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How talent acquisition can support workers returning to Australia

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read
How talent acquisition can support workers returning to Australia

It can be difficult for expats to return to working life in Australia after spending time abroad. With a different country comes a different workforce, and with that can come a perceived isolation from the Australian market.

The HR Leader spoke with Andrea Kirby, founder and director of Talent Table. Ms Kirby talked about her experience returning to Australia after spending time abroad in the UK, and how the Australian market could be more accommodating for those in similar circumstances.

“I am not convinced that Australia has quite got it right yet about how we handle expats. We're quite [narrow minded] in the way that we look at things,” said Ms Kirby.


“It was said to me that as a recruiter, I didn't have local market knowledge, and I didn't have a network built up, so how could I recruit? I had built up a massive network across different industries every time I went into a new role in the UK!”

Recruiters could look at the experience that can be gathered from working internationally, rather than the disadvantages of being out of the local market. While you may lose contacts domestically, you are able to hone other skills that may not even exist yet in the Australian workforce.

Ms Kirby said: “I think, as recruiters, we have to be very open to the idea that people are going to be coming back to us. And we need to take the time to understand the experiences they've had overseas and how they're going to apply them here.”

She added: “Australia's a very tiny market in anything that we are doing in the world. So, if someone's coming to you as an expat with a massive amount of experience, it's going to only add value to your company”.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the pandemic saw the second biggest loss of Australian residents on record due to migration. At the same time, immigration fell 71 per cent in the last year. With this loss of population, the talent market will only be further affected if we aren’t able to look to those returning to the Australian workforce as more experienced from their time abroad.

“At the moment we are losing a lot of Australians back overseas, post COVID-19 and they are going to want to come home again, so we have to be better at expat recruiting. I ended up just turning down any of the jobs that I was offered. The money had not moved on from when I'd left 10 years before. I was coming back to the same salary after 10 years of experience,” said Ms Kirby.

If we are to grow and evolve our workforce, we may need to pay closer attention to the good things other countries are doing. Australia can lag in workplace innovation and if we took the time to recognise what our neighbours are doing, we might be able to better stay ahead of the curve.

“We have to stop being so [closed minded]. I was quite gob-smacked to find how much it hadn't changed in 10 years after coming back,” Ms Kirby said.

“It's fabulous to see your [HR Leader’s] webinars and podcasts. For a while there, we didn't even have Australian content. I was still following the UK and US stuff when I came back here. So, to actually hear Australians talking about what they do is brilliant, and I think can only add value.”

She added: “I wouldn't lose sight of what's going on overseas, because there's definitely some interesting things going on in the UK and the US.”

Ms Kirby also called out New Zealand as a place to watch: “Very interestingly, New Zealand I'm told, is one of the leaders in the talent acquisition space, because they have even more difficulty getting people across to New Zealand [than Australia], being that much smaller, so they have to be quite innovative.”

“We have to learn from around the world, and we have to bring that experience in.”

Ms Kirby has kindly provided the below link for Talent Table’s upcoming event: #tru, 14 September


The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full conversation with Andrea Kirby is below. 



The practice of actively seeking, locating, and employing people for a certain position or career in a corporation is known as recruitment.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.