Hong Kong's job market is competitive but full of opportunities, and that provides recruitment agents with just the sort of challenging environment they are looking for. It is also something that has kept Audrey Low coming back to Hong Kong in the course of a career that has taken her around the region during the last 15 years.
Ms Low, who is currently area general manager for Adecco Personnel Limited, originally joined the firm as assistant manager in Singapore in the early 90s. She was soon promoted to branch manager and held that post for over two years, but when offered the chance to become part of the company's international mobility programme, she grabbed it with both hands. That led to a transfer to the Hong Kong office from 1993 to 1995 and allowed her to see the business from a different perspective.
"After two years, I moved back to Singapore to start the banking division and then headed to Sydney in 2000 as major account manager," Ms Low says. "The opportunities came up and I am always happy to accept a new challenge." All this proved valuable experience and prepared the way for a return to Hong Kong in 2003, initially as branch manager and then in her present role.
As part of an international team, Ms Low now oversees five divisions which provide staff for corporate clients and career advice for associates. The divisions are banking and finance, information technology, merchandising, Japanese companies, and exhibitions and events.
There is great job satisfaction working in this industry because we are connecting people to the right jobs
"There is great job satisfaction working in this industry because we are connecting people to the right jobs," Ms Low says. "Personally, I get the most satisfaction from participating in new projects and finding solutions for clients."
Over the years, the company has developed from being a recruitment company to becoming a provider of total human resources solutions, Ms Low explains. "We not only do hiring on behalf of clients, but also manage flexible workforces and project staffing," she says. That means there is now more emphasis on sharing ideas and finding new ways to bring clients and candidates together for mutual benefit.
"Our company's slogan is 'better work, better life' and I firmly believe that if the company works effectively, we can give many people a better life," she says.
Adecco's own employees have strong analytical skills, are creative and able to think "out of the box". These are essential characteristics for work which involves solving practical problems and coping with different situations. "They must also be able to evaluate candidates and find good matches for the positions offered by clients," Ms Low says.
People new to the industry usually start as consultants and, once they have two or three years' experience, can move up to senior consultant and, later on, team leader.
Both horizontal and vertical career moves are possible, and the international mobility programme, which first brought Ms Low to Hong Kong, is still operating.
"The right management skills are important for someone who is a team leader," says Ms Low, adding that good performance opens up the possibility of promotion to branch manager level. "We have a very clear hierarchy, which means staff always have something to aim for and know what it takes to get there."
With all the signs pointing towards steady growth in Hong Kong job market — particularly in banking, finance and IT — Adecco is planning for further expansion. "We want to open new offices and be closer to our clients," Ms Low concludes.
Ms Low sees great opportunity for growth in China but admits that it will take time to get well established. "In Hong Kong we see a more sophisticated job market and it is easier for us to find the right talent. In the mainland, though, there is still a shortage of people with the necessary skills."
She says that it is a company priority to expand business activities in China. Offices have been established in Guangzhou, since 1995, as well as in Shanghai and Beijing. "This year, we have also set up an office in Shenzhen," she says. "The mainland is now like Hong Kong was in the early 1990s, so there are plenty of opportunities."