Where To Find The Best People in HK

Hi guys! Today I want to talk about where and how to find good employees. I’ve found several good channels and have found talented people through some of them while having less luck with others.  Read on to find out more.

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One thing people instantly notice about our team is that we’re good-natured and work really well together.  We share values, passion, a workspace and have similar attitudes toward life. At Alarice we truly have a “happy office” and hiring the right people is the first step to building office happiness.

Besides a happy office, we have a very stable team. Although we have a probation period clause in our employment contract, we’ve never had to use it. Below I’m going to talk about our approach to hiring and the platforms we use. Keep in mind though that my colleagues at Alarice are young millennials, many straight from uni, so the tips in this post will be most useful for young, creative companies.

In order not to bore you with an exceedingly long blog post, I’ll cover the “Alarice Hiring” topic in two parts. In the first one, I’ll talk about our approach to hiring and the major platforms we use. In the second post, I’ll cover our selection and interview process in detail.  Here we GO.

I. Are you ready to hire?

In any successful startup there comes a time to hire new staff. So, if you’re thinking of getting more people on board, welcome to the club!

I realized with time, that there are two major approaches to hiring people. The first approach is more traditional and it basically discourages hiring people unless you absolutely cannot do without. So prior to opening a position you should exhaust your current capacity. You should squeeze everything you can from your existing team – even if the team is just you! Many Hong Kong entrepreneurs and startups follow this path. It might work for some businesses and in some situations, however in my view it’s generally destructive. By overworking yourself and your team, neither functions at its best.  Unless you have a very clear end-goal and deadline for this “sacrifice”, such an approach will hinder your development. When everyone is so “busy” how can you find time to think, innovate and improve?

The second approach is more forward-looking. You hire people when you need them only about 30%. In other words, you could totally do without that extra team member, but you choose to hire them anyway, because it allows time for a proper, unhurried selection exercise, meaningful on-the-job training and crucial side-projects or community work. ( I’ll talk about “side projects” and why every business should run some – in one of the upcoming posts. )

As you have probably guessed, I prefer the second approach. And yes, you may argue that it’s more “expensive”. However it pays dividends, because you have time to find, secure and train “your person”, not just some fellow to-get-the-job-done. Many startups also worry whether they’ll be able to afford the wages of a new hire? Well, in my experience it just works out. So, if you are unsure whether you’ll be able to sustain an additional person full-time in the long run, – just take him/her in and then work hard, real hard together to make sure you have enough business & income to cover that additional expense. Remember, that with more of the “right people” comes more expertise, more skills, more creativity, more potential and definitely more growth.

II. How to approach hiring: the Alarice way

Despite a common belief that hiring is when a company chooses people to work for them, I’m more than convinced that it’s a two-way process of choosing each other. I like to compare the hiring process to “dating”, job offer to “proposal”, first day in the office to a “wedding day” and your daily work to “ happy marriage”.

Well, think about it, you don’t just walk out on the street one day, grab the first guy you see and get married. Usually, you meet and “click” first, then take time to get to know, understand and bond with each other, before being ready to formalize your relationship and say “I do”.  Same for hiring.

In my experience, only if both parties have truly chosen each other – from the heart, for reasons beyond just “comfort and wages” – the relationship can work.

So, when you want to hire “your person” get ready to look above and beyond, listen, be honest and transparent, ask the right questions and trust your gut. All of the above are crucial for success.

III. Hong Kong Hiring Platforms

Like in “online dating”, finding the right platform to display your advertising will in many ways determine your success.  In the past 4 years we have tried almost everything Hong Kong has to offer in terms of hiring platforms, so let’s check them out one by one.

  1. JobsDB

Jobs DB is still the most popular job advertising platform in Hong Kong. I have used them on a couple of occasions when looking for full-time staff. Despite all the system updates and rebranding that they went through in the past year I still don’t find JobsDB very effective.

The problem with JobsDB is that it has such a huge flow of new job postings that three hours after your job listing goes life, it’s impossible to find it by just scrolling down the page. This limits exposure tremendously as the candidate will have to either know your company name to find the ads or spend hours scrolling down. Even though JobsDB is the biggest hiring platform and they have access to hundreds of thousands of users at any given time, the reality is JobsDB gives you just a few hours’ window to reach your audience.

They aren’t cheap either. If you choose to brand your ad (include your logo and the theme color), one job post will set you back HKD 1,000. You can also buy packages of 3 or 5 job listings, but the discount isn’t significant.

Did it work for us? Not really. I never received more irrelevant applications then those from JobsDB. It seemed that some users clicked “apply” for every job ignoring the job requirements. In fact, it often times felt that all those random people were just spamming me. After our last attempt in 2015, I cut my relationship with the platform.

That being said, three years ago we succeeded in hiring one person through JobsDB.

Cost: HKD 880 – 1,000/job

Effectiveness: 2/5

Remarks: gives a short exposure window

  1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an amazing social media network for professionals. It’s great for B2B business development and starting professional conversations. (I will definitely write a separate feature on LI some time soon.) LinkedIn also has a very sophisticated hiring interface, which makes it easy to access specific people with matching qualifications and push your job ads to them.

