The main prejudices of Headhunting in China

As seen in many of our other articles, headhunting in China goes beyond searching for the right executive fit for the growth of your business but the cultural component can in fact have a large impact on your firm. Looking at the most prominent prejudices about headhunting in China we will pave the way of how to challenge them. 

  1. The candidates will be sourced easier  

As China has known rapid global success, the superpower has seen the arrival of many new markets and companies, they are not short on career opportunities. There are certain skills that are also needed, proficiency in several Languages as China opened up to the rest of the world and technology skills for example.  There is therefore a need for top talent and often these candidates might not even want to be a candidate at first. Headhunting companies must therefore ask themselves how to make a position even more desirable? To do so you need to make the company in question attractive, put across its values, work culture, the strategy of management and the possibility of certain opportunities once settled within the company. One should not exaggerate too much though; resignation is a major phenomenon in China often because executives feel disappointed in the position after a while.  

From an educational point of view, companies all over the world look for top schools and impressive degrees. This is no exception in China, companies in China have a preference for talent who graduated from universities with the tags “985” or “211”; especially when they get their bachelor degree from these universities.  

2. Recruiting in China is a faster process 

China is high speed business hub. For innovation and work efficiency it is globally said that they are “faster” than other places. Nevertheless, this is not applicable when it comes to headhunting. Headhunting should always be quality over speed as if the candidate is wrong, no matter how fast a deal is closed, they could be disappointed and leave the company. It can sometimes be optimal to contact a large number of talents before creating a small shortlist. This process is lengthy and involves several rounds of interviewing. One could argue that it is a slower assessment process as companies established in recent years in China care about the personality of the candidates. The results come from the personality test and can actually be very decisive on whether to recruit the candidate or not. 

3. Research platforms are all the same  

It is vital when headhunting to look into the experience of your candidates and using media platforms to do so is an amazing and innovative tool that has changed the headhunting game. Platforms such as Linkedin in the West are the pillar of the preparation prior to contacting a candidate. Head-hunters must maximise these tools in order to create the best report of the talent, but, especially in a hub like China, you must look in the right places, if not you will be overwhelmed or make a mistake.

There are platforms such as that are used by recruitment agencies, yet they can be a waste of time as an executive search firm you need to be looking at a C-Suite level, and this type of website offers candidates of many different experience levels. Many websites are also available to foreign talent and oversea headhunting companies, which is great in widening the talent pool. There are websites like that are specially adapted to high standard talent and qualified head-hunters, this is a good place to do research as it is specialised in executives and can be a real time saver.

Moreover, it can also be interesting to look into specialised industry websites. Reefe Network is an interesting platform specialising in a network of professionals that specialise in architecture, construction and design in Asia. This can be an opportunity for Headhunting companies to look into a more niche group of talent. 

4. The legislative part is not particularly important

This is a very important factor to consider when headhunting in China. During the negotiation periods, it is vital to be aware of local legislation, and different legislation for foreigners.  A headhunting company in China should be aware of the different contracts and their characteristics. 

The fixed-term contract, the permanent contract, and the assignment contract are the three primary forms of agreements. The length of the probationary period varies depending on how long the contract is: 

  • No probationary term for a deal that is shorter than a year; 
  • Two months for a contract of one to three years; 
  • For a contract that is longer than three years, six months. 

5. The recruiting process is the same  

Many things vary between China and the rest of the world in terms of search strategy, candidate experience and even client needs. Diplomas curated overseas are not necessarily at the same level as China and this must be kept in mind. You should generally keep an open mind when headhunting in China and you may be nicely surprised.  

From a cultural perspective, it is different in every country, how must one address the talent or client? Should a meeting be a dinner or a call? How professional will it be or will it simply be a friendly conversation? China is no exception and it is important to understand various aspects of talent in China, what is their family situation? Will they be able to relocate if need be? What are their future career plans? A head-hunter needs to understand the personality of the candidate they are looking into and this can be a challenge when you are not from the same culture. Once this meeting has happened and you can analyse them accordingly you should be able to determine if their attitude and management strategy will fit well with the values and visions of the client company. 

Moreover, in China headhunting companies should be aware that companies consider age a lot more of a serious factor when hiring talent. They tend not to want talent over the age of 50 regardless of rich experience or competitive background. 

In conclusion, there are several prejudices that have been formed over the years in China, which is inevitable when dealing with a new market. Nevertheless, these prejudices should be squashed in order to see optimal results and deliver quality talent, headhunting companies should always actively look into the specific ways of challenging and overcoming these preconceptions.  

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