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Recruitment and Selection in International


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Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context

Kristina Potonik, University of Edinburgh Business School, Edinburgh, UK

Felisa Latorre, ITAM, Mexico City, Mexico

Beliz Dereli, Istanbul Commerce University, Istanbul, Turkey

Blanka Tacer, University of Primorska, Faculty of Management, Koper, Slovenia

Learning Objectives:

This chapter aims to:

Understand the specifics of recruitment and selection in the international context.

Describe categories of international employees.

Identify and explain stages of the international recruitment and selection process.

Illustrate potential challenges of international selection and recruitment from the

employee and company perspective.

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this chapter students will be able to:

Develop an international recruitment and selection plan for different types of MNCs.

Create a set of interview questions for an international post.

Determine a set of selection criteria for different types of international employees.

Evaluate indicators of selection and recruitment effectiveness.

<A> Introduction

Recruitment and selection in the international context should be carefully planned to ensure

the right candidates are deployed to international posts. Failure to do so could represent a

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 1

financial loss and inefficient use of time, while also putting the companys reputation at

stake. MNCs should consider various issues when preparing for international recruitment and

selection, mainly because of cultural or national differences between the countries in which

headquarters are located (parent countries) and countries where their subsidiaries are located

(host countries). These differences impact international recruitment and selection because:

Employment legislation varies across countries.

The pool of job applicants for international posts is wider: MNCs can choose from

either parent-country nationals (PCNs), host-country nationals (HCNs) or third-

country nationals (TCNs), as well as, increasingly, self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) and

skilled migrants (SMs).

A thorough and specific job analysis for international posts is required, even if the

same type of post is advertised. For instance, the competencies a manager needs in

Australia might be different from those a manager needs in another cultural context.

MNCs selection practices are driven by the needs specific to advertising international

posts. These may vary from the need of filling a position to the need of developing the

managerial skills of existing staff (Brookfield Global Relocation Services, 2012).

International recruitment and selection challenges are visible at the macro-, meso- and micro-

levels. A macro-level challenge relates to institutional arrangements/legal factors (e.g.,

employment, health and safety laws), national culture and social factors (e.g., education

system and career attitudes). The meso-level comprises an organisations recruitment and

selection policies, procedures and practices, developing employer brand and the evaluation of

international recruitment and selection effectiveness. The micro-level refers to the HR

competencies for international recruitment and selection, job analysis, person-organisation fit,

and competencies for working in and adjusting to an international work environment. Micro-

level challenges in the international recruitment and selection also represent job candidates

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 2

reactions to the HR practices and initiatives, such as their reactions to different selection


In this chapter we address these challenges, discussing recruitment and selection

practices in the international context. We first review different categories of international

employees MNCs can target in their international posts, followed by a detailed analysis of

our four-stage process model of international selection and recruitment.

<A> Categories of international employees

There are a number of approaches available in international recruitment and these are

captured by Perlmutter (1969) as ethnocentric, polycentric, geocentric and regiocentric.

Before designing their recruitment and selection practices, MNCs have to decide on their

overall approach to international recruitment and selection. The use of any of these

approaches will determine what category of international employees the MNC will target in

their selection and recruitment. We summarise the characteristics of the main categories of

international employees in Table 1.

Please, insert Table 1 about here
Different factors determine which approach and consequently which category of

international employee the MNCs will eventually target, such as cultural distance between

the headquarters and its subsidiaries, living costs in the host country, immigration issues and

role expectations of the international employees, among others (Dowling, Festing, & Engle,

2008; Harzing, 2004; Sparrow, 2007). For instance, MNCs might focus on PCNs because

they expect them to assume roles of (Dowling et al., 2008):

1. Network builders who strengthen and develop the interpersonal linkages and contacts


Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 3

2. Boundary spanners who represent their companies in the host countries and gather

host-country information for the headquarters.

3. Agents of direct control who engage in direct supervision to ensure compliance of the


4. Agents of socialization who transfer the corporate culture (i.e. shared values and

beliefs) to the host-country organization.

5. Language nodes who speak a host country language and hence deal more easily with

queries of the HCNs.

In general, using PCNs can help MNCs achieve their targets and objectives in the host

country and all these roles involve transfer knowledge and competencies from the

headquarters to the subsidiaries located in host countries (Dowling et al., 2008). However,

Shaffer, Kraimer, Chen and Bolino (2012) have recently suggested that new demands in the

globalized labour market force MNCs to consider alternative categories of international

employees to fill their posts (see Table 2). Organizations use these groups to make

international posts more simple and flexible for both employees and organizations.

Please, insert Table 2 about here
In summary, MNCs can target different types of international employees.

Importantly, the choice of the targeted applicants will have a significant impact on the

MNCs recruitment and selection practices, as discussed below.

<A> Process model of international recruitment and selection

In this chapter we propose a holistic four-stage model of the international recruitment and

selection process, starting with determining the competencies of the HR professionals who

recruit and select international employees and concluding with an evaluation of its

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 4

effectiveness (see Figure 1). The feedback from this last stage can be used to improve the

practices and procedures from the previous stages. Every stage of this process model

comprises macro-, meso- and micro-levels. Next, we will address specific challenges at these

different levels, turning to each stage of the model in more detail.

