Language skills, industry expertise in demand

Updated: 2013-05-23 05:36

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

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Professionals with a strong combination of industry expertise, technical knowledge and language skills are hot commodities in the market for middle-to-senior talent in China, a top recruitment expert told China Daily.

"People with bilingual skills are able to communicate with multinationals' headquarters," said Christine Wright, Asian operations director for Hays, a recruitment firm with operations in 35 countries around the world.

"Chinese companies are also looking for this kind of talent as they are increasingly seeking to expand overseas."

The willingness of candidates to be flexible in their approach to jobs is also very important, said Wright, a Briton with 18 years of experience in the recruitment world. Ability to adapt is critical in today's fast-changing business environment, she said.

In addition to these "soft skills," "hard skills" in the fields of engineering, information technology, accounting, finance and banking are in particular demand in China, according to Hays' quarterly job market survey.

"And of course, salespeople are always in demand across the board," Wright added.

Language skills, industry expertise in demand

Rachel Wu, a senior manager at Hays with many years of experience in the banking sector, said the industry has a pressing need for experienced sales managers with strong client relationships who are able of selling high-end capital-market products. The tightening of regulations in China's capital markets is also creating a high demand for professionals skilled at managing operational risks and internal-control compliance, she said.

At the same time, Wu said the qualified talent pool is small, with only two to three out of 10 candidates typically found to be able to meet the requirements of the available positions during Hays' day-to-day interviews.

Historically, executives in the China branches of global banks have usually been Westerners, but that the banks are gradually localizing their senior management team, Wu said.

"Now companies prefer to hire on a local contract because they don't have to pay for schooling or flights," she said.

Employee attitudes toward work are changing too.

"People are very ambitious here," Wright said.

"They want to know, 'If I join you, what are my prospects for getting ahead?'"

There has been a radical change in the attitudes of top companies toward hiring over the past decade, Wright said. Big-name firms now must aggressively seek out new talent instead of waiting for the candidates to come to them, she said.

Wright also said employers should give greater weight to retention rather than just focusing on recruitment.

When Hays surveyed 200 jobseekers about why they were looking for a new position, the most common response was lack of opportunities for career advancement at their current job. Nearly 35 percent indicated this as the main reason.

The second-most important factor is the need to seek new challenges (22.3 percent), which indicates that candidates may feel their jobs have reached a "dead end", Wright said.

Surprisingly, salary was ranked only the third-most important factor, with just 13 percent citing money as their motivation for leaving an employer.

Using the survey as a guideline, employers can learn how to better retain their staff members, and "managing performance" is paramount, Wright said.

Performance reviews should take place regularly, and their efficacy should be ensured by managers committed to the practice, she added.

Strong leadership in a company is equally important, Wright said. This requires qualified leaders who are able to motivate and inspire their team members, she said.

"As the saying goes, 'people join a company and leave a boss,'" Wright said.

(China Daily 05/23/2013 page15)