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Executive Search

Why the US job market loves South Africans

By February 16, 2024No Comments

After heading up a busy executive search firm with fellow director Barry Jansen van Rensburg, Jeremy Bossenger is looking to make a change and enter the US business ownership market to capitalize on the popularity of South African employees among US companies.

Executive search and others in the recruitment game have been picking up on a dynamic trend that, while just biting in 2023, is jumping up and down and demanding immediate attention in 2024. It is the inclination of North American companies to seek out talented individuals from South Africa to fill the key staffing gaps on their boards and in their teams.

After heading up BossJansen Executive Search for more than 15 years in South Africa, my team and I have amassed an extensive network of skilled and senior executives – many of them at board and/or director level – who are keen to spread their wings into the international job market.

In the US, on the other hand, a selection of mission-critical characteristics is making South Africans increasingly attractive to US employers. These range from the fluency of our English and a cultural compatibility that helps to prevent language-related misunderstandings; the extent to which we are entrepreneurially minded and well educated; the possibility of hiring excellent caliber individuals for a lower potential salary range than someone in the United States or Canada would require; and the fact that servicing clients across Europe (all day), the US/Canada (in the afternoon), or even Australia (first thing in the morning) is generally seamless from South Africa.

Colleagues running job portals both locally and overseas have also been picking up on the trend, with the job offers extending across the likes of sales and call centre agents; brand executives; insurance claims specialists; foremen and all kinds of artisans; technical application specialists; financial services/banking jobs; and various kinds of engineering positions.

While South Africans are renowned for their work ethic, those with enviable skills and qualifications may unfortunately not be able to find a suitable position in the job market back home because of societal-levelling policies – such as Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE), a government policy designed to advance economic transformation and enhance the economic participation of formerly disadvantaged individuals in the South African economy.

Three options on offer for skilled South Africans workers

The US-based employers we are dealing with are seeking South African employers to work for them in one of three potential ways:

1) Working remotely from South Africa;
2) Working for a US company with a regional office in South Africa;
3) Immigrating to the US or Canada.

In the first case, once found to be competent from a qualifications and skills perspective, the South African candidate will be required to set themselves up with the following considerations top of mind:
• remaining forever cognisant of the time difference;
• maintaining a dedicated and distraction-free workspace;
• putting uncapped fibre in place, for best-in-class digital communications; and
• setting boundaries related to after-hours hobbies, sport, and family time.

Further, while it is theoretically feasible to work for a US company remotely from anywhere in the world, it is important that the hiring company meets all the legal requirements of taking you on board. See more, here.

In the second instance, South African candidates can opt to apply for a position at one of 600 North American companies that now have regional (i.e. African) offices located in South Africa. If you would prefer to keep your search confidential (say, from the company at which you are currently employed), it is generally a good idea to make enquiries as to the global employment opportunities that an executive search firm may have on their books.

It goes without saying that these hiring companies will benefit from lower labour costs than they would have when hiring a US or Canadian candidate, as a result of the exchange rate.

A third option, of course, involves a North American company seeking a South African staff member who is prepared to immigrate to the US or Canada. A blog on advises that employment is the fastest and easiest way to gain a Green Card and make the move, especially if the company you will be working for when you arrive makes all the legal arrangements and pays all the relocation costs on your behalf.

Whichever of the above-mentioned paths that a South African worker takes to end up employed by an American or Canadian company, the way in which South Africans are viewed by these hiring companies generally remains rose-tinted – because we’re known to be a skilled, qualified, and extremely hard-working nation, with significant job-market related challenges back home including a 32.6 percent unemployment rate.

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