Please, insert Figure 1 about here
<B> Stage 1: Determining competencies of HR professionals for international

recruitment and selection

In the first stage, MNCs should determine the competencies of the HR managers who will be

responsible for the international recruitment and selection. A macro-level challenge here is

the anticipation of the recruitment and selection practices in the host country (e.g., whether

psychometric assessment is a common practice in the host country or not). Defining an

international HR competency profile based on its strategic goals is a meso-level challenge for

the organization. The HR managers who perform different international HR-related tasks

need specific competencies (e.g., linguistic abilities, cultural sensitivity, etc.). Such

international HR competency profile differs with respect to the stage of organisations

international development (e.g., MNC with only two subsidiaries in culturally similar

countries needs an HR manager with additional linguistic skills, whereas the MNC with

global staffing needs a more complex international HR competency profile). Lastly, the

development of international recruitment and selection competencies, such as knowledge,

skills, attitudes, abilities, personality traits and other characteristics for effective work in

international recruitment and selection, is a micro-level task for each manager and member of

the HR department.

The scope of international recruitment and selection is related to the companys stage

of internationalisation. In the early stages of internationalisation, HR managers are involved

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 5

in the recruitment and selection of HCNs and TCNs, raising such challenges as

comprehending the local legislation and culture. In contrast, in MNCs with already developed

local HR departments, the recruitment and selection challenges often relate to cross-cultural

collaboration between subsidiary and headquarters. Importantly, HR managers at the

headquarters need an intimate understanding of the organisational strategy to effectively

design job posts (i.e., identifying competencies and skills needed) and make decisions

regarding international recruitment and selection. For instance, in the case of a

pharmaceutical company deciding to open a new subsidiary focused on sales, international

posts will mostly be connected with marketing, and the HR manager will need to design job

competencies based on these strategic aims.

International recruitment and selection calls for competencies which address the

special challenges that characterise the international environment. We suggest the

international recruitment and selection manager needs to possess specific competencies


Cross-cultural situations require adaptation of recruitment and selection

methods and flexible interpretations of communications, values and

behaviours (Tarique & Schuler, 2010).

The international HR manager needs to consider the local institutional

environment, especially the legal matters (Festing & Eidems, 2011).

International recruitment and selection is connected with coordinating

different staffing interests. Local managers interests are not always congruent

with the global interests of the MNCs. For instance, a manager in Mexico may

not support the international transfer of a team member because s/he needs his/

her competencies for the local company.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 6

Building an international network is crucial for responding to the continued

shortage of required competencies in MNCs (Farndale, Scullion, & Sparrow,


Diverse forms of international mobility dictate the approach to international

recruitment and selection (Meyskens, Von Glinow, Werther, & Clarke, 2009).

Building on Roes (2002) competency architecture model we derive a competency profile for

the HR manager responsible for international recruitment and selection. In addition to

competencies and sub-competencies, the model considers knowledge, skills, attitudes,

abilities, personality traits and other characteristics as psychological determinants of job

performance (see Table 3).

Please, insert Table 3 about here
After having appointed an HR manager in charge of international recruitment and

selection, a recruitment strategy has to be developed to attract the best talent to the applicant


<B> Stage 2: International recruitment

Recruitment practices are essential to attract the right talent in the highly competitive

international market (Ma & Allen, 2009). At this stage, researching the legal, social and

cultural environment in the host country is the main macro-level challenge, whereas

designing a recruitment strategy and developing the employer brand are important meso-level

issues. At the micro-level, the main challenges refer to job analysis and remuneration


Recruitment starts with job specification and analysis to define a set of characteristics

and competencies needed to effectively perform in the available international post. Such

thorough job analysis of the international post should also inform the approach to

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 7

international staffing that the MNC should adopt, for instance by providing information about

the availability of the HCNs for specific posts, the need for close surveillance of the

headquarters or potential risks to local cultural adjustment. In order to identify these issues,

the job analysis needs to be multi-sourced, including in-depth interviews with HCNs and

PCNs who will collaborate with newly appointed employees. In this context we would like to

emphasise that future-oriented job analysis focuses on dynamic and changeable requirements

of international posts (Landis, Fogli & Goldberg, 1998). These aspects must thus be

considered when designing the recruitment strategy for the companys international posts,

together with questions such as the targeted size of the applicant pool, the length of the

commitment sought in the post (either short-term or long-term), and the budget available for

salary and other benefits. The success of the recruitment strategy (i.e., the extent to which the

company actually attracts a sufficient number of highly skilled and qualified candidates) will

depend on the quality of the employer brand reference. That is, the company has to develop a

unique image which potential job candidates value and identify with, and which is linked to

the companys values and policies (e.g., Google or Coca-Cola).

Employer branding is used mainly to attract external candidates; however, it can also

be used internally to stimulate already employed talent to apply for the companys

international posts. In this section we review international recruitment strategies separately

for PCNs, HCNs and TCNs (including SIEs and SMs), respectively.

<C> International recruitment of PCNs

Recruitment of PCNs can either be focused on candidates already employed by the company

(i.e. internal recruitment) or it can target anyone in the parent country labour market (i.e.

external recruitment). Internal recruitment relies on different practices and sources, such as

internal job vacancy ads published on staff boards or intranets, career planning and internal

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 8

networking. It has many advantages, including low costs, higher motivation to excel at work

to increase the probability of getting the international offer, and increased company

attractiveness and reputation (Briscoe, Schuler, & Tarique, 2012). Nevertheless, this strategy

can be very restrictive insofar as it limits the number and/or the quality of the candidates in

the applicant pool.

These limitations can be overcome by expanding the recruitment strategy outside the

company. Some common practices of external recruitment are attendance at job fairs, job

vacancy ads published on the company website, newspapers and social media (e.g., LinkedIn,

Facebook), recommendations from employees and focus on competitors PCNs (Briscoe et

al., 2012). Although more highly skilled applicants can be reached, one potential drawback of

external recruitment is the applicants lack of knowledge about the company. A combination

of internal and external recruitment could be the best strategy when focusing on PCNs.

