Broadening Your Horizons: Considering Overseas Candidates for Senior Roles Can Pay Dividends

23 September 2016

We’ve recently been involved in global searches for two quite different roles, one in HR and one in operations. Both roles called for someone who is internationally savvy while also possessing all the usual traits one would expect in a senior executive role in a specific function. Both clients expressed the need for a swift but appropriate outcome.

So what we recommended was a mix of a targeted online advertising campaign throughout the US, Europe, Asia and the UK combined with direct approaches across Australasia. This enabled us within four to five weeks to come up with a long list that is a good mix of international and local candidates and locals who have been working offshore for a long period of time, who are all motivated to live and work in New Zealand for the right role.

This is considerably faster than the traditional search process which can take months of ‘searching” to identify candidate of the right calibre and who are willing to move or return to NZ. This is often a huge challenge in positions below the CEO role, as the candidate pool is very large and geographically broad.

More than just the lifestyle

There seems to be a bit of a "pushback" at times when recruiting senior roles, to considering offshore candidates and a focus on recycling local talent. However, in reviewing the calibre of some of the candidates we were able to access, they would certainly add value to the talent pool in New Zealand. They also seem to be prepared to compromise on package in order to live in New Zealand, whether new arrivals or Kiwis returning home.

NZ has moved up the scale from being a destination, just for lifestyle. With personal safety at the top of the agenda for many executives and their families, New Zealand has become a much more attractive destination. Good candidates are prepared to compromise on their remuneration to be able to live here with their families. It may be time for Boards and CEOs, to start considering a broader talent pool for their roles and if they are going to go externally to at least consider doing a sweep of the globe to see if there are any Kiwis who would love to return to New Zealand for the right role, if they are presented with it.

We have had real success in identifying candidates who have said that they weren’t looking but jump at the chance to be able to come back to New Zealand when we put the opportunity in front of them. Some of these candidates would have not come up in a traditional ‘search ‘process easily. Many offshore Kiwis seem to believe there are no challenging senior roles back here. And yes, it is a much smaller pool of roles, but there are interesting and challenging roles in companies focused on growing offshore.

Increasing levels of interest in NZ

The number of candidates offshore, hoping to move to New Zealand seems to have stepped up in recent times (driven by the US political scene, Brexit and personal safety). They need to generally recalibrate their expectations and consider a number of factors if they are serious about moving to New Zealand. Often the roles they are considering here are considerably smaller, so they can’t expect to secure the same remuneration package. They also often need to come to grips with the way things are done in New Zealand, i.e. the Kiwi culture, so they may initially need to take a step back to go forward. Some candidates willingly do this and very quickly assimilate to the business market, others really struggle to make that transition and are still looking for roles two years later.

Employers have a role to play here also. They need to realise that candidates from offshore willingly step back to move to NZ, so there is a fabulous opportunity to gain strong skills and expertise. However, sadly many employers get hung up on the ‘how long will they last?’ A question that in my mind is a little naïve. If you can over-recruit and get them for a couple of years, imagine the progress you could make. Yes, they may need a bit more ‘managing’ but that is another discussion.


Next time you need to recruit a senior role, consider engaging with a partner who will take a fresh approach tailored to your needs. Yes, online advertising across the world, along with traditional ‘search’ creates a lot of work for your supplier, but it also enables you to access to a much broader talent pool more quickly. Their role is to determine the right fit and manage the expectations of candidates.

Traditional search firms may continue to be effective in quickly engaging candidates at a CEO level, as these candidates are easier to find, but conducting a global search is becoming an area of competitive advantage for firms wanting to fill middle management roles. A well-constructed online recruitment campaign combined with a well-executed sourcing strategy will reap rewards with both national and international applicants. You’ll want your opportunity to stand out, rather than just relying on search only.

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