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INTERVIEW With "About.Com Guide to International Job Searching"

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Full Interview by Mary Schumacher with ART's Vice President - International Recruitment

Atlantic Research Technologies, L.L.C. (ART),, is a global executive search firm, recruiting in the industrial, high tech and service sectors, for senior- and middle-management positions in general management, sales and marketing, finance, supply chain, manufacturing, IT, and human resources.


1. I understand that ART focuses its recruitment on experienced managers and executives. Given this focus, which industries in general are most likely to require international positions? What positions do you typically recruit for?

We work in most high tech, industrial and service industries, and the people we recruit are those who could run these companies or departments and overseas branches of these companies. So for an international posting, we might be asked to find a Managing Director, a Chief Financial Officer,  a VP of Sales or Marketing, a Supply Chain executive, an Operations head or an Electronic Commerce guru....


2. What type of companies hire a recruitment firm to fill an overseas position? Are they generally large or do they include small businesses (maximum of 500 employees and/or $5 million in average annual receipts)?

Our clients include the largest multinationals, some of the fastest growing medium sized firms, as well as state-of-the-art startups.  To give you an idea of some cases that we're handling right at this moment, we are advising a $1 billion electronics components firm that needs to solidify its manufacturing and supply chain bases in the Americas, Asia, and Europe; we're helping a leading medium-sized Korean e-commerce firm find a CEO for a US Internet operation; we're assisting a Swiss startup in the IT services field find a European VP of Sales; we're working for an Israeli software startup that needs VP's in Britain, the US, Canada and Israel; we're recruiting wireless marketing executives in Taiwan for a Hong Kong headquarted wireless Internet startup; a British software firm needs a Country Sales Manager in Korea; a Canadian market research firm needs a General Manager in São Paulo; an American industrial company needs a German-speaking Managing Director....


3. What personal characteristics do you look for when you recruit for an international position? What kind of person is best suited for overseas work?

We strongly prefer candidates who are fluent or near fluent in the national language of the target country. We do not want there to be a significant information gap between the employee and that person's colleagues, customers or vendors in that country.  We have found that the people who are best suited for international work are people who are outward-looking, empathetic and good listeners. They must be willing to immerse themselves into the country and its people. Prior travel to the country or familiarity with the country is preferred.  The candidates whom we think do well overseas are those whose career paths would best be suited by an overseas assignment. Any foreign posting is a bit unnerving, but if a person feels that he or she will be learning something valuable, that person might be a more dedicated and valuable employee.


4. What turns you off about a candidate for an international position?

Our firm is absolutely not interested in candidates who want to go overseas because they are trying to "get away." There is an old type of expat who doesn't get along with people in his or her own country, but who hears that the pay is higher overseas and fewer questions are asked about resume gaps or past work habits. In my opinion, these types cause more damage than good. Sadly, they are often posted as plant managers in foreign countries, and their poor management skills and bad attitudes often end up as disasters for their employers and staff.

There is another type that assumes that because he or she is American, Canadian, British, Australian, German, etc., then he or she somehow is more knowledgeable or more qualified than comparable workers in foreign countries.  To take one example:  Asia and Europe are far ahead of the U.S. in the application of wireless technologies. U.S. candidates would have a lot to learn from their colleagues in those countries, and they should consider themselves lucky if they were chosen to be posted with top firms in that industry.

Our firm recruits top candidates in over 100 countries, and we have found people in all these countries to work at the same level or better than their expat colleagues. It is therefore important for the expat worker to remember that their value overseas is not that they are better than local candidates, but that perhaps they might have a skill or personal attribute that their employer finds valuable. This has nothing to do with one's passport.


5. Have you ever recruited a person to work abroad, who then left that position shortly afterward? What do you do to try to avoid this situation? What are the primary factors that recruits don't succeed overseas?

We have never had a candidate take a job abroad and then leave shortly afterward. The most important thing that we try to do is to see that the real job requirements and company business culture (and country business culture) match those of the candidate. In our contracts with our client-companies we require them to state any known or expected negatives to us and to our candidates before the candidates take their jobs. As in any job anywhere, it is always important for candidates to take basic things into account as well. The climate might not be desirable. How many people relocated to Minnesota or Arizona in the "mild" season feel like they are in hell during the "rough" season? Some Americans might find the dark, cold, rainy skies of Europe depressing or the humid summers of Hong Kong intolerable. The needs of spouses and children must also be considered, because if they are not happy in the foreign country (or separated from the candidate), the situation might become too stressful.


6. Do you have any additional advice for a person seeking an overseas position?

Make sure that you meet your immediate boss and staff prior to accepting a new posting. There are many people around the world who are given a ticket and get on a plane to a foreign country with their bags packed, only to find that their new situation is unexpected. Make sure that you understand what is expected of you and make sure that you can communicate effectively with your boss and staff. Treat the overseas assignment the way that you would treat any other job: ask a lot of questions and do not take the job unless their answers are satisfactory.


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