Selection for International Assignments

The selection process for an international assignment should provide a realistic picture of the life, work, and culture to which the employee may be sent. HR managers should prepare a comprehensive description of the job to be done. This description especially should note responsibilities that would be unusual in the home nation, including negotiating with public officials; interpreting local work codes; and responding to ethical, moral, and personal issues such as religious prohibitions and personal freedoms. Figure shows the most frequently cited key competencies for expatriates. Most of these competencies can be categorized as either cultural adaptability or communication skills. The following discussion examines those ideas.


One of the most basic skills needed by expatriate employees is the ability to communicate orally and in writing in the host-country language. Inability to communicate adequately in the language may significantly inhibit the success of an expatriate. Numerous firms with international
operations select individuals based on their technical and managerial capabilities and then have the selected individuals take foreign language training. Intensive 10-day courses offered by Berlitz and other schools teach basic foreign language skills.

But in any language there is more to communication than simply vocabulary. Greetings, gestures, pace, and proximity all are different in various countries. Basic values about other people and interacting with them are at least as important as speaking the language.

The preferences and attitudes of spouses and other family members also are major staffing considerations. Two of the most common reasons for turning down international assignments are family considerations and spouses’ careers. Nearly three-fourths of expatriates are married, and most are male. Of the expatriates who are married, only about 13% are not accompanied on overseas assignments by their spouse.

With the growth in dual-career couples, the difficulty of transferring international employees is likely to increase, particularly given  work-permit restrictions common in many countries. Some international firms have begun career services to assist spouses in getting jobs with other international firms.


The assignment of women and members of racial/ethnic minorities to international posts involves legal issues, because these individuals may be protected by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) regulations. Many U.S. firms operating internationally have limited assignments of women and other protected-class individuals in deference to cultural concerns. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 extended coverage of EEO laws and regulations to U.S. citizens working internationally for U.S.- controlled companies. However, the act states that if laws in a foreign country require actions that conflict with U.S. EEO laws, the foreign laws will apply. If no laws exist, only customs or cultural considerations, then the U.S. EEO laws will apply.

In a related area, some foreign firms in the United States, particularly those owned by Japan, have “reserved” top-level positions for those from the home  country. Consequently, EEO charges have been brought against these firms. Previous court decisions have ruled that because of a treaty between Japan and the United States, Japanese subsidiaries can give preference to Japanese over U.S. citizens.

However, it should be noted that most other EEO regulations and laws do apply to foreign-owned firms. In a closely related area, women have brought sexual harassment charges against foreign managers, and other protected-class individuals have brought EEO charges for refusal to hire or promote them.34 In those cases, courts have treated the foreign-owned firms just as they would U.S.-owned employers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires larger employers to file an EEO-1 report each year, which provides a breakdown of the employer's work force by race, sex, and national origin. Employers with fewer than 100 employees and federal contractors with fewer than 50 employees and contracts under $50,000 are exempt from this requirement.

Facts [+] United kingdom

90 percent British firms have no women bosses

LONDON: Around 90 percent of Britain's top companies have no women bosses, according to a parliament report.

A parliament written answer obtained by former Treasury spokesman Matthew Oakeshott said there was no woman executive director in 310 of the top 350 companies in the country, The Sun reported.

Only 43 women are working in other senior roles.

Oakeshott, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, said: "Britain's big businesses are an old boys' club."
16 Jan, 2012, The Economic Times