How is China’s rapid growth impacting hiring in 2019?

By Robert Half on 17 June 2019

China’s economy continues to prosper. While global economic growth is forecasted to plateau at 3.7% in 2019, growth in China is predicted to reach 6.2%, putting it on track to be the world’s largest economy by 2030.

This high growth rate is an important catalyst behind the spike in hiring demand for business and technology professionals. Finance and accounting professionals are in especially high demand, as China’s $45 trillion financial sector opens its doors to more foreign investment. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is driving major economic development both on-shore and abroad, with international trade expanding 12% year-on-year in 2018.

Another key driver of China’s rapid growth is widespread digitisation and investment in technology. eCommerce has become a priority for many companies that want to expand their customer base, particularly those that deal in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are also on the rise, with more companies investing in cloud-based solutions, and Mainland China looking to increase its on-shore data collection and storage.

Competition for talent is high

With this rapid macro-economic growth comes a wealth of job opportunities. However, many Chinese firms are struggling to find people with the appropriate skills to match them. In a 2016 J.P. Morgan study conducted by Tsinghua and Fudan University, 28% of companies reported difficulty in finding financial management talent, while a massive 74–78% struggled to recruit people with internet and technology R&D skills.

In short, this phase of rapid growth has led to a job market that will only become more competitive and candidate-driven over the foreseeable future. Many jobseekers are acutely aware of their market value, and are often in contention for several roles. It means employers must be prepared to streamline and optimise their recruitment process, or risk losing top contenders to better-organised competitors.

Speed is key

In such an intensely competitive hiring landscape, businesses can’t afford to alienate candidates by subjecting them to a long, drawn-out interview process. A Robert Half survey in the US found that, for 57% of workers, the most frustrating part of the job search is waiting to hear if they got the job after an interview, with almost half (46%) losing interest if they don’t hear anything within two weeks.

Here’s a checklist for achieving a faster, more effective hiring process in a candidate-short market:

  • Do your homework: Identify and minimise internal stakeholders and get budget approval for salaries.
  • The job ad: Where qualified talent is scarce, be prepared to compromise on job description demands by being more flexible, investing in training after hiring, or distinguishing ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ skills for the role. Ensure the ad gets in front of the right people by promoting it across multiple channels.
  • Set up interview timeframe: Consider Skype/phone interviews for initial interviews and conduct all in-person interviews on the same day.
  • Shortlist candidates and make a final decision: Assess final candidates based on hiring criteria and cultural fit, and don’t delay reference checks.
  • Don’t keep top candidates in the dark: Regularly update shortlisted candidates on their progress.
  • Make the offer: Finalise contract and remuneration package details.
  • Welcome to the team: Introduce the new hire to the team and company, and have an onboarding plan in place.

Be prepared to use everything in your arsenal to entice top candidates, whether that means an attractive remuneration package or offering non-financial benefits.

It’s not just about salary

At present, there is positive sentiment for salary raises in China due to the country’s economic growth and jobs creation. In particular, finance, accounting and technology professionals with postgraduate qualifications are more likely to command higher salaries. The same is also true for bilingual professionals, as more roles – especially in multinational companies – call for candidates who can operate at an international level.

Keep in mind that while salary is a key part of any remuneration package, you should also consider non-financial incentives to help secure the best candidates. Including things such as work-life balance initiatives, transportation allowance or medical insurance can offer a strong reason to remain with a company long-term, while helping to position a company as an employer of choice.

China’s economic growth remains exceptional and is creating more jobs for the country. With skilled talent in short supply, you’ll need to act fast and be flexible in your recruiting. Competitive remuneration, non-financial benefits, and opportunities for new hires to grow their career with the organisation will all serve as valuable incentives for top-tier candidates.


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