Why you should hire the well traveled

When you’re hiring for your business you probably look at a candidate’s education, their professional experience, and their personality. Chances are one thing you’re not currently considering is how much time they’ve spent abroad. But according to one business school professor, you might want to start factoring in not only a candidate’s job history, but their travel history as well.

On INSEAD Knowledge recently, professor Linda Brimm makes the case that a special class of workers brings special benefits to their employers, a group she terms global cosmopolitans, says inc.

Why you should hire global cosmopolitans:
Who are they? In a previous post she defined them as “people who have lived, worked, and studied for extensive periods in different countries.” All that expat living has a profound effect on these folks. They “have views of the world and themselves that are profoundly affected by the reality of cross-border living and coping with the challenges that emerge on their diverse journeys,” she notes.

Which sounds personally enriching for the well-traveled themselves, but what’s that got to do with the average entrepreneur? This pool of talent brings unusual and valuable skills to their jobs, Brimm argues, and business owners would be well advised to give them special consideration when hiring. She outlines five key abilities international living tends to develop:

  • Global cosmopolitans see change as normal.
  • As outsiders to fixed cultural rules, they rely on creative thinking.
  • They reinvent themselves and experiment with new identities.
  • They are expert at the subtle and emotional aspects of transition.
  • They easily learn and use new ways of thinking.
  • Supplementing CVs with stories.

But while these inveterate border crossers might bring rare and valuable talents to your company, they can be misunderstood and underutilised by organisations. “They often end up leaving their roles because their cookie-cutter corporate jobs leave them feeling cut off from their deeper dreams and talents,” Brimm warns.

In order to get the best out of this group, Brimm has a simple suggestion for their managers (and would-be managers)–go beyond their CVs, which might not capture all the subtle benefits of their globe-crossing lives, and really listen to their stories. “Sometimes, they have done such a seamless job of adapting that it is hard to see their potential for bringing other skills to their work. The best way to overcome this is to get to know the individual,” she writes.

So next time a resume full of international travel crosses your desk, perhaps you should give it a second look. And if you decide to call that global cosmopolitan in for an interview, spend a little extra time delving into her life story to get at what skills that cross-border experience may quietly have nurtured.