Multinational Corporations (MNCs) use a number of selection procedures. The two most common are tests and interviews. Some international firms use one; a smaller percentage employ both. Theoretical models containing the variables that are important for adjusting to an oversea assignment have been developed. These adjustment models can help contribute to more effective selection of expatriates. The following sections examine traditional testing and interviewing procedures, then present an adjustment model.
Testing and Interviewing Procedures
Some evidence suggests that although some firms use testing, it is not extremely popular. For example, an early study found that almost 80 percent of the 127 foreign operations managers who were surveyed reported that their companies used no tests in the selection process. This contrasts with the more widespread testing that these firms use when selecting domestic managers. Many Multinational Corporations report that the costs, questionable accuracy, and poor predictive record make testing of limited value.
Many firms do use interviews to screen people for overseas assignments. One expert notes: ― It is generally agreed that extensive interviews of candidates (and their spouses) by senior executives still ultimately provide the best method of selection. For example, 52 percent of the U.S. MNCs she surveyed reported that in the case of managerial candidates, MNCs conducted interviews with both the manager and his or her spouse, and 47 percent conducted interviews with the candidate alone. For technically oriented positions, 40 percent of the firms interviewed both the candidate and the spouse, and 59 percent conducted interviews with the candidate alone. The
In recent years, international human resource management specialists have developed models that help to explain the factors involved in effectively adjusting to overseas assignments. These adjustment models help to identify the underpinnings of the effective selection of expatriates.
There are two major types of adjustments that an expatriate must make when going on an overseas assignment. One is the anticipatory adjustment. This is carried out before the expat leaves for the assignment. The other is the in-country adjustment, which takes place on site.
The anticipatory adjustment is influenced by a number of important factors. One factor is the pre-departure training that is provided. This often takes the form of cross-cultural seminars or workshops, and it is designed to acquaint expats with the culture and work life of the country to which they will be posted. Another factor affecting anticipatory adjustment is the previous experience the expat may have had with the assigned country or with countries with similar cultures. These two factors, training and previous experience, help to determine the accuracy of the expatriate’s expectations.
The organizational input into anticipatory adjustment is most directly related and concerned with the selection process. Traditionally, MNCs relied on only one important selection criterion for overseas assignments: technical competence. Obviously, technical competence is important, but it is only one of a number of skills that will be needed. If the Multinational Corporation concentrates only on technical competence as a selection criterion, then it is not properly preparing the expatriate managers for successful adjustment in overseas assignments. Expats are going to go abroad believing that they are prepared to deal with the challenges awaiting them, and they will be wrong.
Once the expatriate is on site, a number of factors will influence his or her ability to adjust effectively. One factor is the expatriate’s ability to maintain a positive outlook in the face of a high-pressure situation, to interact well with host nationals, and to perceive and evaluate the host country’s cultural values and norms correctly. A second factor is the job itself, as reflected by the clarity of the role the expat plays in the host management team, authority the expat has to make decisions, the newness of the work-related challenges, and the amount of role conflict that exists. A third factor is the organizational culture and how easily the expat can adjust to it. A fourth is non-work matters, such as the toughness with which the expatriate faces a whole new cultural experience and how well his or her family can adjust to the rigors of the new assignment. A fifth and final factor identified in the adjustment model is the expatriate’s ability to develop effective socialization tactics and to understand “what’s what” and “who’s who” in the host organization.
These anticipatory and in-country factors will influence the expatriate’s mode and degree of adjustment to an overseas assignment. They can help to explain why effective selection of expatriates is multifaceted and can be very difficult and challenging; But if all works out well, the individual can become a very important part of the organization’s overseas operations.