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Gemini Twining Employers and Employees' Needs
Hong Kong is again a job-seeker's market, with demand for staff far outstripping supply, says John Twist, Group General Manager for Gemini Personnel Ltd. Some of the hottest jobs at the moment are those in the finance sector, the headhunting veteran says.

"Demand for banking and management placements, especially in China, is incredible at the moment with many new banks coming to Hong Kong, and the big players gearing up their expansions into the Mainland with China's WTO commitments coming to fruition this year," he explained.

The average job vacancy rate is just under 3%, while the rate for business and professional services is just over 4.5%, according to figures compiled by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management. The healthy rate is good news for headhunters like Mr Twist, but he admits that finding the right candidate is becoming tougher in Hong Kong's limited labour pool.

"Because demand for people now is greater than supply, it is hard to provide what companies want, which is a combination of the end of the recession, demand from China sucking people out, and also fewer foreigners are coming here to work," explained Komal Sajnani, Manager for Business Services at Gemini.

Before 1997, anyone holding a British passport had a right to work in Hong Kong, so there was a ready flow of expats often accompanied by their spouses, who also put their talents to use. Now work visas are required and accompanying spouse are prohibited from engaging in any work -- even charity work.

"If Hong Kong is going to take this role on as supplier of professional services to China and the region, we mustn't forget that Hong Kong is not a big place. It is, in essence, a city state. We can only produce so many talented people, so we will have to bring in people from outside," Mr Twist said.

Issues like pollution, international schools, and high rents are often cited as factors that deter some people from working in Hong Kong. Mr Twist, however, feels that Hong Kong does not face this problem alone, as many major cities around the world also have to contend with these obstacles in attracting talent.

"Hong Kong's advantage in attracting talent is that we have the China opportunity," he said. "China is seen as the 'must-have' thing on your CV. A few years ago it was the Middle East, now it is China, which a big plus in attracting quality people here."

Gemini has opened branches in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, through a joint venture, in addition to its Hong Kong and Bangkok offices to serve the Mainland market. Most of its clients are Western companies looking to place staff in Hong Kong as well as the Mainland. Like the businesses they are in, finding the right person to drive their companies forward, or in a new direction, is extremely competitive.

Classifieds or headhunter?

Ms Sajnani says that while staff recruitment through classifieds can be successful, their shortcoming is that they only target people who see the ad. "If you want to find the best people, you need to go and find them and talk to them," she said. "Waiting for them to see your ad and to come and talk to you obviously has several disadvantages."

Among these is time. Instead of meeting 35 candidates, a headhunter can narrow the list down to five. Also, email makes it very easy for anyone to attach their CV and cast it out in the hope of getting a bite. "A headhunter narrows it down by finding out what a client wants, and what they want their new recruit to achieve," she said.

Maintaining good relations with both the clients and applicants that Gemini serves is extremely important, because, as Mr Twist points out: "today's applicant can be tomorrow's client." But how does he find the talent in the first place?

Besides mining the company's database, his staff also need to keep their finger on the pulse of career changes in Hong Kong to allow them to inform potential candidates about job opportunities. Unlike tele-marketers, who are often dispatched with a few gruff words, cold calls from headhunters are generally welcomed.

"In Hong Kong, people are very receptive to opportunities. If there is an opportunity in it for them, they will listen to you. In other countries, they are not so receptive, but China is becoming more like Hong Kong in this regard," he said.

"Most of the time, even people at a very high level, are very helpful because they are thinking if they help this headhunter there will be something in it for them," Ms Sajnani said. "This is very helpful to build up future networks and contacts for both the executives and ourselves if they ever come looking for a job, or if we are looking for the right candidate. That is how we always recruit the best person for the job."

Company: Gemini Personnel Ltd

Established: 1983

Year joined HKGCC: 1990

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