<C> International recruitment of HCNs and TCNs

Existing literature has indicated the need to recruit HCNs for international managerial

posts to develop international talent (Ma & Allen, 2009), while paying attention to the

following issues:

1. Analysis of the host country labour market to determine the quantity of suitable

candidates for the available posts. MNCs should invest effort and resources in

their external employer branding. This is important because having a unique

image which the HCNs and TCNs value and are fond will attract more and better

qualified candidates to the applicant pool.

2. Analysis of common recruitment and selection practices in other local or

international companies. For instance, Chinese firms usually recruit through

informal channels or networks (Han & Han, 2009). Indian private sector

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 9

organisations usually recruit using social networking (Budhwar & Khatri, 2001).

In the USA, job applicants are more likely to search for a job via job ads in

newspapers or websites (Ma & Allen, 2009).

3. Adapting recruitment practices to local cultural values (Ma & Allen, 2009). In

countries with strong collectivistic values (e.g., China, Latin American countries)

ads include group-focused activities, such as teamwork and team-based rewards.

In contrast, ads targeting applicants from individualistic countries (e.g., USA, UK)

should emphasise individual-based activities and remuneration and benefits.

It has to be highlighted that some MNCs are mostly concerned with getting the best

possible employees for their international posts regardless their nationality (i.e., targeting also

TCNs), but in this case cultural differences can be harder to control for (Moore, 2001).

Once the company is satisfied with the quality and size of the applicant pool, it starts

engaging in the process of selection.

<B> Stage 3: International selection

In this section we review different selection criteria and selection methods relevant in the

international context. In this stage, macro-level challenges are related to the adaptation of

selection methods to the host country environment, meso-level challenges include the choice

of selection methods MNCs will use for their international posts, and micro-level challenges

reflect different selection criteria for international posts.

<C> Selection Criteria

Ability for cultural adjustment

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 10

Cultural adjustment helps reduce the intensity of stress due to acculturation and changes the

candidates expectations to adjust to the new situation. Black, Mendenhall, and Oddou (1991)

have suggested three kinds of adjustment for PCNs:

1. Work adjustment to job requirements, working conditions, management styles and

performance expectations.

2. Interaction adjustment that emphasises establishing good relationships with HCNs

and therefore stresses the necessity of using the HCNs language adequately.

3. General living adjustment, which covers adjusting to accommodation facilities,

shopping, local foods, etc. (Huang, Chi, & Lawler, 2005).

Family Situation

Family situation is an important criterion impacting the decisions of PCNs regarding their

acceptance of an international post and their subsequent job performance (Harvey &

Novicevich, 2001). Effective family communication (i.e., the ability to share and discuss

opinions clearly, and develop constructive solutions for any conflicts arising) and having

emotional support among family members reduce stress intensity and facilitate the adaptation

process to the new environment (Caligiuri, Hyland, Joshi, & Bross, 1998).

The issue of dual-career couples is becoming an increasingly important factor in

declining an international job offer (Riusala & Suutari, 2000). Some MNCs resolve this

problem by providing career counselling, assistance with job searching and work permit

arrangements, or even covering education expenses for the spouse (Dowling et al., 2008). A

recent study of PCNs spouses from Canada, UK, Australia, Asia, USA, and Europe has

showed, however, that the employment assistance programmes for spouses were almost non-

existent (Cole, 2011). Among the most desired assistance were the need for networking

information (e.g., getting the list of employment agencies and other Western companies using

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 11

English-speaking staff) and career counselling. Importantly, if the spouse does not relocate,

the MNC should cover the travel and communication costs of the PCN and his/her family

(Ntshona, 2007). MNCs should also consider other family constraints in accepting the

international job offer, such as a disruption to childrens education, a lack of care services for

aged family members and the adverse effect of relocation for family members (Osiecka,


Linguistic Ability

A UK-German study has reported linguistic ability as the fifth most important selection

criterion, ranked after sociability, openness, cultural adaptation and professional perfection

(Marx, 1996 cited in Osiecka, 2001). Although language differences are recognised as having

a negative impact on successful cross-cultural communication and job performance, and may

even cause a premature return of PCNs from an international post (Jordan & Cartwright,

1998), some MNCs consider linguistic abilities to be among less essential attributes.

Previous experiences with a multinational environment

Previous experience in the international context helps potential applicants develop more

accurate expectations about the international post. Moreover, it reduces uncertainty and stress

due to acculturation-related issues (Black et al., 1991). Extensive experience of travelling and

relocations also helps in adjusting to a new environment, new tasks and establishing new

relationships (Groesch, 2004).

Personality Traits

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 12

Past research has addressed the role of Big Five personality characteristics in PCNs job

performance and their adaptation process to international posts (Caligiuri, 2000a; Harvey &

Novicevich, 2001; Huang et al., 2005; Jordan & Cartwright, 1998):

1. Extroversion the extent to which the individuals successfully assert themselves in

the environment by being outgoing, sociable and talkative.

2. Agreeableness the extent to which the individual is identified as a team player by

being warm and trustworthy.

3. Conscientiousness the extent to which the individual is organised and hard-working.

4. Emotional stability the extent to which the individual is calm and able to cope with

stress in different areas of his/her life.

5. Openness and intellect the extent to which the individual is imaginative and able to

adapt to a changing environment.

