"We expect the job market to be very active, particularly in the first half of the year. All industries should have growth and new opportunities," says James Carss, executive general manager of Hudson Hong Kong. Sectors such as banking, finance and information technology are expected to experience the fastest growth this year, he adds.
Online sales and marketing, especially aimed at the younger generation, will also be hot, says Matthew Hill, managing director of Ambition Hong Kong.
"This is an area that is fresh and more and more in demand from our clients," Hill says, adding that candidates who have exposure to e-commerce, search engines, social media and customer relationship management will have an edge.
Emma Charnock, regional director of Hays in Hong Kong and China, expects to see many temporary roles for executive assistants and personal assistants, in addition to permanent positions that provide one-on-one support to senior managers. Job-seekers for these positions could enjoy an average of 5 to 10 per cent pay rise from last year.
Meanwhile, ambitious young executives in accounting and finance should consider acquiring or honing skills in demand in areas such as financial reporting, risk and controls, operational risk, management reporting and product control in equity derivatives.
"A shallow pool of talent in many specialist areas is the biggest threat to growth, which is why the ability to overcome skills shortages, particularly in the banking and finance industry, will become the defining characteristic of the employment market this year," Charnock says.
She adds that employers will need to reconsider salaries in order to attract and retain the best candidates, and that the pay for these specialist roles could increase by at least 10 to 15 per cent.
Skill shortages will also spur demand for human resources professionals, according to Charnock. Young candidates in the field should flex their creative muscles as they develop talent management initiatives and compensation and benefits schemes, as employers are looking for new ways to attract, nurture and keep talent.
In addition to professional expertise, Hill says soft skills also matter, such as the ability to influence others, fluency in various languages and the confidence to communicate to different audiences. "In Hong Kong, you can find technical expertise, but the ability to exert influence and sell an idea is quite new," Hill says. "The younger generation can take that knowledge in and feed it into the business."
Hard-to-beat soft skills
- Communication Aside from solving problems, you need to be able to communicate your ideas to clients, colleagues and business partners effectively.
- Interpersonal Be appreciative, listen closely and manage conflicts. Understand cross-cultural issues to work well with other people.
- Ability to influence We are more influenced by people we trust or perceive as credible. Learn about your new job and industry, and be helpful.
From Tom Fong Wing-ho, head of student affairs, Hong Kong Institute of Education