China clients now mainstay of global headhunters

Updated 2018-01-08 10:01:07 China Daily

A job seeker talks to a recruitment agent at a jobs fair at Beijing's International Exhibition Center.

Globally expanding, talent-hunting Chinese companies across industries are causing big changes in the composition of clients of major headhunters.

For instance, till five years back, more than 90 percent of Korn Ferry's clients were not Chinese companies. Today, more than 50 percent of its corporate customers are Chinese, including State-owned enterprises, that are expanding globally through overseas offices, subsidiaries, projects, mergers and acquisitions.

Huang Jigong, partner-in-charge of Heidrick & Struggles China, a US-based headhunter from the top five, said Chinese companies now form the majority of the firm's clients.

The change is being attributed to expanding Chinese companies' new thrust on hiring qualified or high-level personnel, industry insiders said.

Huang said, "The change shows Chinese companies are according priority to human resources in their business expansion strategy."

Liu Jialiang, chief representative of Beijing office of Korn Ferry, one of the world's top five headhunters based in the United States, said Chinese customers are looking for talent to lead their overseas projects or offices.

"Our clients expect candidates to know overseas markets well, be able to adapt to new environments quickly, and have good communication and leadership skills," he said.

Korn Ferry's Chinese clients include internet giants Baidu Inc, Alibaba Group and Tencent, and China General Nuclear Power Group.

Comparing the emphasis in hiring strategies of foreign and Chinese companies, Huang of Heidrick& Struggles said the former have long-term plans for new executive managers, while the latter tend to seek candidates who are practical, efficient and quick to generate profit.

Different from job websites or recruitment agents, top-end headhunters mainly look for C-level executives, including CEOs, CFOs and COOs.

Such firms typically charge 28 to 30 percent of the candidate's salary in the first year, which often exceeds 1 million yuan (3,000) as service fee. The whole process takes about three to six months.

Huang said many of Heidrick & Struggles' customers are internet and high-tech firms that hire foreign employees from Silicon Valley or overseas Chinese with educational or working experience in developed countries.

Liu from Korn Ferry said employers in fields such as big data and artificial intelligence will hire talent in the future. Globally, such recruits will be expected to bring advanced ideas and narrow the gap between the employers and their competitors in developed countries.

At the same time, such professionals will be attracted to China, too, due to its broad market and various applications of technologies, he said.

Besides the "go-global" strategy, business transformation is also creating the need for talent among Chinese companies.

"A real estate enterprise, for example, may one day decide to enter financial services. But there is no time to train an eligible executive manager from within its system," Liu said.

The government also tends to hold a more flexible attitude toward human resources. Korn Ferry was commissioned by the Chaoyang district of Beijing to recruit for 17 posts related to environmental protection, he said.

"It's a dynamic and diversified market," said Liu. "Mobility of talented personnel can bring vitality."

Headhunters, who own massive databases and proprietorial evaluation systems that use both work experience and technological tools to measure performance, can play a part in the process, besides offering related advisory services, he said.

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