Expats struggling for corporate jobs despite overseas experience

A new employment survey says Australians working overseas are at a distinct disadvantage when they return home and apply for senior corporate roles and that employers are wary of applicants with international experience.

The extensive survey by Indeed, the world’s leading job site, and Advance, the organisation that celebrates and connects members of Australia’s global diaspora, shows high levels of disillusionment among expats returning home to work.

The report says 34 percent of returning expats cannot get an interview for a potential role even if their skills exactly match the job requirements.

It also says that 32 percent of expats who have returned home to work in Australia regret their decision because of the difficulty in finding a job.

A key finding in the report ‘They Still Call Australia Home’ is the need for Australian businesses and recruiters to broaden their search to include expats returning to Australia. 

Findings in the report include:

  • Australians who believe that working overseas will be to their advantage when returning might struggle to get a suitable job.
  • 33 percent of recruiters think returned expats misjudge their earning power in Australia.
  • 32 percent of recruitment decision-makers are reluctant or cautious to hire a returned expat for an Australian-based role on the basis of perceived cultural difficulties.
  • 31 percent of recruiters prioritise candidates with Australia-only work experience, favouring their knowledge of recent Australian history, the political climate and culture, over candidates who worked overseas for a period of time.
  • 65 percent of respondents believe that Australian businesses are creating an environment that discourages Australians working overseas from returning.
  • 67 percent of returned expats are packing their bags and returning overseas because their international experience is not valued.
  • Two-thirds of returned expats have considered leaving Australia again to secure the right role.

A key finding in the report is the need for Australian businesses and recruiters to broaden their search to include expats returning to Australia. 

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

“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,” she said.

“Additionally, expats need to be mindful that things may have changed in their country during their absence. Events might have taken place that have re-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.” 

Business leaders were perplexed by suggestions there was an employment barrier against expats returning to work in Australia.

“What is concerning is that recruiters are reluctant to hire a returned expat for an Australian-based role because of ‘cultural difficulties.’ Most returned expats will have extensive experience in navigating and adapting to very complex contexts outside Australia and as a result, possess great skills in cross-cultural communication. These skills are as valuable and relevant inside Australia as they are out,” said Penny Burtt, CEO of Asialink.

CEO of the Business Council of Australia Jennifer Westacott said: “We need the best skills and most talented workforce in the world, that means doubling down on economic growth and innovation to make sure the jobs expat Australians need are here when they return. We also need an education and skills system that works for those who need to re-skill and re-train when they return.” 

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