Expats returning home are key to unlocking Corporate Australia’s competitive edge

Report highlights need for Australian businesses to embrace skills and experience of expats coming home

Australian expats returning home are an untapped talent pool for recruiters and businesses, a report by Indeed, the #1 job site in the world and Advance, the organisation that celebrates and connects members of Australia’s global diaspora, reveals.

The report, ‘They Still Call Australia Home’ explores the attitudes of Australian business and recruitment decision-makers towards Australians who have travelled and worked abroad. It also captures the job-seeking experiences of Australians who have worked, or are working, overseas and navigating their return to Australia. A key highlight from the report’s findings is the need for Australian businesses and recruiters to broaden their search to include expats returning home to Australia.

According to the findings, nearly three quarters of respondents (71%) reported a positive experience from hiring a returned expat while almost 3 in 5 (57%) of recruiters identified that recruiting returned Australians has a longer-term strategic benefit.

While recruiters expressed concerns that expat candidates who recently returned home lacked strong Australian business networks, in fact nearly half (49%) of those returning from a stint overseas reported eventually finding employment through their own networks. This demonstrated that expats returning to Australia are indeed benefitting from maintaining strong connections back home.

By overlooking Australian talent in global markets, employers are limiting their options. In fact, 65% of the survey respondents believe Australian businesses are creating an environment that discourages Australians working overseas from returning.

When looking for work back home, a third (34%) of expats who recently returned home reported not being successful in landing an interview for a potential role where their skills precisely matched the job requirements. And while almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed were successful in landing interviews for various roles, they still reported missing out on job offers. According to the report it takes those returning home 2.1 months longer than the average job seeker to secure a job.

When it comes to the skillsets that they can offer corporate Australia, the ability to manage culturally diverse staff and stakeholders, global leadership and strategy, international regulation, and knowledge of emerging technologies are among them.

Given two-thirds (67%) of recruiters say they have struggled to find candidates to fill roles because of skill shortages or a lack of relevant experience, those returning home present as valuable talent and offer a potential solution to Australia’s skills deficit.

Paul D'Arcy, SVP Marketing at global job site Indeed, commented: “It’s clear Australia has pull-factors that attract its diaspora back to the country and, as the report identifies, these skilled workers present a significant opportunity for recruiters and businesses.

“While most (83%) recruiters said they are cautious about recommending expats who recently returned home for Australian-based roles, we know diverse workforces are more successful than homogeneous ones, which is why employers and recruiters are missing out on an untapped pool of returning workers whose skills and experiences could positively impact their company.

“In order to reap the rewards of expats returning home, employers and recruiters could embrace a change in mindset to one that looks beyond its own borders to one that prioritises ability and skill. Businesses would do well to abandon any preconceived ideas they have about what a candidate needs to handle a job and adopt policies that make the hiring process more objective.

“This will mean that in the global battle for talent, Australia has the opportunity to secure the best and brightest talent in the market.”

Yasmin Allen, Chairman of Advance believes that professional networks are critical to helping professionals coming home to reintegrate into Australia’s workforce and government policy is also key to supporting their return home to draw on their specialist knowledge and expertise.

She comments: “As a country, we derive value and benefits from encouraging our expats to remain connected with Australia and to come home to share their experience and bring their intellectual property with them. This in turn fuels innovation and benefits the entire nation economically.

“Additionally, expats themselves need to be prepared and mindful that things may have changed in their home country during their absence. Events might have taken place that have shaped Australia that may have eluded them, and they may have achieved a level of seniority that does not exist here.

“We know Australia can benefit overall from better connection with our diaspora and through Advance we help facilitate that, by celebrating and engaging our expats and encouraging them to remain connected, to each other and to Australia.”

About the survey

The research was commissioned by Indeed and conducted by Lonergan Research in accordance with the ISO 20252 standard. Lonergan Research surveyed 440 Australian returned or returning expats and 331 recruitment decision-makers aged 18+. Surveys were distributed throughout Australia and to Australians abroad. The survey was conducted online amongst members of a permission-based panel and Advance’s internal database, between 29 April and 30 May 2019.

Read the full report here: au.indeed.com/hire/returning-expats-report/

Key Findings

1. Australians who believe that working overseas will be to their advantage when returning to Australia may need to think again. Research shows the opposite is true. In fact, they might struggle to gain work back in Australia – and will probably have to take a pay-cut.

2. Businesses and recruitment decision-makers’ unintentional disregard is effectively locking expats out of returning to the Australian jobs market. In fact, 65% of all respondents believe that Australian businesses are creating an environment that discourages Australians working overseas from returning.

3. A third (34%) of returned or returning expats aren’t even landing an interview for a potential role where their skills precisely match the job requirements. A quarter (24%) are landing multiple interviews for various roles, and yet miss out on being offered the job.

4. While nine in 10 (89%) of recruitment decision-makers consider that managing projects across multiple countries is a positive experience on a job application, a third (32%) of them are reluctant or cautious to hire a returned expat for an Australian-based role on the basis of perceived cultural difficulties, most commonly the potential delay in ‘settling in’ to a role.

5. Three in 10 recruiters (31%) prioritise a candidate with Australian-only work experience, favouring their knowledge of recent Australian history, the political climate and culture over candidates who have been out of the country for a period of time.

6. A third of recruiters (33%) think that returned expats misjudge their earning power in Australia and the perception that they have a self-inflated sense of skills and experience is the most commonly held belief among half (45%) of recruiters, who think returned expats expect a higher salary.

7. The situation for some is so challenging, that some returned expats are packing their bags and returning overseas because their international experience is not valued (67%), or because there are fewer suitable roles in Australia (65%).

8. Seven in 10 returned expats (70%) said their self-esteem was impacted by the difficulties associated with returning to work in Australia, while a third (32%) of returned expat

Australians and rebound expats regret having come back to Australia.

9. Two-thirds (67%) of returned expat Australians have considered packing up their bags and leaving Australia again to get the right role.

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