Report: hospitality industry hostile to returning expats

14 November, 2019 by Vanessa Cavasinni

A new report by job site, Indeed, and Advance, an organisation supporting the global Australian diaspora community, suggests that Australian expats are finding it difficult to find work on return to Australia – and that the accommodation and hospitality industry is one of the most difficult to crack.

They Still Call Australia Home found that returning Australians found it difficult to find work here, with their lack of current Australian experience and knowledge of the culture seen as a barrier to employment. Alarmingly, the accommodation and hospitality industry was seen as the biggest offender, with 67 per cent of business respondents agreeing that the industry created an environment that discouraged expats from coming home.

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Jay Munro, Head of Career Insights (Marketing) at Indeed, told Australian Hotelier it was a bit of a head-scratcher, considering the current jobs landscape in the industry.

“It does sound really counterintuitive – I think that was the most surprising thing with this report. In hospitality, and most sectors around Australia, there is this skill shortage going on and it’s hard to find staff. What’s interesting about hospitality is that generally we found recruiters saying they wanted people with a better understanding of the culture. Typically hospitality workers are exposed to so many different cultures all the time and so you would expect that working overseas with different cultures would be seen as a strength. So it was quite surprising.”

Munro suggested that this was likely due to the changing nature of the industry, and hence the recruitment process itself.

“A lot of hospitality businesses have turned into more corporate [entities], so the recruitment process can be significantly different, where they are starting to include more of a corporate approach to the recruitment process, so it’s no longer your line managers who are heavily involved in the hiring process.”

Munro suggests that if employers were to challenge their assumptions about a candidate’s lack of up-to-date knowledge of the local environment, they might find themselves with a candidate with a broader skill set that can benefit their business.

Key findings

They Still Call Australia Home found that:

  • A third (34%) of returned or returning expats aren’t even landing an interview for a potential role where their skills precisely match the job requirements. A quarter (24%) are landing multiple interviews for various roles, but are not offered the job.
  • The situation for some is so challenging, that some returned expats are heading back overseas because their international experience is not valued (67%), or because there are fewer suitable roles in Australia (65%).
  • Three in 10 recruiters (31%) prioritise a candidate with Australian-only work experience, favouring their knowledge of recent Australian history, the political climate and culture over candidates who have been out of the country for a period of time.