A talent shortage could hamper recruiting, say head-hunters Nearly two-thirds of Hong Kong employers plan to hire staff in the coming six months despite signs the economic recovery was beginning to slow, a leading recruitment firm said yesterday. MRI International, the world's largest executive search firm, said it found a high level of optimism among businesses, not just in Hong Kong but also in the rest of China and in South Korea, in a survey conducted between July and last month. But MRI Hong Kong chief executive officer Tony Dickel warned a shortage of talent was developing in some sectors. 'I think a lot of multinational companies are starting to discover this ... and this has the potential to derail their growth plans,' Mr Dickel said. 'The inventory of talent supply in Hong Kong is very, very thin.' He said his clients remained fairly bullish for the next six to 12 months despite evidence the economic rebound was losing steam. 'We haven't experienced any nervousness about the impact of high oil prices and there doesn't seem at this point to be any sign of negativity,' he said. According to the survey, covering 600 firms in six cities, 84 per cent of Hong Kong firms had hired staff in the past six months, and 34 per cent of these were for new positions. In the mainland, 89 per cent of firms surveyed had taken on staff, 45 per cent new positions. 'China is absorbing a lot of talented people,' Mr Dickel said, and hiring suitable candidates in high-demand careers would become more expensive as a result. 'When we source talent [in those areas] it is very often the case that those people our clients are looking for are being chased by a number of companies. They have to compete very aggressively in the market to secure talent.' The survey showed that Hong Kong companies did the least to attract and retain talent. 'There's been a bloodbath in the labour market in recent years and companies here have become complacent about their talent and their talent pool,' Mr Dickel said. With mainland wages on the rise, sometimes exponentially, Hong Kong firms needed to absorb the new realities of the market. Surveys of employers that showed the price of qualified labour stagnating were misleading, he said. 'The reality is that when they get to market they will not be able to get people without raising salaries,' Mr Dickel said.