Hong Kong's buoyant economy has created a favourable environment for jobseekers, with the most talented candidates having their pick of the best positions. As such, even the most reputable international companies are putting extra effort into attracting the top graduates.
To this end, Yahoo! Hong Kong Limited recently implemented its Yahoo! Elite Programme to identify and connect with the city's finest computer science students before they even reach their final year of university.
Launched in the last months of 2007, the programme aims to offer a scholarship, training and subsequent job offer to two to four students every year. First round assessment is based on candidates' education background and other information provided in their resume. Those with outstanding academic results who demonstrate potential move through to the second round onsite assessment centre where the Yahoo! Hong Kong team evaluates their technical aptitude. This stage includes written tests and take-home assignments that are designed to gauge candidates' hard skills and thinking processes.
Passion and people
Despite a keen focus on hard skills and technical knowledge — obviously important for an IT firm — candidates still need a certain level of soft skills. "Strong IT capability alone is not enough," notes Catherine Fong, senior human resources manager, Yahoo! Hong Kong Limited. "We want people who can fit in to the Yahoo! culture, and who enjoy working together with other individuals as a team. They must show excellent communication skills and a passion for the internet."
Given the astonishing rate at which new technologies are developed, Ms Fong says candidates must also have enthusiasm for learning and creating. "Learning is crucial in our workplace and people here always take the initiative to gain more knowledge about the computer world. We must have this attitude to maintain our competitiveness. Therefore, we only take on people expressing such eagerness," she adds.
While the aim of the programme is to identify the best students, the ethos behind it — and behind Yahoo! Hong Kong's employment policy in general — is encouraging open communication between employer and potential employee, allowing both sides to see what they are committing to. "Finding the right company to work for is like finding someone to be your partner," Ms Fong says. "You hope to spend many years of your life together so you need to make sure it's going to be a good match. Therefore, we want to make it clear to our potential employees what we want from them and what they can get from us."
In line with this, the programme includes an opportunity for candidates to meet and talk with serving engineering staff. "Though this time it only lasted 15 minutes, participants showed an overwhelming response towards the mingling session as it helped them get a feel for how Yahoo! Hong Kong operates and what sort of people we are. It provided a firsthand view of what it would be like to work for the company. It was so successful that we are already planning to extend the session in the next run of the programme," Ms Fong says.
Meanwhile, the selection process for the initial 2007 intake is close to its end. Ms Fong says the remaining shortlisted candidates are all outstanding individuals and the company is confident in their abilities. "Having got through our assessment tasks, these young people are truly the cream of the crop. All they need is some practical experience and they will then be able to help take Yahoo! to the next level," she remarks.
Successful applicants graduating in 2008 will take up a full-time technical trainee position that includes up to 12 weeks' training at Yahoo! headquarters in the US or any of its other overseas offices.
Those not graduating until 2009 will also enjoy the extra benefits of a mentor attachment and a summer internship or part-time job opportunity for the remainder of their studies. As part of these they will be given chances to take part in real Yahoo! Hong Kong projects.
"Every day, Yahoo! serves as a starting point for millions of internet users," Ms Fong says. "We continuously improve the service we provide to these people and also to attract more users. To do this we need the best people to work for us and as the first year of our Elite Programme draws to a close, we can confidently say that it has proven to be a successful way to find them."