Career Path

New opportunities keep IT headhunters busy

by Paul St John Mackintosh

Recruitment Agent - IT
Rosanna Chan
General Manager

Rosanna Chan, General Manager, CountryTECH, has seen the company she helped build into Hong Kong's leading IT recruitment headhunter, maintain its value through every stage in the economic cycle because of its reputation.

The company won itself an enviable reputation in Hong Kong in the mid-1990s as the territory's number one IT HR recruitment firm. Ms Chan was one of the directors who built that reputation. She started her career in Hewlett-Packard as support staff, but seized the chance when it came.

"I had a chance to partner with an entrepreneur to start up a recruitment business," she explains. "I joined CountryTECH in 1996. At that time there were four directors, including myself. Back in the 1990s, this was still a relatively open field." CountryTECH grew quickly in Hong Kong as it capitalized on a relatively virgin market. The company was able to rise on the back of the technology boom. "At the peak time in year 2000, we had a staff of 100," Ms Chan says.

"You need to maintain a branding and create a system to help penetrate the market and maintain the quality of work"

New opportunities

Although the market and the company have contracted recently with the difficulties in the Hong Kong economy and the technology sector in particular, Ms Chan still sees big opportunities in the IT recruitment field in line with the changing nature of work in Hong Kong.

According to Ms Chan, secondment and outsourcing is in a growing stage. This will place a premium on capable HR consultants who can fill companies' staffing needs at short notice or handle their outsourcing and contract labor requirements, especially in the highly specialist field of IT, where good industry knowledge is required for perfect matching.

New entrants to the profession can expect good opportunities, but not at the lower end, which will be filled more by Internet-based and other low-level services.

At higher levels, there are more and more secondment and contracting needs in the marketplace, because fewer companies want to recruit permanent staff, to stay more flexible. This puts a premium on needs matching and fast fit of candidate to vacancy, which Ms Chan describes as "plug-and-play". As the authorized supplier of IT staff to various HKSAR government departments and a respected pillar in the field, CountryTECH expects to benefit from this trend.

Branding and network

Ms Chan emphasizes that entrants to the profession can no longer expect to simply find and place candidates through their own personal networks as they used to, back in the 1990s. "You need to maintain a branding and create a system to help penetrate the market and maintain the quality of work," she stresses. Day to day, recruitment professionals can expect to spend their time matching the client and the candidate by getting leads and openings from the client side, then getting the appropriate candidates.

If there is no suitable candidate on the company's internal database, they will have to go out and headhunt a candidate. Interviewing candidates, visiting clients, and updating the internal database will also occupy much of the working day.

Juniors entering recruitment will start as a researcher, Ms Chan explains. They then can be promoted to junior consultant, then to senior consultant and will handle candidates for more senior positions. After that they may be promoted to General Manager, though promotion depends considerably upon performance, and the same applies to salaries, where commission plays an important part in the final total. "A consultant is a results-oriented business person and results are important," Ms Chan adds.

China Opportunities

"I believe the China market has great potentials for the local HR market through the relocation of Hong Kong people to China and mainland Chinese to Hong Kong," Ms Chan says. "If Hong Kong is to develop a research & development (R&D) kind of business, some of the R&D staff in China will need to work in Hong Kong to help develop it."

As an HR professional, she focuses on the issue of differing salary scales. "Of course there is a salary gap, and if you want to work in China, you should work completely in China, or you will be very unhappy. If you are working there, living there and spending there, the quality of life is not worse, but if you earn the money in China and expect to spend it in Hong Kong, it will not be good."

Ms Chan also sees China as a promising venue for the lower-skilled workers that Hong Kong's changing economy can no longer support. "There is a big need for this kind of people in southern China, and if they go there, their quality of life will not be worse, but they will have to accept that their salary will be lower." In this way, lower-skilled people can regain access to the kind of work no longer available to them in Hong Kong.

All figures represent industry averages only   K='000

Taken from Career Times 22 November 2002, p. 28
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