Expatriates are employees supported by their organizations to move and work abroad (Doherty & Dickmann, 2013). The most common recruiting source of expatriates has historically been for a company to identify high-performing and high-potential employees from within their domestic or foreign operations to whom to give international assignments. When a company reassigns employees to locations in other countries these are called company-initiated or assigned expatriates (Scullion & Collings, 2006). Research on company-initiated expatriate recruitment has focused on assessing and developing high- potential employees’ ability to perform successfully in a global environment (Collings, Scullion & Morley, 2007). Collings and Mellahi (2009) appropriately note the talent required to operate successfully in other countries exists and should be recognized as an important resource at lower levels as well as at the upper echelons of the organization. To date, however, research on company-initiated expatriates has primarily focused on higher-level positions.
Most work on expatriate assignments has focused on selection processes and outcomes rather than recruitment. However, research on expatriates shows that self-selection works in terms of enhancing expatriate success (Caligiuri & Phillips, 2003; Caligiuri, Tarique & Jacobs, 2009). Accordingly, selection and recruitment processes for expatriates may be intertwined and thus may require stages. First, an organization must identify potentially effective expatriates. Second, the organization must recruit the identified high-potential employees to consider the expatriate assignment. Third, the organization can present realistic job previews to allow the self-selection process to unfold (Caligiuri & Phillips, 2003; Phillips, 1998). Finally, the organization can assist in transition to the new location and assess expatriate assignment effectiveness, as well as enhance and assess repatriation adjustment outcomes (Cerdin & Brewster, 2014). Research has demonstrated that international assignees who are more extroverted, emotionally stable, conscientious, agreeable, more receptive and flexible to learning about new cultures and interacting with host nationals are more likely to be successful (Caligiuri, Tarique & Jacobs, 2009). Recruitment efforts thus should focus on enhancing the presence of these and related competences or personality characteristics in the talent pool. However, other than self-selection, there is limited research on how to attract such talent.
Research on calculating the return on investment (ROI) of expatriate assignments has identified a common difficulty; a failure to plan for the measurement of expatriate performance and its contribution to unit or organizational performance (Scullion & Collin- gs, 2006). Also, a lack of reliable data allowing for accurate ROI calculations has impeded assessment of expatriate recruiting effectiveness (Collings, 2014). The inability to calculate the ROI of such assignments extends to recruitment efforts as well. Research has also investigated the systems organizations use to recruit assigned expatriates. Managers exhibit variability in their willingness to send employees on global assignments. Managers who are higher in the organizational hierarchy and managers who have had international or global experiences are more likely to assign a global role to others (Benson, Perez-Nordtvedt & Datta, 2009). These findings suggest that managerial recruiting practice may vary based on such factors, but to our knowledge research has not explored the determinants of managerial recruitment practices.
Research on internal recruiting has also tried to identify the best internal sourcing or talent identification systems and processes. As McDonnell, Lamare, Gunnigle and Lavelle (2010) note, however, although some multinational employers have formal systems in place to strategically identify and develop their talent, an ad hoc or haphazard approach is much more common. McDonnell and colleagues (2010) found that less than half of all multinational enterprises (MNEs) had both global succession planning and formal management development programmes for their high-potentials. It is likely that talent identification and recruitment processes vary across subsidiaries and by region for MNEs, but much work is needed to understand how and why this might happen, if it happens, and the potential impact on talent flow. This is clearly an area for future research to help inform HR practice as it provides the foundation for internal talent identification and recruitment for international assignments.