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Cross-Cultural Questions to Think About

January 1, 1994
Planning is the key to successful overseas assignments. Noel Kreicker, founder of International Orientation Resources (IOR), a Chicago-based firm specializing in cross-cultural management selection and training, suggests that the human resources staff address these questions:

Company issues

  • How is international success defined by the company-from both long- and short-term perspectives?
  • What is the expected outcome of this assignment for the company and for the candidate?
  • Does the position have a clear list of tasks and stated corporate objectives? If not, how can it be obtained?
  • Is there more than one candidate technically skilled for the position? If so, what other criteria are important to consider? If there is only one candidate, how can that person be supported?
  • Is the position new or is the candidate replacing another employee? If the latter, how successful was the predecessor?
  • Who are the successful individuals overseas? What makes them successful?
  • What international skills are valued and promoted by the company?
  • Is it possible for the candidate to speak directly to the person he or she will be replacing? What about speaking to his or her supervisor?
  • What are the consequences if the candidate declines the offer?
  • How will the company ensure that the candidate remains visible and connected to the company during the overseas assignment?
  • What kind of career pathing is in place for the employee upon his or her return to the home country?

Candidate issues

  • How familiar is the candidate with the company's global objectives?
  • What are the candidate's professional goals and objectives?
  • What professional and educational experiences does the candidate bring which will help ensure success in the assignment?
  • How motivated is the candidate to go overseas?
  • What does the candidate perceive as beneficial in the assignment as it relates to his or her future with the company?
  • How eager is the candidate to learn new things?
  • How well does the candidate handle ambiguity and tolerate differences?
  • How does the candidate deal with failure and mistakes-both his or her own and those of others?
  • How did he or she experience previous transfers?

Yellow Flags

  1. The human resources staff will want to explore further:
  2. Overblown expectations of career or financial reward
  3. Resentful spouse
    Life-stage issues, such as:
    • Aging or ill parents
    • Teenagers who must remain behind to finish high school
    • Pregnancies, especially pregnancies with a first child
    • Empty nesters

  4. Special needs, such as:
    • Health problems
    • Special schooling requirements

  5. Denial that any concerns or potential problems exist.

Red Flags

  • Alcohol and/or chemical dependency
  • Marital discord
  • Marginal social functioning
  • Serious health problems
  • Mental illness
  • Racism/ethnocentrism

Personnel Journal, January 1994, Vol. 73, No. 1, p. 91.