Expat Report Part 2: Recruiters Don’t Want to Hire Returned Expats

A man in glasses looking out the window

Welcome to part two of Indeed’s Expat Report series. In case you missed it, last month we delved into the experiences of Aussie expats returning home after a stint overseas, and their journey to finding a new job. In this blog post we’ll dig into what recruiters think of overseas work experience and uncover their attitudes towards hiring returned Aussie expats.

On the face of it, things don’t look good for returned expats. All of the data overwhelmingly points to one clear view on the topic—recruiters simply don’t value overseas work experience when assessing a candidate’s suitability for a role. A third (34%) of repatriates aren’t even landing an interview for a potential position where their skills precisely match the job requirements. Recruiters are regularly prioritising candidates with a resume of work that’s entirely Australian-based, meaning a lot of great talent is being overlooked.

Let’s take a look at the reasons why.

Returned expats ‘out of touch’ with local events and contacts

Over half (55%) of recruiters surveyed say hiring someone who has always worked in Australia is a way for them to be certain the candidate’s local industry knowledge is up to date. There’s a perception that living away from Australia means a person will be out of touch with what’s happening locally.

Though, in today’s always-on, hyper-connected world, news and trends are at our fingertips. It could hardly be argued that being out of the country for a year or two means you’re unaware of what’s happening back home. Especially considering most expats still have family and friends in Australia and it’s the top reason they return home.

Top reasons Aussie expats return home: family/friends, aging parents, so children can attend school, tired of living overseas

While nine in 10 (89%) recruitment decision-makers consider that managing projects across multiple countries is a positive experience on a job application, a third (33%) of them are reluctant or cautious to hire returned expats for an Australian-based role on the basis of perceived difficulties with cultural fit. Sounds odd, right? After all, these are Australians who have spent only a few years fulfilling their dream of living and working abroad.

33% of recruiters thnink Aussie repats might not be a good cultural fit

Returned expats seen as risky and their overseas experience, ‘irrelevant’

Half of the recruiters surveyed (51%) believe there’s more risk involved in employing candidates with overseas experience. There’s a number of reasons cited for this, many of which could be viewed as trivial or based on opinion rather than fact.

half of all recruiters think repats are more risky to hire

Reference checks aren’t the most seamless (or enjoyable) aspect of the recruiting process. This task becomes increasingly more difficult when having to deal with referees that are based overseas. Recruiters feel that returned expats are tricky to hire (40%) due to the inconvenience of checking overseas references. This means qualified candidates are being overlooked due to the time and effort involved in checking overseas references.

Incredibly, two in five recruiters (40%) think Australians who have worked overseas are more likely to be disruptive to work processes and practices. There’s a commonly held belief that they’re harder to ‘sell in’ to hiring managers, while more than a third (35%) of recruiters believe that employing returned expats is simply more difficult than it’s worth.

What recruiters want

When asked about specific skills and experience they recruit for, recruiters say they’re after candidates with a strong knowledge of emerging technologies/techniques (44%), followed by those who can manage culturally diverse staff (35%) and possess complex project management skills (28%). These are all skills that returned expats often possess as a result of their time working in another country, yet 19% of recruiters say that overseas experience isn’t relevant when hiring for a position in Australia.

19 percent of recruiters say overseas experience isn't relevant

According to Paul D’Arcy Senior Vice President of Marketing at Indeed, recruiters may be inclined to use their own professional experience as the benchmark when hiring—regardless of the role they’re hiring for. “So, if the candidate has worked overseas but the recruiter hasn’t, that international experience may not hold the currency it should,” he says.

Unfortunately, using familiarity as a starting point for assessing talent is a flawed approach that doesn’t predict a candidate’s performance or suitability for a role. This clear bias at the recruitment level is preventing talented candidates from joining Aussie businesses and potentially stifling innovation and growth at the organisation. But more than that, it’s turning returned expats off working for local businesses.

Constant rejection and feelings of being undervalued by recruiters for the skills and experience they have to offer leads 67% of returned expats to pack their bags and head back overseas. Alarmingly, 40% stayed less than a year before leaving our shores.

Being closed to the prospect of hiring returned expats (or simply putting them in the ‘too hard basket’) is doing the Australian economy, businesses and great homegrown talent a disservice. At a time when talent shortages are being cited as a reason for not being able to fill open roles, it’s more important than ever that every candidate is assessed on their unique merits. Furthermore, little things such as the inconvenience of checking references based overseas shouldn’t get in the way of hiring great talent.

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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