The preferences for these characteristics in selection processes for international

assignments may change in relation to culture. For example, introverts may be preferred over

extroverts in cultures where modesty and conservatism are accepted as fundamental values

(Huang et al., 2005).

In their model, Mendenhall and Oddou (1985) suggest four dimensions linking

specific behavioural tendencies to potential performance in international posts (Dowling et

al., 2008):

1. The self-oriented dimension, reflecting the extent to which the expatriate expresses

concern for self-preservation, self-enjoyment and mental hygiene.

2. The perceptual dimension, reflecting the PCNs expertise in correctly understanding

the HCNs behaviour by using their ability to combine all their previous perceptual

and appraisal experiences.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 13

3. The others-oriented dimension, reflecting the extent to which the PCNs are concerned

about their HCN peers and intend to cooperate with them.

4. The cultural-toughness dimension, illustrating that the PCNs sensitivity or adaptation

ability to the new environment is affected by the degree of similarity between the host

countrys culture and the parent countrys culture. The effect of sub-cultures within

each country should be considered in evaluating the degree of similarity.

Knowledge, skills, and competencies

In some studies, global awareness, an ethical understanding of conducting business in foreign

countries, cultural empathy, cross-cultural team building, international negotiation skills and

self-confidence are mentioned as soft skills essential for successful performance in

international posts (Harvey & Novicevich, 2001). Technical competence is another essential

criterion in international selection. Technically-competent international employees can more

easily manage job uncertainty, have fewer work-related problems, and build trustworthy and

cooperative relations with HCNs (Groesch, 2004).

Person-organisation fit

Job applicants are attracted to organisations which relate to their personal values (Kristof,

1996). Due to the differences between the parent countrys and the host countrys

organisational cultures, the assessment of person-organisation fit contributes significantly to

the prediction of success in international posts (Rian & Ulf, 2012). The alignment of

applicants personal values with the host countrys organisational values fosters employee job

satisfaction (Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman, & Johnson, 2005) and organisational commitment

(Tsai, Chen, & Chen, 2012).

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 14

<C> Selection methods

Once the HR department establishes the selection criteria, the appropriate selection methods

have to be chosen, such as tests, interviews, assessment centres and the use of HR



Psychometric tests are used for personality and competence assessment, linguistic ability

assessment, and cultural adjustment and flexibility assessment, among others (Briscoe et al.,

2012; Moore, 2001). When using tests in international selection we should consider the


1. The need to assess specific competencies and skills for international posts.

2. The use of culture-free tests or tests adapted to the applicants culture of origin for

HCNs and TCNs. Certain tests have been translated, validated and standardised in a

diverse range of cultures, and these should be the preferred tests in international

selection, such as the Big Five Personality Questionnaire (Schmitt, Allik, McCrae, &

Benet-Martnez, 2007) or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (Bowden, Saklofske,

& Weiss, 2011).


All selection procedures include some sort of interview. More structured interviews are more

effective with applicants from high so-called power distance cultures (e.g., Latin and Asian

countries), whereas less structured interviews yield higher effectiveness with applicants from

so-called low power distance cultures, such as Anglo and Germanic countries (Ma & Allen,

2009). It is recommended that the interview panel be composed of representatives from

different departments of the company to get a balanced assessment of the applicants (Briscoe

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 15

et al., 2012; Moore, 2001). The interview provides an opportunity to assess and probe the

applicants ability to adapt to different cultural contexts. It can also be conducted via video

conference in order to assure a diverse panel composition. However, applicants seem to least

prefer this selection method (Chapman, Uggerslev, & Webster, 2003), and the extent to

which applicants abilities can reliably be examined in such a virtual environment is


Assessment centres

Assessment centres (ACs) comprise standardised evaluation of cognitive abilities and

personality tests, structured interviews and exercises such as leaderless group discussion, in-

basket exercises (i.e., job candidates are given a set of items related with their future post and

are asked to indicate how they would prioritize and deal with each one of them; the exercise

simulates a typical pile of papers you might find on your desk upon your return from

holidays), case studies and role playing. Applicants engage in different exercises in both

individual and group contexts (Searle, 2003). The assessors may be HR personnel or line

managers within the organisations, external HR consultants, psychologists or job experts

(Edenborough, 2005; Guion & Highhouse, 2006). Importantly, in the international context

they should be from both parent and host countries to address the cultural and national

aspects of the applicant selection (Briscoe, 1997). This method is widely used by many

MNCs around the world, such as Shell, Siemens, HSBC and BASF (Jansen & Jongh, 1997).

Some companies prefer outsourcing ACs since they lack experienced staff or adequate

facilities. Outsourcing this task may also prevent biases if the selection is carried out among

the internal candidates and the company prefers an in-house AC, the assessors personal

relationships with the candidates might affect the objectivity of their decisions in the

evaluation process. Some critical skills for managerial success in a multicultural

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 16

environment, such as flexibility or adaptability, should also be tested through the ACs


Cooperation with HR consultancies

Some MNCs are more inclined to outsource their recruitment and selection to HR

consultancies, especially for managerial posts. Consultancies success and past experience

with recruitment and selection, and their knowledge of the MNCs, are essential factors that

determine the appropriateness of a consultancy (Ballantyne & Povah, 2004). The decision to

use a specific HR consultancy also depends on the presentation of its credentials and

employees, its history and size, its clients, its spread in different countries, its costs and time

efficiency, and the quantity of positive references compared to its competitors (Schoye &

Ramussen, 1999). The consultancys location and facilities should also be considered (e.g., a

central location provides easy access for the candidates). Some MNCs prefer to work with

only one consultancy to reduce costs and achieve integrity of the selection process. Yet,

others acknowledge that some consultancies have more experience regarding specific

positions or occupations or have a rich portfolio related to a specific region. These MNCs

will most likely choose different consultancies depending on the type of posts or regions they

are recruiting for at any given moment.

