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What makes a successful international employee?

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As the increasing use of digital technology opens up opportunities in markets across the world, it’s not just large global multinationals that find themselves in need of international employees but organisations of all sizes.

However, it’s often difficult for HR personnel to spot who will make a success of an overseas posting. In my experience, in recruiting for BMW EMEA, it seems to me that there are several key traits that are common to employees who make a success of such a posting.

Firstly, it’s crucial that they can demonstrate a multicultural approach. I want to see that the candidate has worked, lived or travelled in the region to which they are applying for a position. It’s not enough to have taken a few nice holidays; I like to see evidence that the candidate understands what it means to truly immerse themselves in a different culture.

Overwhelming curiosity and a humble attitude are often an indication that the candidate has the potential to integrate successfully. Studying the history of a country or a culture helps but in the end curiosity - the ability to listen and learn, understand and integrate, that should shine through.



Being fluent in English is a basic requirement if you want to work internationally in 2016, however prospective employees shouldn’t underestimate the importance of learning the native language. If you want your staff to function at their best, they’ll need to be able to read the local newspapers, listen to the broadcast media and pick up the linguistic nuances that can mean the difference between success and failure.

Flexibilty is also key. Many potential employees say they want to work in, for example, Europe and say that they are flexible but what they really mean is that they want to work in Paris or Rome. When faced with the prospect of a winter posting in a north European city with short days, long nights and inclement weather, they aren’t quite so keen! 

To sum up – it’s all about character. Specific competences can be added but basic character traits, such as curiosity and adaptability, don’t tend to change and some people, by nature, are more curious and adaptable than others.

Andrea Castronovo

By Andrea Castronovo

Dr Andrea Castronovo is a graduate of CEMS (Global Alliance in Management Education) and was the founder of the CEMS Alumni Association. He is Vice President at BMW group.

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