Best Practices for Selecting International Assignees (Part 2)

Alan Freeman – LOF International HR Solutions

This is the second of two installments on the topic of assignee selection.

In our last posting, we began to list a number of proven best practices for selecting candidates for international assignments.  Here are several more:

Provide an overview of the your company’s applicable policies and processes. You and the candidate need to know early on if there are any “show-stopper” issues or you run the risk of wasting everyone’s time. Be sure, by the way, that your policy and administrative processes are well thought through and developed. You don’t want to be caught building an ad hoc “package” through negotiations. One-off deals frequently lead to lots of ongoing problems.Help the candidate understand what life will be like in the assignment location. Provide the candidate with overview information on the assignment location climate, culture, business practices, safety and security issues, etc. so that he/she can determine early in the process whether the assignment might be viable for them.


Provide a guided area assessment “look see” trip. After the company has decided to extend an offer but PRIOR to asking the candidate to commit, especially when the assignment is to a remote or hardship location, make arrangements for a “look-see” visit to assess the area and get a true feel for what life will be like. The prospective assignee and spouse/partner must be included. Don’t wait until after deployment to let the candidate and spouse/partner get their first look at what life might be like in the assignment location. You will avoid incurring huge costs associated with over and back relocation AND going through the re-staffing process.

Draw upon the services of a good local destination services consultant to provide logistic support and accompany the candidate during the site visit. Local expert guidance is critical.

Include pre-decision medical exams. Well-managed assignment programs include a requirement for pre-deployment medical exams for the assignee and all accompanying family members. Usually, these involve company payment for the assignee and family to obtain thorough exams from their personal physicians and, at most, the company receives only a summary “clear / not advised” report, not specific details of the exam. (Some organizations involve their internal medical departments in the evaluation process, particularly when assignments are to hardship or campsite locations.)

We advocate that such exams become part of the decision process of whether or not the candidate should, or should not, accept the assignment. Candidates need to know whether or not medical support they might need can be delivered in the assignment location. So too, employers need to ensure that they’re not putting individuals at risk and, thereby, being potentially liable for “negligent failure to plan”.

Allow internally sourced candidates the freedom to say “NO”. It often can be the case that a given assignment just isn’t right, or doesn’t come at the right time, for the candidate. Perhaps they have temporary family issues such as elder care, children finishing high school, spouse/partner employment, etc. that make overseas deployment unworkable at the time. Allow employees to decline assignments without it being held against them when future career advancement opportunities arise. Also, if an employee feels they were “forced” to take an assignment that isn’t right for them, rather than their having gone on assignment with personal enthusiasm, they are unlikely to be fully engaged and the likelihood of assignment failure increases exponentially.

By applying the steps discussed above, and those we discussed in our previous post, organizations can optimize their selection of assignees that are likely to achieve the company’s objectives and maximize the return on the significant investment associated with international assignments.

We invite our readers to suggest additions and comments.