Specific issues about selection methods in the international context

Two important practices may ease the international employee selection process (Caligiuri &

Tarique, 2006; cited in Caligiuri, 2009):

1. Realistic previews about the post which could prevent its premature completion and

which could be done through interviewing repatriates who occupied the same post in

the past.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 17

2. The use of self-selection tools by applicants to help them critically evaluate

themselves, especially on personality and individual characteristics and career and

family issues. These tools may contribute to the creation of an applicant pool for

potential future international posts by considering the applicants availability,

technical knowledge, skills and abilities, job and life experiences and preferences for

international positions. Caligiuri (2009), however, cautioned that self-assessment

could be ineffective when there is a lack of job opportunities in the labour market,

since applicants could overestimate their competencies and preferences for working in

other countries due to the difficulty of finding jobs in their own countries.

<C> Final selection decision and job offer

The final step in the selection process consists of a final decision and job offer made to the

selected applicant. Depending on the level and the purpose of the international post, HR

managers may or may not have the power to take the final decision, but in any case they will

be asked to make a recommendation(s) about the best candidate for the job. The final

decision in this case will be made by the top management team or the CEO.

The acceptance of the job offer depends on various factors, but mainly on the content

of the offer, which ranges from objective factors (e.g., pay, holidays and job title) to

subjective factors (e.g., person-organisation fit and person-job fit). Applicants from

masculine cultures1 (e.g., USA or UK) have been argued to pay more attention to objective

Masculine cultures refer to societies in which emotional gender roles are clearly distinct:
men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success; women are
supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life (Hofstede &
Hofstede, 2005, p. 402). Scoring high on masculine dimension implies that the society is
driven by competition, achievement and success. According to Hofstede (2001), Japan,
Mexico, UK, Germany, the US and Australia are the most masculine societies.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 18

factors such as salary and holiday allowance when considering a job offer (Ma & Allen,


Once the selected applicant takes up employment, the company must socialise the

newcomer. This will to a large extent determine the success of the international recruitment

and selection, discussed next.

<B> Stage 4: Evaluation of the success of international recruitment and selection

In this section we discuss main indicators of successful selection and the actual costs for the

headquarters, subsidiary and international employee. Macro-level challenges at this stage

comprise a continuous exploration of contextual factors in the host country which affect

international recruitment and selection. Meso-level challenges relate to establishing a system

of success evaluation and improving organisational HR practices related with international

selection (e.g., a review of medical packages, socialisation programmes, mentoring, etc).

Micro-level challenges include the analysis of recruitment and selection effectiveness for the

individual employee (e.g., satisfaction with the post). All of these challenges are related with

successful completion of the international post. At the micro-level, selection was successful if

employees completed their international posts and adjusted to the new culture (Bhaskar-

Shrinivas, Harrison, Shaffer, & Luk, 2005; Bonache, Brewster & Suutari, 2007). The

evaluation of success should also consider performance level in terms of the fulfilment or

even overachievement of the organisational goals, not merely completion of the post.

Different factors improve the performance of international employees and diminish their

intention to quit, such as adjustment to the host country culture, some personality traits, and

the level of support PCNs and their families receive from the MNCs and their subsidiaries

(Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2005; Takeauchi, 2010). Next, we discuss some of these indicators.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 19

<C> Indicators of selection and recruitment success

Family and couple adjustment

The ability of individuals, couples and children to adjust to a foreign environment and new

customs is one of the most critical aspects of expatriate success (Hays, 1974). Other work-

family related factors that could influence employee performance levels are childrens well-

being, family satisfaction, and quality of family and marital life, among others (Takeuchi,


Headquarters HR practices and policies

As Takeuchi (2010) points out, the headquarters could have a comprehensive HR strategy

that facilitates the process of adjustment in terms of international logistic assignation (e.g.,

providing housing support, spouse relocation, etc.) and organisational support (e.g.,

mentoring, supporting career development, training, hiring global mobility managers or

outsourcing global mobility management, providing benefits, etc.).

The role of HCNs

HCNs can support PCNs in achieving their objectives to a greater extent by developing better

relationships with them (Bhaskar-Shrinivas et al., 2005). In this sense, HCNs and PCNs could

perceive higher supervisory support and develop an effective leader-member relationship

regardless of who is the supervisor and who is the subordinate, resulting in improved

attitudes and behaviours for HCNs (e.g., supervisory satisfaction (Shay & Baack, 2004)), and

increased adjustment and job performance for PCNs (Kraimer & Wayne, 2004). Some

subsidiaries also implement practices such as on-site mentoring of PCNs by HCNs. Mezias

and Scandadura (2005) suggest that such on-site mentoring ensures PCNs basic needs in the

new country are better fulfilled (e.g., getting advice about supermarkets, restaurants, banks,

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 20

government taxes, etc.) and their adjustment to the new work role is enhanced (e.g.,

participation in company events, becoming aware of informal procedures in the subsidiary,


Individual factors

Among individual factors, a high level of cross-cultural adjustment is considered a predictor

of work and non-work satisfaction, organisational commitment, early return intentions and

higher performance (Takeuchi, 2010). Other characteristics that could help improve the

adjustment are language abilities, educational level, multicultural experience, interpersonal

skills, sociability, extraversion, flexibility, self-efficacy, cultural intelligence, openness to

experience and to new learning, resilience to stress and tolerance for uncertainty (Caligiuri,

Tarique & Jacobs, 2009; Bonache et al., 2007).