Did it work for us? We used LinkedIn once and it delivered quite some results. The applications we received were highly relevant so I would recommend this platform to anyone hiring at the senior management level or looking for personnel with a very specific skill set.

LinkedIn is not cheap as a single ad will set you back HKD 2,000-3,000 but for its relevance and accuracy, it still wins my vote.

Cost: HKD 2,000 – 3,000 /job

Effectiveness: 4/5 

Remarks: best suited to searches for senior managers and technical staff

  1. The Hong Kong Labour Department

Now here comes a surprising one. Very few startups in Hong Kong go to the government career centre to look for staff. Well, I think they should reconsider their approach. The Labour Department website was recommended to me by a local friend who found many of her staff through this channel.

You have to register and upload your newest BR, but other than this its hassle-free as well as free of charge. You register once, but your records and job templates are saved in your account, so you can revisit and restart your ads any time.

I hired my first colleague through this platform, though he always said it was more of an exception rather then the rule that a young person would even check the labour department ads. Well, I believe in no accidents! We have been happily working together for 4 years now.

Another thing I should mention is that the Labour Department has access to a wide pool of people with disabilities and older talents. You may choose to include them in the job listing circulation, if you’re open for them to apply.

If you’re looking for a local receptionist, research assistant or admin, why not open your job for applicants with disabilities or older candidates. I have never hired one, just because in our current setting we don’t have admin roles, but I would love to do so in the future. It’s very meaningful: you provide opportunities, give back to society and can even apply for some government benefits, like tax breaks, as a bonus.

Did it work for us? Yes! And for a free platform it’s not bad. We still post jobs there, whenever we hire. Bottom-line, I would not recommend it as the only platform to use, but it can be great supporting channel. Free and easy, just do it.

Cost: Free

Effectiveness: 3/5 

Remarks: opens a channel for older and disabled candidates

  1. JIJIS

If you are looking to hire fresh graduates or summer interns, JIJIS is the place to go. JIJIS is short for Joint Institutions Job Information System, and all 8 Hong Kong higher education bodies are members of the platform.

Once you post a job on JIJIS it goes to all 8 Hong Kong universities and reaches their students. Job posting is free of charge, but you’ll have to go through an official registration that takes up to 1 week. To register you must submit a form and your latest BR through the system. JIJIS welcomes enquiries by email (support@jijis.org.hk) as well. In my experience they’re very responsive, so send them your questions.

Once you’re registered, just go ahead and post the jobs. Usually you are allowed to submit up to 5 jobs/month and they stay active for 30 days. Remember to re-submit your new BR yearly, otherwise your account will be frozen and you’ll have to re-activate it with JIJIS support.

Did it work for us? JIJIS brought us mixed results. We found a paid local intern when we needed one, but didn’t get such great results with our full-time staff hunting. I still think it’s a good supporting platform to use and it’s also free, so don’t think twice, just get yourself registered.

Cost: Free

Effectiveness: 3/5

Remarks: great for interns and fresh graduates

5. Specialised Platforms

This is by far the most effective way to promote a job vacancy that we are now using regularly. The challenge is to find the most relevant specialized platform that posts jobs for your industry or your target audience in particular.

As Alarice’s business focus is mainland China, we mostly hire young mainland Chinese jobseekers who have studied in Hong Kong universities. So instead of advertising on general platforms and hoping some of our target candidates will find the ad, we took some time to research and found “香港求职” (or HK Recruit). They have WeChat and Weibo pages focusing specifically on mainland Chinese jobseekers looking for employment in Hong Kong. Most of the applicants are young graduates and hold IANG visas.

The adverting costs are reasonable depending on how many posts/ reposts you want on which channels (WeChat, Weibo or both). We always take the package WeChat Post + Weibo Post + Weibo Repost.

The total price for the above package is HKD 1,500. However because we were promoting a full-time, interesting job in marketing that many subscribers considered attractive, we got a 50% discount and in the end, it cost only HKD 750.

Did it work for us? Last time we used them in June 2016, we got over 150 applications. Out of which 90% were relevant. Amazing result! So, I highly recommend you to find a specialized platform, group or channel applicable to your industry. It wont be big and it doesn’t have to be official. Often these platforms are just social media groups on FB, LinkedIn, WeChat and others. The best way to find them is to ask around in your industry, someone will know.

Cost: HKD 750 – 1,500 (香港求职)

Effectiveness: 5/5

Remarks: it may be challenging to find your specialized platform at first, but definitely worth the effort

So, these are the 5 major platforms we use and recommend checking out. I haven’t mentioned other platforms here, such as headhunters, because we’ve never used them and haven’t mentioned some smaller recruitment platforms because they haven’t been effective for us. I also haven’t spoken about hiring international interns here as this will be the topic of a separate post soon.

If you have other hiring channels to recommend or have questions on the above-mentioned, please let me know in the comments below. If you find it useful, please also leave me a short note.

Next time I’m going talk about what to do after you’ve received applications and how to choose the right candidates. Stay tuned for more awesome tips for startup success in Hong Kong at AshleyTalks. Cheers!


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