Expat Report Part 1: Aussie Expats Are Struggling to Find Work Upon Returning Home

Expat report woman standing outdoors in the middle of a city.

Welcome to part one of Indeed’s Expat Report series where we’ll delve into the experiences of Aussie expats returning home after a stint overseas, and their journey to finding a new job. This month, we’ll discuss the reasons why Australians return home, how difficult it is for them to secure work, and why their overseas experience isn’t helping them to secure work in Australia.

Aussies are renowned for heading off to gain work experience overseas. Professionals from all walks of life pack their bags attempting to further their careers abroad, whilst enjoying the travel opportunities that come with living a little closer to, let’s face it—everywhere! 

Of a population of around 25 million, it’s estimated that more than a million Australians are living as expats at any one time. Though, in a recent report by Indeed and diaspora association Advance titled They Still Call Australia Home, nabbing a good job upon returning Down Under is surprisingly tough. In fact, it’s taking Aussie repatriates or ‘repats’ 2.1 months longer than the average job seeker to secure a role.

Top reasons Aussie expats return home

Armed with international experience and a raft of new skills, the best and brightest professionals tend to come home to Australia to settle down. There are four primary reasons why Australians decide to return from their overseas adventure. Around 53% want to be closer to their friends and family, 51% have ageing parents they need to look after, or want to spend more time with; 32% want their children to attend an Australian school; and 21% are simply tired of living overseas.

Top reasons Aussie expats return homeAussie expats return home thinking their overseas experience and newly-gained skills will give them a ‘leg up’ when trying to find a new job. Some believe it will allow them to demand a higher salary. But the reality is quite different, with 85% experiencing barriers to finding work back in Australia. Around a third of Aussie expats returning home can’t even land an interview despite having all of the requisite skills. The quarter that do manage to secure an interview often miss out on a final offer.

Reasons Aussie expats are struggling to find work

Top reasons for being rejected include being overqualified (44%) and an apparent lack of an Australian network (43%). In stark contradiction to this, half of all repats who did find work ended up doing so with help from a personal or professional connection.

Of those repats who do gain work in Australia, more than half (54%) had a much higher salary package and more seniority (41%) in their last job overseas, than the role they secured when returning home.

At a time when 34% of Australian employers say they can’t fill open jobs, are Aussie businesses risking competitive disadvantage by ignoring repat talent as a valuable resource?

The struggle to find work is emotionally damaging

So what impact is this rejection, lack of recognition of their overseas work experience, and having to step into lower-paying roles having on Aussie expats returning home? Well, unsurprisingly it’s affecting their self esteem. Sadly, almost a third (32%) of repatriated Australians actually regret their decision to come back to Australia.

32% of Aussie expats regret returning homePerhaps even more shocking is the fact that 40% of repats stayed less than a year before getting on a plane, and taking their skills and experience where they feel it’s valued— overseas.

Missed opportunities? A flawed recruitment process?

On average, recruiters spend around six seconds making an initial evaluation of a candidate’s resume. Paul D’Arcy, Indeed’s SVP of Marketing says a common mistake being made by recruiters during this initial phase is “looking for familiarities.”

These are things such as which school the candidate attended, the name of the companies they’ve worked for and the job titles they’ve held. “There’s a very clear halo effect that comes from familiarity,” says D’Arcy.

One of the problems repats face is that the companies they’ve worked for, and even the idea of working abroad, may not resonate with those doing the hiring. That’s when the ‘halo effect’ can kick in.

Aussie repats also feel that recruiters are underestimating how transferable the skills they’ve acquired while working overseas actually are. This then leads to a vicious cycle of being overlooked despite having the proven ability to perform the jobs they’ve applied for.

This is of course only one side of the story. Keep an eye out for the Expat Report Part 2 next month, where we’ll delve into recruiters’ perspectives on employing Aussie repats and why they’re reluctant to hire or recommend repats for jobs.

Keen to know more? Download They Still Call Australia Home: Expats returning home are key to unlocking corporate Australia’s competitive edge to read the full report.

Methodology: Indeed in partnership with Advance and conducted by Lonergan. The study was conducted among 440 Australian expats returning or returned home, and 331 recruitment decision-makers aged 18 and over. The recruitment decision-makers comprised both in-house and external recruitment professionals. Surveys were distributed to recruiters, returned and returning expats, and to members of the Advance database between April 29 and May 30, 2019.

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