<C> Costs of failure in recruitment and selection

The cost of failure of the appointed international employee for the headquarters could be

measured in economic terms. PCNs are the link to knowledge transfer in areas such as

product design, distribution, know-how, skills and innovative customer service (e.g.,

Subramaniam & Venkatraman, 2000). Failure in their selection diminishes benefits and

networks of the headquarters and weakens the subsidiary-headquarter relationship.

Related to the host country organisation, the failure of an international employee

could decrease productivity, profitability and sales growth, and could even influence

customer satisfaction and market penetration, depending on the position and job status of the

international employee, since these outputs are directly related to their competencies. Lastly,

failing in the international post could have negative effects on the employee him/herself, such

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 21

as reduced self-efficacy and self-esteem and increased work-family conflict (Takeuchi,


<A> Summary

This chapter discusses the following points of recruitment and selection in the international


Recruitment and selection practices in the international context are driven by diverse

factors, such as cultural differences between the parent and host countries, language

differences, employment legislation, etc.

MNCs can target different types of international employees in their recruitment and

selection efforts, ranging from PCNs, HCNs and TCNs to more contemporary

categories, such as flexpatriates or short-term assignees.

We proposed and explained in detail our four-stage model, which covers the whole

process of international recruitment and selection:

o Stage 1: MNCs should recruit and select the HR managers in the headquarters

who will be in charge of designing the international recruitment and selection

for the subsidiaries, including conducting a thorough job analysis.

o Stage 2: a recruitment strategy to attract the best talent to the applicant pool is

designed and conducted.

o Stage 3: the selection of the best candidate to fill the available international

post is conducted, considering the criteria that will determine the success of

the applicant in the international posts.

o Stage 4: the evaluation of the success of implemented recruitment and

selection practices is conducted, including indicators such as cultural

adjustment, the quality of PCN-HCN relationships, etc.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 22

The costs of getting it wrong can be very high for both the MNC and appointed

employees themselves. As international posts and the need for global employees will

only grow in future, the success of the international recruitment and selection process

should be a key issue for MNCs.

Core concepts of the chapter

Key terms Definitions Key reference

Choosing the best candidate for
Selection the available post from the pool Anderson et al. (2010)
of recruited candidates.

Practices implemented to attract

Recruitment a suitable quantity of qualified Anderson et al. (2010)
job applicants.
Recruitment focused on
Internal recruitment candidates already employed by Anderson et al. (2010)
the company.
Recruitment focused on any
External recruitment Anderson et al. (2010)
candidate in the labour market.
Employees who are citizens of
Parent country nationals
the country where the Dowling et al. (2008)
headquarters is located.
Employees who are citizens of
Host country nationals
the country where the MNCs Dowling et al. (2008)
subsidiary is located.
Employees who are citizens of
Third country nationals
any country other than the parent Dowling et al. (2008)
and host countries.
Self-initiated expatriates Individuals who prefer working
Selmer & Lauring (2012)
SIEs abroad by their own initiative.

Well-educated individuals who

Skilled migrants SMs move from developing countries Al Ariss & Seyed (2011)
to developed ones for work.

Employees who are appointed to

Short-term assignees an international post for usually Mayerhofer et al. (2004)
less than one year.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 23

Employees who travel for brief
assignments, away from their
Flexpatriates Mayerhofer et al. (2004)
home base and across cultural or
national borders.
Employees who make frequent
International business
international business trips for Westman (2004)
short periods of time.
Geographically dispersed team
members who work on
Global virtual team interdependent tasks and
Maznewski et al. (2006)
members communicate mainly through
information and communication
technologies (ICTs).
Changes in the individual that
Cultural adaptation facilitate his or her adaptation to Caligiuri (2000b)
the new environment.
A spouses unwillingness to quit
Dual-career perspective Ntshona (2007)
his or her own career.
A standardised evaluation of
behaviour with multiple tests and
Assessment centres
exercises, used for different Edenborough (2005)
purposes, including employee

Take Home Messages

We need to conduct an in-depth job analysis when planning the recruitment and selection

in the international context in order to determine what category of international employee

should we target (e.g. PCN, TCN, HCN, short-term assignee, etc.) and what competencies

he/she needs to possess to perform well in the post.

Recruitment and selection of international employees should be done by HR professionals

who have extensive knowledge of both headquarters (e.g., organizational culture) and host

country culture and regulations (e.g., employment legislation).

Different competencies and social and personal skills that facilitate the individuals

adjustment to the host country should be considered when selecting for international posts.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 24

MNCs should develop programmes and practices that help international employees and

their families adapt to new cultural environment such as providing socialization

programmes, HCN mentoring, relocation allowances, etc.

A failure to select and recruit adequate employees for the international posts could imply a

significant financial loss as well as unfulfillment of MNCs strategic goals (e.g., reduced

productivity, lost business deals).

Closing the Loop

1. What are the key features that characterise international recruitment and selection?

2. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of different categories of

international employees?

