Overseas experience not always enough for homecoming ‘revolutionaries’


Many "homecomers’ think that their overseas experience will provide the edge in landing a great job in SA but, the reality is, without local market knowledge, a surprising number of international high-flyers battle to perform in the SA workplace.

This is according to Madge Gibson, Senior Associate at Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, who places many of the top -executives in the SA corporate world.

"Our workplace offers a host of unique challenges specific to modern day South Africa. For example, a Human Resources Director, with little or no experience of the local climate, may battle to operate at the required level in terms of transformational matters without a fair amount of adjustment".

This is not a reflection on the candidate’s ability, he or she could be well-respected in their area of expertise overseas, but SA-centric policies and regulations are different to the requirements of Europe or the U.S."

"Another example can be seen in the infrastructure/framework of large international organisations. For example, in the United States some large corporates enjoy the luxury of employing full-time specialists in quite narrow fields of expertise, whereas in South Africa a specialization would, more often than not, form part of a broader role - meaning that the candidate would need to adjust their boundaries to be competitive in the local market.'

However, acknowledges Gibson, there is no doubt that professional "homecomers’ who have gained exceptional experience overseas have an important contribution to make to SA’s business world, they just need to be mindful of the market into which they are selling themselves.

One tip she has to offer, is to avoid the heavy jargon often found in international CVs.

"We find that candidates returning from overseas tend to take it for granted that local employers will understand (or be impressed by) their "industry-speak’ or acronyms, when in fact it can work against them".

Their CVs are often filled with abbreviations and terminology little used in SA, which means they often don’t look appropriate for the needs of a local organization at first glance."

"It is essential that "homecomers’ contextualize, explain and present their experience in a language that will be well received and appreciated by the local market".

"Bottom line - know your market.'