What a successful expatriate looks like

A new study predicts the type of person that's most likely to succeed in expatriate roles

A new report which identifies the personal characteristics of successful expatriates has been published by assessment specialist cut-e.

The idea is to help multinational employers choose the right people for international assignments.

The report follows a research study involving 35 organisations including expatriates as well as their managers, peers and subordinates in their home and overseas countries.

Feedback was collected on each expat’s performance, their personal success, their communication ability and how well they integrated into the local culture.  

“Sending employees to live and work abroad involves a significant expense, so organisations have to look beyond the technical skills of candidates and ensure that they’re choosing the right people for the right reasons,” said Dr Katharina Lochner, cut-e’s research director.

“Our research identifies what it takes to succeed as an expatriate. We’ve also created a model which can predict whether someone will adapt well to a new culture, perform as expected, cope with the personal and professional challenges, manage their own stress level and be satisfied working abroad.”

The report found the key characteristics for success as an expatriate are: emotional stability; openness to change; cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity; an ability to adjust to different customs, perspectives and business practices; strong interpersonal skills; flexibility; resilience; respect for diverse viewpoints; a high level of autonomy and a sense of humour.

“Our study reveals that top performing expatriates have a specific profile,” said Dr Lochner.

“They understand that pressure can be a strong motivator, so they’re prepared to put time and effort into challenging tasks, and they’re not overly concerned with the aesthetic aspects of their workplace, which probably helps them to adapt more easily to a new environment.

They also feel empowered to organise their own work and take initiative when appropriate.”

Dr Lochner added that a personality questionnaire that covers individual, job-related values, motives and interests will help you to select those who are most likely to perform well in an international posting.

“By carefully selecting the right candidates for expatriate assignments, you can ensure that the expectations of both the individual and the organisation are met, and that both parties benefit from the opportunity,” he said.


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