In my work with Accreate over 90% of the search assignments I carry out for my clients involve an international element.
Our clients’ international requirements can be categorised into two basic categories:
1. The company needs a leadership skill set not available in the local market
2. The company needs to place a senior executive overseas
Both challenges bring with them their own set of considerations and it is my role to guide the client through these questions that generally don’t apply in a “local to local” appointment.
Let’s look at the first example. For illustrative purposes I am going to take the example of moving a senior executive from overseas to Ireland (although Accreate often also moves executives say from a leadership position in New York to one in London).
Increasingly, with high growth in certain industries, and more particularly in certain skills, there is an unbalance of supply and demand for limited resources within the Irish market. For example, Chief Digital Officers or CIOs of large scale, customer centric businesses can be difficult to source in Ireland.
With these kind of executive searches we follow our usual rigorous process of market mapping, candidate identification, assessment, and selection. In addition to identifying candidates with the required technical and business skills it is essential that, on behalf of our clients, we offset any potential “risks” by also looking at what is essential in the right candidates specifically in a career move involving an international relocation.
With our considerable experience in placing senior executives overseas we at Accreate know that the key candidate traits to look for in an executive that can excel internationally are:
1. Cultural adaptability: Does the candidate believe that all good things are generated from the country where they grew up? How does the candidate deal with stakeholders that may solve problems in a very different manner than they would?
2. Flexibility: Has this individual been open to transitional moves in their career? For example, are they someone from an accounting background in their early career that is now not the CFO but the COO or Chief Revenue Officer? Even if this career transition has not involved an international move it reflects the “broad mindedness” required to make their success more likely in an overseas environment
3. Curiosity: The executive who will succeed abroad is a naturally curious individual. Simply put:
Accreate asks: “So how do you feel about moving to Dublin?”
Candidate 1 answers: “Yes it should be great. They speak English there and I know I can get all the same foods in the supermarket as back home” = (alarm bells)
Candidate 2 answers: “I think it will be good. I have always wondered how those Gaelic football rules work / I’d love to try windsurfing on the Atlantic in Winter / Yes my husband plays the banjo, he’s all for the move / my wife did a yoga retreat in the Burren and loved it! = (strangely – this will probably work out well!)
Above all, the candidate’s personal support structure must remain intact. It is vital that we confirm from our very earliest interaction with candidates that their family / partners are on board for a move as well. Even when the candidate themselves are really keen on the new executive position, if their family is not on board we believe it would be a mistake to make the hire in this instance. Meeting personal needs and a secure support system are essential to the leader’s professional success. We would go so far as to recommend including the executive’s partner in discussions over dinner during the selection process to more thoroughly explore the broader implications of a relocation for the family unit.
In summary, adding an international move into the equation of on-boarding the best senior leadership to our client’s team is at once a challenge as well as an exciting dimension for both Accreate and the candidates with whom we engage.