How Internationalization Has Changed Academic Recruitment Marketing

Internationalization has fundamentally changed the way today’s academics search for jobs. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a postdoc looking for your first faculty position. Nowadays, you’re no longer going to restrict your job search to universities in your home country or even neighbouring countries. You likely did either your PhD or postdoc (or both) abroad. You have a network of contacts around the world built through conferences and collaborations. Top academic talent is free to move and they have no shortage of options.

What does this mean for the research institutions who hope to hire top talent? Well, for starters it means they’re facing increasing competition. They’re no longer competing with just the other universities in their region, they’re competing with the whole world. The reality is that many international candidates will not be familiar with their institution or its reputation. Many institutes of higher education would like to think that candidates know who they are and will automatically be among a candidate’s top choices. This is an outdated mindset. An institution that tops the national rankings will not necessarily have the same kind of name recognition outside of its home country. To stay competitive, universities must project a clear image to candidates.

Internationalization is even having an impact on the national recruitment landscape. Universities are losing the consideration of domestic students now that they have their pick of universities around the world. Take China for example. When China built its postdoctoral training system 25 years ago, it was designed to attract both domestic PhD students and Chinese PhD students living abroad. This wasn’t enough to compete against international options though. The percentage of Chinese students returning to do postdocs in China after earning degrees abroad was negligible.  

This means that universities can no longer rely on their national image to fill their vacancies. If academic institutions want to stay top of mind, they need to build and communicate a new, international brand—and one directed specifically at employees. Most universities that have a strong international image are using it to attract foreign students. However, we’re seeing a clear increase in international marketing efforts, especially when talking to our clients, towards recruiting employees.

If your institution doesn’t start building its international employer brand, it risks falling behind. Employer branding needs to become top priority. Our customers already agree having an international identity is a key way to share their employer value proposition and attract candidates, but they are frustrated that it is not being prioritized by university management. They need resources to actively attract foreign faculty to enrich their university with fresh perspectives, new research, and more citations—all measures of internationalism in major university rankings. In the age of internationalization, institutions need an international brand to stay ahead of the competition.