Expand to China Quickly with an Executive Recruitment Agency

Developing an Executive Recruitment Strategy in China

Developing an Executive Recruitment Strategy in China

July 21, 2022


Picture of INS Global



Picture of INS Global



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Key Takeaways

  1. Because of the greater importance of word-of-mouth and relationships, finding executive talent in China requires a very different set of skills.
  2. Filling these positions locally opens up new resources and networks that may be otherwise unavailable to foreign companies.
  3. Because of the increasing number of Chinese students and workers educated overseas, the benefits for international companies continue to increase.

Having local managers and executives can be an invaluable asset for new entrants into the Chinese market. Local expertise and networks can often mean the difference between business success and failure in China. Nonetheless, finding the right executive recruitment strategy can be a major challenge. Western-style headhunting methods are not common in China and may face new obstacles. Foreign companies face the challenge of overcoming the uneven playing field. This is especially true when it comes to finding high-quality local executives and managers.

In China, hiring upper managers and executives is a very different matter than hiring lower level talent. Hiring management is not usually done through direct methods like posting job openings. Instead,  many choose to go through local networks, build relationships, or use word of mouth.

While this is certainly true for executive recruiting in the West as well, it is much more the case in China. For this reason alone, foreign companies are at a disadvantage when hiring the very best managers.

Typically, foreign companies will likely not have particularly deep networks and relationships in China. Their local competitors therefore begin with an advantage. Instead, foreign businesses will need to develop a sophisticated executive recruitment strategy to find local executive talent to lead their organization and drive results.


The Advantages of Having an Executive Recruitment Strategy to Hire Local Management


While foreign companies may wish for a combination of local and foreign management, having a substantial element of local management in your organization can be a critical strategic advantage in the Chinese market.

Firstly, locals bring local expertise. This is critical in such an opaque and complex market as China.

In addition, they bring local networks which can be critical to rapid success. Local executives may have connections with the government and bureaucracy, suppliers, and prospective clients or partners.

Finally, local executives know the cultural and political nuances that must be taken into account. These are what drive long-term success when thinking about the company’s reputation and image.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that expat managers may have a different management style that can also be an asset at your organization. Many believe western managers to have a more participatory management style. In this way they offer more open and less hierarchical structures which can be good for international companies.

Employees may feel that one of a mix of these approaches is beneficial for their career development, fostering employee retention, and work satisfaction. One way to get the best of both worlds is to hire Chinese executives with extensive overseas experience.


Headhunting and a Successful Local Executive Recruitment Strategy


A China-based headhunter will therefore bring assets to the table that a new company to the country will not yet have had the chance to develop. The main asset being extensive local networks.

A headhunting firm that simply posts jobs online for their client probably does not deserve the high-fees that they charge. Therefore, be sure to look for recruitment firms in China that bring these deep local networks and relationships to the table.

The right firm should have a very good idea of a the company’s executive management needs. Therefore, the company itself must have a crystal clear idea of what they are looking for. An understanding of their needs is incomplete without a very well-developed business strategy, a set of goals, and well-designed metrics to measure those goals.

What the company looks for from a local executive should be a natural product of their goals and metrics in the Chinese market. Since the company will just be getting off the ground in China, it will be more critical than ever for the headhunting strategy to be carefully calibrated to the larger business strategy.


Local networks for Executive Recruitment


Developing local networks early on will give you an advantage later on when seeking future executives for your organization. Business in China remains very much a relationship-based endeavor. Businesses that quickly become comfortable with this cultural difference will fare better than those that don’t.

In China, it is not seen as unprofessional to demonstrate a sense of personal care for someone with which there is a business relationship. Western business culture is based, to a much greater degree, on rational, dispassionate decision-making.

When developing relationships to hire the very best executives for your company, it is important to remember that this is a personal and emotional matter as well as a business one. Prospective employees may feel a greater sense of connection to a company that is aware of such nuances.


Repatriating Chinese Managers from Overseas


Instead of relying solely on candidates based in China, companies can look through the increasing number of Chinese candidates that have spent much of their career overseas and lure them back to China with an attractive offer.

This element of an executive recruitment strategy in China can help a company overcome the built-in disadvantage that comes from being a foreign company in China lacking local knowledge and expertise.

While it can be a tall order to ask a mid-career individual to relocate overseas (potentially uprooting their family), they may wish to do so if a company offers an attractive, executive-level position. However, one of the pitfalls of this approach is that, they may not have the same local networks or up-to-date market knowledge.

For this reason, we recommend this only as one prong of your executive recruitment strategy.



Conclusion: Find Expert Support from the Best Local and International Recruiters


Local managers and executives helping to run your organization in China can be invaluable. However, finding the right individuals is a lengthy, costly, and challenging process. Businesses should blend their executive recruitment strategies  to their overall business strategy for the best results. This way, the candidates they find will best help the company achieve its goals.

That’s why INS Global provides bespoke recruitment strategies for companies seeking to enter China with the best advantages available in terms of hiring talent and management. We utilize a variety of offline and online tools and techniques to attract the best in Chinese talent for your needs.

Designing your executive recruitment strategy in China properly from the outset will greatly increase the productivity of the resources that are spent on recruiting, such as headhunting fees and the extensive time it takes to develop local networks.


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