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Flexibility needed to score expat gigs in Asia

Employers want to cut hiring costs and improve quality

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Ex-pat IT pros are finding it increasingly difficult to persuade Asian employers to put them on the payroll, but opportunities exist for those who prove they can be flexible, adapt easily to a new working culture and have deep knowledge at the cutting edge of technology, according to experts.

International recruiter Hudsons Global interviewed over 3,000 employers and employees in Hong Kong, Singapore and China to compile its series of local Salary & Employment Insight 2012 reports and found that firms want more value from employees and have become fussy hirers in the quest for the qualities they value.

Some 55 per cent of hiring managers said they were under pressure to reduce costs and improve the quality of their hires, which in practical terms can mean ex-pat candidates losing out in favour of locals who can provide a better cultural fit and who do not incur hefty relocation costs.

Hudson’s Hong Kong general manager Tony Pownall told The Register that candidates should do their research well before applying for a job, to make sure they can not only demonstrate knowledge of “the Hong Kong/Chinese way of doing things” but also to show that they are a good fit for the specific multinational involved.

Cultural fit in Hong Kong could be anything from trying to learn the language to being able to cope with increased stress levels, he added.

“It’s definitely a step up in pace from some markets – people have more of a work/life blend than a work/life balance,” said Pownall.

“Also, just because you are qualified to a certain level doesn’t make you good at your job. It’s more about your attributes and behaviour and how you apply them that set you apart – more employers are realising this.”

To give themselves every chance of being hired, candidates could also offer to be flexible on elements of relocation packages such as flights and help with accommodation, he added.

Another big draw for Hong Kong firms at the moment is candidates with skills in certain key areas, including PMP-level project management, trading systems, cloud computing, software development and business analysis, the report found.

Ex-pat IT professionals at middle or senior management levels stand the best chance of getting an interview, especially if they have experience of working anywhere in India or Asia and can demonstrate a deep but broad sweep of technical knowledge in a particular field.

Although the days when ex-pat pros were parachuted in at great cost to Asian businesses are for the most part over, the market is still awash with opportunities for those with the right skills set and outlook, said Pownall.

In Hong Kong, for example, the finance sector is still doing well and openings exist for the right candidates.

In the IT&T sector, meanwhile, there are opportunities thanks to large number of data centres being built in Hong Kong, and the decision made by financial services firms to outsource some of their functions. ®

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