Goat expectations: Hong Kong’s competitive hiring market in 2015 means it’s a good time to climb
Activity expected to spike after February as workers bank their bonuses and look for better career prospects.
With hiring activity remaining steady during this year's final quarter, there's good reason to feel confident about the general outlook for the local job market moving into 2015.
The economy is broadly on track, entry-level opportunities are being created, and specialist skills are in demand. And while concerns about slower growth in mainland China may cause a few furrowed brows, the current consensus sees a busy post-Lunar New Year period as workers bank their bonuses and look around for chances to better their career prospects.
"We expect moves and hiring activity to peak between March and May as companies make use of budgets to increase headcount," says Sharmini Wainwright, Hong Kong managing director for Michael Page and Page Personnel. "We are already seeing good candidates receive multiple job offers and upward pressure on salaries at middle-management level and below. The 'pull' factor attracting high-calibre talent from China will continue in 2015. And more individuals employed in Hong Kong may be willing to consider moves to the mainland to get more responsibility and, perhaps, higher salaries."
Regarding roles and sectors where talent shortages are most evident, Wainwright points to the ongoing need for experienced risk and compliance professionals in the financial services industry. There is also consistent demand for specialists in e-commerce and digital marketing who have track records in setting up new functions and building models that generate commercial returns.
The information technology, telecoms and healthcare sectors are in the market for frontline sales professionals, preferably with two to five years' relevant industry experience.
Senior corporate communications staff are becoming more sought after as companies relax cost controls and invest more in their brand or PR image. And, with an eye to changes taking place in society and the workplace, new roles are being created for experts in areas like diversity and inclusion, with a regional function sometimes run from Hong Kong.
"We have definitely seen that attention to, and action in, [diversity and inclusion] is increasing," Wainwright says. "The financial services sector leads the way in such initiatives and, I believe, will gradually replicate some of the measures put in place in other global financial centres. As a result, we are seeing huge demand for HR professionals with experience in diversity issues who can drive scrutiny and performance in this area."
Matthew Bennett, Greater China managing director at Robert Walters, says the sectors most likely to see significant hiring next year include investment banking - especially if initial public offerings keep coming - and IT, with developments surrounding big data storage space and cloud computing set to transform many operating environments. He also notes the surge in interest in candidates who can fill business development roles and help to create new streams of revenue.
"Markets have become more competitive across the board. In Hong Kong in particular, that means taking market share and being better at winning customers than your rivals. To do that, companies know they need to hire the best people in their field for sales, business development and front-office positions."
Concerning possible knock-on effects of the forecast slowdown in mainland gross domestic product, the general view is that a figure near 7 per cent would still be impressive, when compared with most other economies.
In the wider context, a period of consolidation and, where necessary, readjustment should be seen as a positive. "With China, people have been going in there with guns blazing for the past five years," Bennett says. "If the mainland takes a bit of breather, it can be a good thing. Changing from an infrastructure-led economy to a consumer-led economy - which could be more sustainable - is going to take some time, but Hong Kong employers can hire with that in mind."