international managers and are involved in the subsequent selection
Case 5.1 International headhunting
Peculiarities occur in the selection process when external service providers are assigned to undertake the search for international managers and are involved in the subsequent selection. Whereas in the scientific literature there are hardly any discussions or ideas presented addressing this topic, in practice headhunting is a commonly used method to fill international positions. According to Hewitt’s HR Outsourcing Survey, which includes more than 100 US companies, these companies pursue four central aims with the transfer of most (national and international) HR activities to external service providers. Accordingly, most of the companies surveyed (65 per cent) indicated they want to reduce costs by outsourcing activities. Furthermore, access to external expertise is attractive to many companies, as well as improved service quality and the possibility to more intensively direct internal resources to strategic HRM. With reference to outsourcing IHRM, the survey reveals that 43 per cent of the companies revert to the expertise of external service providers for expatriate management matters and 56 per cent in repatriation issues; 3 to 4 per cent of the companies even plan to outsource these areas in the near future. Concerning recruiting, 10 per cent of the companies surveyed indicated that they already assigned their recruiting to external service providers; an additional 6 per cent definitely plan to outsource their recruiting. As there are no explicit figures available, one can only speculate how many firms make use of outsourcing for their international employee selection as well. However, the specialization of numerous headhunting agencies and management consultancies in the area of IHRM and executive search for international managers indicates a high demand in these areas.
An example is the management consultancy ABC Asian Business Consultants from South Korea. Not only does it support companies from different branches in the search and selection of qualified managers, it also assists firms in organizing international management training or international career planning. Currently, seven employees and 15 trainers work on international projects at the company’s offices in Korea, China, India, and Germany. Every year, about 15 employee-selection projects are completed by ABC Asian Business Consul- tants. Headhunting selection criteria and job profiles are adjusted to the needs of the recruiting company and the requirements of the vacant position. Due to the high degree of candidates’ qualifications and confidentiality of information, the selection process is very complex. First of all, potential candidates must be identified and personally contacted. Alternative forms of HR Marketing (for example, activities involving Internet-based plat- forms or social networks) are not used because of the need for confidentiality. Often, a cover story is used to identify qualified candidates, seek further information and evaluate interest. Before the first contact between the candidate and the recruiting company takes place, the candidate’s curriculum vitae is evaluated, followed by two interviews with representatives of ABC Asian Business Consultants. Interviews via software programs such as ICQ, Skype or Windows Live Messenger may be used occasionally to bridge long distances and to conduct the interviews without national or international relocation. Based on the protocols of the interviews and the application forms, a short report on every candidate is compiled and a shortlist of the most qualified candi- dates is presented to the recruiting company. Ultimately, final interviews with the candidates are conducted by employees of the recruiting company, before a final decision on the filling of the international position is reached. The whole selection process may cover a period of several months. Occasionally, international assessment centers are organized using different methods such as individual presentations, role play, or presentations to the board of directors.
Based on his past experience, Dr Ulrich Hann, owner and Chief Executive Officer of ABC Asian Business Consultants, can identify cultural differences and differences in the qualifications of candidates from diverse inter- national backgrounds. Differences depending on the respective nationality appear, for example, in the personal contact during the selection interviews. There are also differences regarding the professional qualifications and skills of candidates. Many Indian candidates have a very high level of qualifications in natural sciences, while there is a strong demand for German candidates with a degree in mechanical engineering.
There are particular challenges for HR consultants in a dynamic international environment. Dr Hann notes: “Similar to the requirements for the candidates, the requirements and criteria for a qualified HR consultant in the international business environment are also high”. Notably, multilingualism is important to understand the needs of the customers and those of the candidates. In addition to a professional qualification, entrepreneurial thinking as well as international work experience are essential requirements to find a position in a recruiting company as an external service provider for IHR.