Hays enters the dragon's lair
China's recruitment sector is progressing swiftly, with the industry now boasting more agencies than ever. One such is British recruitment agency Hays, which on a global scale is one of the bigger players covering more specialist areas than most of its competitors. But despite having a strong foothold in the Australian market, the company only made its entrance into Asia in recent years. Its Hong Kong office opened in 2006, while its mainland office opened the following year. Nevertheless, times are changing. Nigel Heap, managing director for Asia Pacific, talks about their regional expansion.
Are you eyeing more offices in Asia?
We are launching our Guangzhou office, which will be our fourth on the mainland. We would eventually like to open in Shenzhen as well. Tianjin is potentially the next area after this - our office space in Shanghai has doubled in the past 12 months.
Beyond the mainland, we are opening in Malaysia in January and we are also looking at a possible three to four locations elsewhere in [Asia Pacific].
What industry or sectors will you focus on in these cities and why?
Our biggest business globally is accountancy and finance. In Guangzhou, we will have a team of people focusing on accounting roles, plus a team of people filling roles in banking, sales and marketing, and other disciplines.
How will Hays differentiate itself from other agencies in the region? We are one of the two largest specialist recruitment companies globally, and the bigger we get, the deeper the realm of our expertise.
We don't try and fill every job or match every candidate - we focus on particular professions - which gives the customer the satisfaction that we understand their business and the market.
In short, we can differentiate from our competitors by having better consultants, and to do this, we make sure they are trained better than anyone else. We transact via our people and have a reputation for providing the best training in the industry.
Will your expansion affect internal hiring and transfers?
Over the past 12 months, we doubled the number of our consultants in China, sourcing them both locally and internationally.
Working for a British firm, our consultants in China need to speak English, Cantonese and Mandarin, so a big source for us are Chinese nationals who have been educated in English-speaking countries. We are in regular contact with some of the overseas universities and advertise with them directly. If someone has worked overseas, they are likely to be more mature, disciplined and commercial, which is what we need.
What roles are you eyeing to fill internally to fuel your expansion?
When opening an office, we typically hire a couple of people with experience in recruitment. However, the majority of the people we hire as consultants are those without experience.
An ideal consultant should be passionate about people, ambitious and inquisitive. The ideal age of a consultant is around 25 to 30 years.
These 'associate consultants' ideally have great knowledge of the area in which they are recruiting, good interpersonal skills and maturity. Due to our extensive training programmes, we quickly turn them into great consultants.
How would you characterise the model recruitment consultant?
A perfect recruitment consultant is a person who can build relationships with an incredible variety of people, and who is self-confident and determined.
But it's not only about building relationships, it is also about having the credibility to advise a chief financial officer or a human resources director about the type of candidate they should be looking to fill a senior position.
Have these plans been affected by the global economic uncertainty?
The only places we have seen any affect are those with which we do a lot of banking and financial service business - Hong Kong and Sydney, for example.This is because banks are not hiring at the moment.