3. Explain the four-stage process model of international recruitment and selection.

4. Discuss different selection criteria that determine employee success in an international


5. How can the success of international recruitment and selection be evaluated?

6. Critically discuss the consequences of getting international recruitment and selection


IHRM in Practice

1. Mercer, world economic forum explore global talent mobility practices that drive

economic growth:

2. McKinsey, How multinationals can attract the talent they need:


3. Coca-cola, How the company develops its external branding:

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 25

4. Hudson, an example of the HR consultancy conducting international recruitment and



Activity 1 Small group discussion: Conducting an interview for international post

Break up into small groups and prepare a set of interview questions for the following

international post:

Mercator Group is looking for a board member in subsidiary in Bulgaria. The responsibilities

of board member in Bulgarian subsidiary include:

- Supervision of marketing, category management and operations departments. Works

closely with departments head, provides strategic guidelines and leadership.

- Implementation and local adaptation of policies for marketing, category management

and operations from headquarter.

- Liable for business development and growth in Bulgaria.

- Actively participates in annual evaluation and planning activities.

- Establishes both short and long term business goals.

- Works closely with departments in the headquarters in order to ensure suitable

management for different projects.

- Works closely with other Mercator Groups markets.

- Business trips to headquarters in Slovenia and other markets, where Mercator operates.

- Regularly attends board meetings.

Here is a summary of the candidates profile for this position:

Ivan Vasiljev, 37 years, MBA from the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Economics.

Altogether he has 12 years of working experience. During the last 6 years he has been

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 26

working as an international assignee in the fast moving consumer goods sector. His company

is a large multinational company. He spent 4 years in Hong Kong, China and 2 years in

Singapore working for this company. As a head of sales he was responsible for business

development. Before that he had spent 2 years in another multinational company. He had

worked as a country manager in Slovenia. His company was a supplier of non-food products

for all significant retail companies in Slovenia. The first 4 years he had worked in Slovenian

retail company. He started as a merchandiser, continued as category management and

progresses to a position of non-food category director. Today he is married and has 2

daughters. His hobbies are golf, skiing and tennis. He is fluent in English and Croatian, he

also knows some basic Chinese.

How would you conduct an interview with this candidate? Develop a set of suitable questions

for the international post above.

Activity 2 Small group discussion: Developing a Recruitment plan

Mercator Group will enter a new market (Romania) and will open a shopping mall in

Bucharest. You are working in the Mercators HR department and your task is to prepare a

recruitment plan. You need several profiles. In the first stage you need to build an initial team

for new subsidiary: local director of subsidiary in Romania, 3 category managers, 1

marketing manager, 2 accountants, 1 IT associate and 1 secretary. In the second stage you

need 1 shopping mall head, 6 line managers and 75 sales staff. Mercator Group has a strong

employer brand in all existing markets, but Romania is a special challenge, because it is not

known there.

How would you approach to recruitment? Discuss and develop an action plan in small

groups. Provide strong arguments to support it!

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 27

Longer media article with requisite questions

Read the article on Special Report: Travelling more lightly - Staffing globalisation. (2006

Jun 24). The Economist, accessible at and reply

to the following questions:

1. Which categories of international employees are discussed in the article?

2. Why are traditional profiles of expatriates (e.g., male and Western) being

continuously more replaced by other more diverse profiles of individuals?

3. What are the challenges of handing over the responsibilities from international to

local employees?

4. Is the opportunity to work abroad always an advantage? Illustrate your arguments

with examples from the article.

Case study: Mercator group

Mercator Group ( is one of the largest retail chains in South-

Eastern Europe. It is focused on fast-moving consumer goods, home products and technical

devices. Their retail network includes shopping malls, hypermarkets, supermarkets and

convenience stores operating in seven markets: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,

Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Bulgaria. They also own several distinguished private

labels. Mercator Groups international development is embedded in the following

fundamental strategic goals (Mercator Groups Annual Report, 2011):

1. Strategic goals in the domestic market (Slovenia):

- To retain the position of the leading fast-moving consumer goods retailer

- To consolidate the position of the second-largest retailer of home products

- To develop supplementary trade services related to their customer loyalty


Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 28

2. Strategic goals in existing foreign markets (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,


- To consolidate or attain the position of the second-largest fast-moving

consumer goods retailer

- To rank among the top three retailers of home products

- To develop supplementary trade services related to their customer loyalty


3. Strategic goals in new foreign markets (Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo):

- To rank among the top five retailers of fast-moving consumer goods

Today, Mercator Group employs more than 24,000 people. Its IHRM strategy has

developed in accordance with the companys international development. In the early phases

of internationalisation there were only few international posts. The first subsidiaries were

established in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1998-2003 period. In the

beginning those were small companies, starting with opening one shopping mall. Usually

they have two international posts per subsidiary, namely one procurator for marketing,

category management and operations and one procurator for finances, investments and HRM.

Headquarters in the domestic market recruited and selected international assignees from an

internal talent pool, rarely from the external labour market. The HRM department in

headquarters also played a significant role in the recruitment and selection of local employees

in subsidiaries, including a management team and shop attendants.

As the international operations of the company grew, its approach to international

recruitment and selection gradually changed. Subsidiaries established their own HR

departments, and they now perform recruitment and selection locally. The HR department in

the headquarters cooperates only in selection for key management positions. The number of

international posts expanded, and these are not limited to internal talent from headquarters

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 29

only anymore. International assignees are selected from the companys entire talent pool. The

HR department at headquarters still selects them, but local HR departments perform the

recruitment and pre-selection. Thus, local HR departments play a key role in the recruitment

and selection of local employees, as well as in international recruitment and selection.




15.000 1.904










1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

Domesticmarket Internationalmarkets

Figure 2. Number of employees in Mercator Group. Source:


Why does Mercators international HRM strategy emphasise local integration in their


What was the philosophy toward international recruitment and selection in the early

phases of internationalisation? What is their philosophy today?

