Multinational Assignments: recruitment and selection issues

By John Dudovskiy

Multinational AssignmentsThe core of HRM is to attract, develop and maintain an effective workforce within an organisation. Attracting an effective workforce includes HR planning, job analysis, forecasting, recruiting and selection. Developing that workforce includes the training, appraisal and career development. Maintaining the workforce includes such matters as financial rewards, non financial benefits, labour relations and termination formalities.

It is proposed to transfer at least one important HR function to the proposed subsidiary. Since the most important and one of the difficult HR functions is the staffing of an overseas subsidiary, it is intended to transfer this function to the new organisation. This includes selecting, placing and locating employees in the new organisation. It is necessary to select a blend of workforce including managers, who possess the appropriate levels of technical, human and conceptual skills as required in their respective roles so it is ideal to transfer this responsibility to the new organisation who knows best the local conditions.

When staffing multinational assignments cost is a major implication that needs to be seriously considered especially when need arises to establish a professional manager in another country.

Multinational organisations can be staffed in a number of ways. In addition, staffing of a overseas subsidiary is done with citizens of different countries, different tax laws, regulations, customs and other factors. International employees can be categorised into three types, namely expatriates, host-country nationals and third-country nationals. The latter category is where the parent company is in say, country A, the subsidiary company in country B but the employee concerned is from some other country say country C.

In deciding as to how to staff the multinational organisation, the local HR manager should consider the nature, purpose as well as the length of the assignment. According to Mathis & Jackson (2005), multinational assignments requiring multicultural capabilities may basically fall into four categories.

  • Technical assignments, where a worker is assigned to do limited jobs and return, therefore needs limited cultural skills
  • Functional assignments where individuals go for extended tasks and return upon completion of the task assigned, obviously in this case, a comparatively higher understanding of intercultural skills are needed.
  • Developmental assignments where individuals are sent to develop and broaden their understanding of multinational operations and the intercultural understanding  and skills are extremely important.
  • Strategic assignments where individuals are sent to perform critical strategic jobs requiring extended efforts and intercultural understanding and skills are critical to success.

The importance of intercultural skills and capabilities increases as overseas assignments progress from technical to strategic. The higher the level of responsibility and longer the assignment, the more intercultural capabilities are needed.


Recruitment & Selection for Multinational assignments

Given below is a reasonable explanation as to why it is more appropriate to transfer the selection and recruitment function to the HR management of the new company.

The approach and understanding required in the recruitment of employees for multinational assignments is different from the usual recruiting efforts required in the home country environment. It is necessary to consider cultural differences, regulations, and language considerations. With internet technology, recruiting for multinational assignments has become much easy, as there is wide access to international labour markets particularly in the case of candidates for professional management assignments.

The selection process for international assignments should provide a true picture of life, work and culture to which selected employees may be assigned. The process starts by preparing a comprehensive description of the job to be done. It will earmark responsibilities of the proposed assignment that would be quite unusual in the home nation.  There may also be negotiations with public officials interpreting local work codes and responding to ethical, moral and personal issues.

Mathis & Jackson (2005) has identified following selection factors for multinational employees.

  • Personal characteristics
  • Communication skills
  • Organisational requirements
  • Cultural Adjustments
  • Personal/Family Factors

Personal characteristics  includes such attributes as flexibility and risk taking ability, emotional stability, ability to tolerate ambiguous situations and ability to cope stress. It is best to leave the responsibility to select candidates (among local and overseas) to the local HR management.

Communication skills include language capabilities, nonverbal awareness, coaching and listening skills and ability to resolve conflicts. Here too the local HR function is in the best position to make a realistic assessment of the potential candidates

Organisational requirements include organisational knowledge, technical abilities and job-related skills. This may be undertaken by the local HR function but  under the total guidance and participation of the HR function of the parent company.

Cultural adjustments include cultural awareness, cultural adaptability, ability to accept diversity and multinational experience.

Personal/family factors include personal life demands, financial and economic concerns and career development

The foregoing account reveals even if it is our desire to transfer the staffing function to Local HR Division arriving at a full compromisation to realistically deal with it is not an easy task.



  • Daft, R L.(2003) “Management”, Ohio: Thompson: South Western
  • Dessler, G.(2008) “Human Resource Management”, FT Prentice-Hall
  • Mathis, L R and Jackson, J H(2005) “Human Resource management”,  Ohio: Thompson, South Western
  • Torrington et el (2004) “Human Resource management”, FT Prentice-Hall





Category: HRM