The International Trade Blog Export Forms
Hiring an Export Documentation Specialist: What to Look For
On: March 15, 2023 | By: David Noah | 6 min. read
If your company exports, you need to be sure you are creating a complete set of accurate export documents for every shipment, or your shipments may be held up by customs, your shipping and delivery costs may be much higher than expected, you may have trouble getting paid in a timely manner, and you may face penalties for violating import-export regulations.
To reduce the chance of facing these potential problems and ensure you use the proper export paperwork, you may want to hire an export documentation specialist to manage documentation responsibilities.
Why You Need an Export Documentation Specialist
Having a dedicated export documentation specialist guarantees someone is responsible for the first step in the export journey—accurately completing the correct export documents.
Hiring an export documentation specialist provides a higher level of professionalism at your company, because it ensures that at least one person knows the documentation procedures and requirements inside-and-out and is responsible for creating the paperwork that will get shipments out of the country and to your customers.
Conversely, dividing the responsibilities among several different people means no one person is specifically responsible for the job and no single employee feels empowered to take on challenges as they arise. It also means that no one makes accurate export documents their priority. This leads to mistakes, which, in exporting, are expensive and embarrassing, and—if compliance errors occur—could potentially land you in hot water.
Export Documentation Specialist Job Responsibilities
An export documentation specialist prepares export documents required for shipping from the United States to various international destinations. This seems fairly straightforward, but depending on the size of your company and the amount of exporting it does, an export documentation specialist may oversee the entire documentation process of your internal team, including sales, customer service, logistics and warehouse personnel, and your external partners, like your freight forwarders, carriers, brokers and others.
Typical job responsibilities and duties include:
- Communicate and negotiate with freight forwarders and carriers to obtain the original and rated bills of lading on time with accurate information.
- Communicate with appropriate internal and external departments, freight forwarders, trading banks and customers when needed.
- Correspond with customers for approval of documents.
- Create, assemble and submit applicable export documents required per country requirements in accordance with export and import laws and regulations.
- Help maintain export files in an organized system and keep shipping records up-to-date and accurate—this is where Shipping Solutions export software can help!
- Submit your export shipments’ electronic export information (EEI) through AESDirect on the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE).
- Research demurrage and detention related export claims in a timely manner.
- Assist with invoice creation.
- Follow up with suppliers and vendors to ensure timely delivery of all necessary documents.
- Proofread commercial documents.
- Ensure clients, departments and/or other required parties are kept fully informed of transport arrangements and status on a regular basis from departure to arrival of goods.
- Follow up on each export shipment and keep track of changed departure and arrival dates.
Export Documentation Specialist Qualifications
While there is no standard list of requirements for an export documentation specialist, candidates for the role should have the following qualifications:
- High school diploma or GED equivalent at minimum; competitive jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher in global supply chain or a related field, or previous experience in international shipping or supply chain.
- Previous experience with import/export and understanding of NVOCC and freight forwarding operations.
- Knowledge of different international payment terms.
- Proficiency in standard office software including word processing and spreadsheets, as well as export documentation software like Shipping Solutions.
- Willingness to assist other departments to meet customer requirements.
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills.
- Detail-oriented and organized.
Finally, an employer needs to have high levels of trust in the individual that is brought in for this position since they are working in an area that has likely created problems for your operations in the past.
When to Hire an Export Coordinator
While companies that are just beginning to export and make a small number of international shipments may not be able to hire a full-time documentation specialist, it’s important to assign those duties to one person or a small group of people, so they can understand their responsibilities and make sure they are abiding by the regulations. Because even small companies can face substantial penalties for violations. As your exporting grows, you may want to create a dedicated in-house export documentation specialist position.
Some companies try to avoid export documentation responsibilities by outsourcing these duties to third parties like their freight forwarders or third-party logistics providers (3PLs). While companies should absolutely rely on their trade partners like freight forwarders and 3PLs to provide guidance and assistance with export documents and other parts of their international transactions, they don’t know your company’s operations, products and customers as well as you, nor are your exports their only responsibility. Rely on their assistance and expertise, but understand you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your documentation.
Whether you have a single person serving as your company’s documentation specialist or you rely on a team of people to do the work, it’s important to provide them with the ongoing training they need to stay on top of current regulations and best practices and provide them the tools they need to be successful.
Export Documentation Software
In addition to hiring a documentation specialist, you should equip your team with export documentation software like Shipping Solutions to ensure that no matter who is completing documents, you can make sure your documents are ready as soon as your exports are ready to ship. With Shipping Solutions, your team can complete all important export tasks, including:
- File your Electronic Export Information (EEI) through AESDirect without having to manually reenter all your export information in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE).
- Quickly generate electronic Certificates of Origin and Certificates of Free Sale stamped by a U.S. Chamber of Commerce, without having to courier the documents back and forth.
- Not only can you print all your export documents on plain paper, Shipping Solutions software allows you to easily email your completed export forms to your freight forwarders and/or customers, so they can prepare the shipment and begin the customs clearance process.
- Shipping Solutions Professional and Enterprise versions include an Export Compliance Module that allows you to screen all the parties in your export transactions against more than 140 different restricted party lists, check to see if your products require an export license based on their classifications and destination countries, and identify the documents required for your export shipment.
- Shipping Solutions Professional and Enterprise versions connect to your company's ERP or order-entry system, letting you decide if you want to integrate your shipping and accounting systems and then guiding you through it.
No matter when you hire a full-time export documentation specialist, it’s important to have some kind of export documentation system in place. In my experience, companies run into trouble when they haven’t planned for such a system, or neglect to train their employees in how to properly use the chosen software. Wherever you end up, your decision should be well-considered and thoughtful.
We’d love to show you how Shipping Solutions software might work in your company, so you can see how much easier it is compared to the way you’re filling out forms now. Schedule a free demo of our software today.
A Final Word
While not every company should hire an export documentation specialist right away, it is recommended for most companies—even if it seems like a stretch to hire someone for the role at first. Over time (and probably sooner than you think), you will likely see the problems your business was facing with exporting start to disappear, and your efficiency and, potentially, even sales volume will increase.
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About the Author: David Noah
David Noah is the founder and president of Shipping Solutions, a software company that develops and sells export documentation and compliance software targeted at U.S. companies that export. David is a frequent speaker on export documentation and compliance issues and has published several articles on the topic.