Evaluating Candidates For Relocation

Both Professional and Personal: Assessment of Candidates for Missions Overseas

Many companies locate candidates for relocation based on professional abilities, ignoring personal and family variables – which have a great impact on the success of the mission and the employee’s successful integration into the company upon his/her return to Israel.

Selecting candidates for relocation is usually performed based on business and professional considerations – (such as technical skills, professional knowledge, role in the organization, etc.), ignoring personal considerations – behavioral and family, which may be significant to the employee selection process for a global mission.

ORI’s accumulated experience in the field indicates the great importance of considerations other than business considerations to the professional success of the mission, and the main ones are:

Personal considerations – behavioral:

  • Ability to adapt to a new environment, fitness and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • Degree of personality flexibility
  • Tolerance to ambiguous situations
  • Ability and experience to function in a culturally heterogeneous environment
  • Coping with crises
  • Personality and functional independence
  • Interpersonal communication – (those who don’t excel in communication in “ordinary” situations are doomed to fail in the complex situations of functioning in a new cultural environment)

Family related considerations:

  • The career of spouse / partner
  • Stability of the spousal relationship (marital life crisis is not resolved during the mission, but may worsen)
  • Developmental or learning difficulties of children (a child with developmental disabilities / learning difficulties will be susceptible to further pressure in his/her adaptation to a new cultural environment ).
  • A child who must remain in Israel (due to school / military service)
  • The family opposition to the mission
  • Elderly parent care problems (dysfunction, chronic diseases)

In many cases the director of human resources gets the mission candidate as a done deal and is asked to address issues of wages, benefits and assistance with the transition process. Attempts to convince the organization of the importance of the “soft” aspects encounter raised eyebrows (at best) or are simply ignored (at worst).

The main reason for ignoring the personal variables is the fact that the percentage of missions ending in an obvious failure (i.e. termination initiated by the organization or employee) is relatively small. Surveys on this subject indicate that on average, about 7% of missions end in failure (i.e. only one mission out of every 14 missions ends in failure).

Not admitting failure

Closer examination of the data raises many questions regarding the “impressive” success rates. For both parties (employee and organization) there is a clear interest in the mission not ending in failure. The employee and his family paid a high price for the transition (spouse’s job, children’s schooling, separation from their family and social circle) and are unwilling to admit the failure of the move (not to mention that ending the mission involves many practical problems such as children’s studies, breakingleases, etc), The organization also invested resources (financial and management) and will not give up so easily on its investment. In many cases the organization will deter termination of the mission, since most managers do not have the required managerial courage to make a move meant to hurt employees’ families.

Since most missions are for a fixed term of a few years, the tendency of both sides will be to “bear” the mission to the end. This situation is analogous to the phenomenon known in professional literature as “hidden turnover” (“latent retirement”): the employee is ready to resign and leave the organization, but since there is no real alternative they remain in the organization faute de mieux. The real situation is revealed in most cases only after the mission ends. All the surveys show the highest rate of turnover two years after the end of the mission. For example, a survey by SHRM (Society of HR Management) shows 41% resignation from the company during the two years after the mission.



The organization’s unwillingness to recognize the personality, personal and family considerations does not absolve the director of human resources from trying to raise awareness of these aspects and to deal with them. There are several processes that an HR director can initiate to help the organization deal with the issue:

  • Clarifying relevant aspects to the employee’s family before the mission
  • Meeting with spouse / partner and children over the age of 14
  • Examining the successes and failures of the employee at the organization in order to try to distinguish patterns of behavior relevant to the mission
  • Analyzing the employee’s professional experience
  • Working out problems and challenges with the employee and his family
  • Personal, family and cultural preparation for the employee and his family in preparation for the mission

Correct preparation of the organization in testing of candidates for relocation, will help the employee and his family sail through the period more easily, contribute to the effectiveness of the mission and increase the chances that at the end of the mission – upon his/her return, the employee will fit back in the company of origin.