The CALL Blog

The Scapper vs. The Silver Spoon: Which is Better for an International Assignment?

Brandreth Canaley
| Sep 20, 2016
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Selecting employees for international assignments or global project leadership can involve hours of résumé reading and interviewing.   If you have ever taken on this task, you have probably diligently compared candidates, looking for the perfect match on technical skills, language ability, and success in similar projects.    

However, when looking for the perfect person to work in different countries or with people from different cultures, perhaps you should be looking for something else: 

Look for imperfection. 

In her TED Talk, Regina Hartley encourages us to not choose the perfect candidate, rather, to look for the “scrapper”, someone who has dealt with uncertainty, adversity, or trauma in their lives and know how to react when things get tough. 

These scrappers might not check all of the ideal boxes in your résumé screening but they are likely to bring a different – and critical – set of business skills, such as greater resilience, humor and the ability to form relationships.

  • Resilience:  Scrappers have been tested.  In overcoming their past struggles, they have demonstrated resilience, one of the critical cross-cultural competencies.   A candidate who has more experience with the turbulence of life might be better equipped to handle the unexpected and sometimes difficult situations that come along with international assignments and global roles.
  • Humor:  Many scrappers know how to use humor to combat tension.  If you have every worked internationally, you know that being able to laugh at your blunders and those lost-in-translation moments is essential for better relationships with host nationals and to gain a deeper understanding of the host country.
  • Relationship-Building:  Scrappers also know the importance of relationships. They will often readily acknowledge those who helped them overcome adversity, those who believed in them and offered developmental support.  Scrappers often care deeply about those relationships and know how to foster them.  The ability to foster deep and meaningful relationships will help individuals succeed in different cultures. 

Of course, this does not mean that technically-skilled candidates should be overlooked just because their lives have had fewer bumps in the road.  It does mean, however, that some of the less-than-perfect candidates might have exactly the resilience, coping skills and relationship orientation your organization needs to win the future in this ever turbulent global marketplace.

Click here to watch Regina Hartley’s TED Talk on why the best hire might not have the perfect résumé.