an accurate reflection of what you have to offer and highlight your cross-cultural and international experience. This will help prevent recruiters searching for candidates for international assignments from ruling you out or not finding you in the first place.

And the second is to think through some of these issues mentioned above to prepare yourself for these conversations.

  • How receptive would my family be to another (or a first) international assignment?
  • Would they be open to me being away for long periods if relocating the whole family is not being offered?
  • What would be the minimum compensation package I’d accept given the value international work experience could provide?  
  • What types of international assignments would be a logical next step given my short term and long term career goals?

Being prepared with the answers to these questions will help you avoid wasting time considering roles that clearly would not be a good fit. But it will also help you communicate what types of roles and international assignments would work for you so that if they do come up in the future, the recruiter knows who to put on the top of their list of people to contact.



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