What are possible advantages and disadvantages of adopting a geocentric approach

toward international recruitment and selection in Mercator? Which approach would

you recommend? Provide arguments to support your opinion.

Further reading

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 30

Dineen, B. R., & Williamson, I. O. (2012). Screening-oriented recruitment messages:

Antecedents and relationships with applicant pool quality. Human Resource Management,

51, 343 360.

Hechanova, R., Beehr, T. A., & Christiansen, N. D. (2003). Antecedents and consequences

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Psychology: An International Review, 52, 213-236.

Takeuchi, R., Wang, M., Marinova, S. V., & Yao, X. (2009). The role of domain-specific

perceived organizational support during expatriation and their implications for

performance. Organization Science, 20, 621-634.

Tharenou, P. (2010). Womens self-initiated expatriation as a career option and its ethical

issues. Journal of Business Ethics, 95, 73-88.

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 31

Table 1. A summary of main advantages and disadvantages of using different categories of international employees

International employees Advantages Disadvantages

Deeper understanding of the company's Difficulties in adapting to the host country
Ethnocentric approach

goals, practices and procedures environment

Facilitation of communication between High costs involved with maintaining PCNs and
Parent country nationals PCNs the headquarters and subsidiary their families in host countries
Specialised skills and knowledge Limited job and career opportunities for the
needed to achieve the MNCs HCNs (local communities might not accept the
objectives subsidiaries if they only employ PCNs)

Deeper understanding of the local Difficulties in communication with headquarters

practices, policies and wider culture

Host country nationals HCNs Facilitation of job opportunities for Reduced control of the headquarters over the
local workforce subsidiaries operation
Reduced costs compared to hiring Limited opportunities for PCNs to gain
PCNs or TCNs international experience
Deeper understanding of the local Host country governments might resent hiring
regiocentric approach

culture compared to PCNs TCNs


Hiring highly qualified employees Limited job and career opportunities for HCNs
Third country nationals TCNs
TCNs are frequently career managers
Reduced costs compared to hiring Superficial understanding of the company's
PCNs, also less expensive to maintain goals, practices and procedures
them and their families abroad

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 32

Table 1. Continued

International employee Advantages Disadvantages

Highly motivated individuals eager to Lack of work experience SIEs are frequently
get international exposure young individuals or recent graduates
Lower satisfaction if the motivation to expatriate
Limited family and financial concerns
Self-initiated expatriates SIEs is a poor labour market in the home country
Better cultural adjustment SIEs Poorer work adjustment less support at work,
frequently relocate for personal reasons, especially when SIEs work in traditional versus
such as travelling and adventure international companies
Skilled migrants SMs Highly educated and skilled individuals Strict immigration legislation might prevent
migration of skilled individuals
Source: Own elaboration based on Al Ariss and Seyed (2011), Reiche and Harzing (2011), Dowling et al. (2008) and Froese (2012)

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 33

Table 2. Alternative contemporary forms of international employees

Tasks Advantages Disadvantages
Developing a specific task or
Cost-effectiveness Separation stress
Short-term Skill/technology transfer
Global boundary Lack of integration
assignee Problem-solving
spanner with HCNs
stress (health issues,
Visiting foreign markets work-family
and/or clients conflict)
Flexpatriates Global boundary
Team supervising Time zone
Skill/technical transfer differences (jet lag)
Global perspective
Problem-solving Lack of social
integration at home
and host locations
Visiting foreign markets Global boundary
and/or clients spanner
International Time zone
Supervising units and/or Relationship
business differences
projects maintenance with
travellers Host country
Negotiation home-country
relationships limited
Meeting conferences colleagues
to work colleagues

Global virtual Cost-effectiveness Extended work

team Flexibility of schedule Global boundary schedule
members spanner Work-family conflict
Source: Own elaboration based on Shaffer et al. (2012), Mayerhofer et al. (2004) and
Maznewski et al. (2006)

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 34

Table 3. A competence profile for international recruitment and selection manager

International HRM theory
Recruitment and selection theory
Core business of MNC
Comparative management
Cross-cultural and cross-functional cooperation skills
Verbal communication skills
Nonverbal communication skills
Fluent in MNCs official language
System thinking
Observation skills
Positive toward diversity
Positive toward MNC
Comfortable with changes
Reconciliation of viewpoints
Emotional intelligence
Verbal reasoning
Analytical reasoning
Personality traits
Emotional stability
Other characteristics
Interest in people from different cultures
Motivation for working in an international environment
Committed to teamwork
Free from prejudices

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 35

Table 3. Cont.

International internal and external employer branding
Cross-cultural integration of workforce planning
Cross-cultural internal and external selection system design
Local adaptation of recruitment and selection methods
International networking
Cross-cultural collaboration with local HR departments and local managers
Coordination and monitoring of international recruitment and selection
International and local job market mapping
Cross-department cooperation for employer brand development and maintenance
International assignments planning
Conducting interviews with international candidates
Assessment of international candidates
Evaluation of international work experiences, education and competencies
Managing the mobility of international assignees
Balancing between global standardisation and local adaptation of recruitment and selection
Source: Own elaboration, based and adapted from Roes (2002) model

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 36

Job analysis to
determine the tasks P-O fit, socialisation,
and required KSAOs contextual factors,
in the international work-family conflict

Stage 1:
Stage 4:
competencies Stage 2: Stage 3: Evaluation of
of HR the success of
professionals International International international
for recruitment selection recruitment
international and selection
and selection

Figure 1. Process model of international recruitment and selection

Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 37


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Chapter 4: Recruitment and Selection in the International Context 44

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