Tag Archives: China

Recruiters – take it easy on HR

HR Departments

Recruiters: Take it easy on HR professionals. These are THEIR issues!

HR DepartmentsIn my previous article, I pointed out to HR people how they could establish more productive working relationships with their clients and in particular the HR departments.

In this article, I turn that theme on its head and point out some of the things that most recruiters are not aware of when dealing with their clients, and perhaps should be.

1.      HR Departments have a tough job to do. Theyare not regarded nor treated with the respect they mostly deserve by their internal clients; and particularly in China are regarded as a ‘supporting’ function rather than a business function. Companies who truly embrace HR as a profession have an HR seat on the board, because they realize, for example that people are often the biggest cost to businesses and the performance you get from your ‘people’ can have a huge impact on the top line and overall profitability of the business.

2.      Recruiters – don’t shoot the messenger. Very often when an internal recruiter or even an HR Director tells you that they can’t pay you more than 20% for recruitment they are not doing this out of some bizarre desire to annoy you. They are doing it because at a corporate level this is a decision that has been made. Ignore recruitment training that gives you lots of ‘tricks’ to get a higher fee, instead establish sensible dialogue with your HR colleagues

3.      They are the first to have their budgets cut. HR departments are often the first department to have their budgets cut when times are tough.  When this season comes round ‘HR’ is again seen as a cost rather than a value add (in itself annoying if I were an HR professional) and the axe falls here first. This is hardly good for morale is it? Realize this as a recruiter. If you empathize with your HR colleagues you will build a better relationship faster.

4.      Atone point my wife was seconded to an HR team for 6 months, and she told me that the sheer volume of paperwork that HR people have to manage is enormous. Recruiters complain about KPIs and form filling, but compared to HR teams this is nothing.  If they can’t answer your email straight away there is a reason for that.

5.      Be explicit in asking for the best way to communicate. Ask your HR clients how they can communicate with you and how is best to follow-up if you don’t get response. It is far better to be explicit about this and ask the question rather than to guess, email, call, text in vain. This is a direct, honest way of working that will gain YOU respect.

6.      Make friends! One of my most successful team-members is successful because she is very good at making friends with HR clients. But what does this really mean? It means everything I’ve just talked about: Showing empathy; showing respect; understanding how best to communicate; understanding their professional priorities. If you do all of these things, then naturally, without any manipulation or trickery a good level of rapport and then friendship will flow.

The Author is the founder of RMG Selection. His linkedin profile can be viewed here.

Junior HR in China: Here’s some help!

junior hr in china

It’s better to be friends – honest! – read on….     

In my 11 years running recruitment businesses in China (latterly my own RMG Selection) and almost 20 in the recruitment consultancy business I have encountered numerous ‘clients’ – that is to say – those hiring candidates via us, who seem to think behaving with explicit rudeness, dishonestly and lack of speed; with a sense of superiority and often with a lack of information is the way to show their importance and seniority. This is particularly true of junior HR in China.

I have also worked with some lovely clients. One German lady was a real pleasure to work for. One Frenchman became a very close friend, one Chinese lady became such a good friend that she came to my child’s 100 day party (a Chinese thing).

Here’s why behaving like the first group ‘Group rude’, isn’t smart:

  • You simply will not get the best service. People are programmed from birth to ignore or do the least for those who treat them poorly. It’s an automatic response. It’s a bit like me putting out my hand for you to shake it; you will reach out yours – automatically. The same is true of those that treat us poorly; we automatically give them less attention.
  • You will lose your company money. If you treat people like your personal slave, but maintain the contract/agreement with them, the chances are reasonably high you will end up paying them for something at some stage. For example, if my consultant is dealing with ‘x’ internal recruiter at ‘x’ company, after a while ‘x’ company will probably hire one of my recruiter’s candidates…………………….Now go back and think about your interactions with the consultant. If you had been more pleasant, time had been better spent, you respected their personal time rather than calling at 10pm, and you dropped the attitude, wouldn’t you have saved yourself time? Wouldn’t they be more motivated to work for you?
  • You will look foolish. One of the many realizations I’ve had in my time in the recruitment consultancy business is that those clients who act as per group 1 ‘Group rude’ and behave with a sense of superiority and lack of respect, do in fact demonstrate only 2 things: One, they are junior and trying to overcompensate for it; and two – they lack the experience and wisdom to know that if you treat people well they will treat you well. They also seem to believe that their behavior is invisible to those senior in their companies. It isn’t. How people behave is one of the fastest ‘markers-out’ of personality there is, and good recruiters establish senior level contacts, fast.

So that’s what you shouldn’t do, so what should. Here’s a checklist:

  • If you manage an external ‘vendor’ (we are called business partners in the west), treat them in a friendly, respectful mature way. Speak to them politely and courteously and don’t call them after hours unless it’s an emergency, they have a life too.
  • If they are working hard to help you, make sure you work hard to help them help you. The number of times I’ve spoken to clients who haven’t even read CVs they’ve requested when days before they were ‘in a rush’ days is too horrifying to even recall!
  • Give out information, and if you don’t know find out! Most if not all HR departments are not fully conversant with the nuances of each job in their company. How could they be? That is an impossible task. But equally, a recruitment consultant can’t do their job if the are not in possession of all the facts. Help them get to the facts, and do it with them – i.e. talk to the line manager(s) with the recruiter.
  • Pay their invoices. On time. If you make an agreement stick to it. The number of people (again a sign of lack of seniority) who think it’s ‘OK’ to renegotiate after a ‘deal’ is done is staggering. Don’t expect recruitment consultants to do their best for you, if you don’t honor their agreements. If there’s a genuine hold up in a payment process, first apologise for it, then explain it: I had an email from an HR VP this morning asking if an invoice had been paid – he could not have been more pleasant – I replied thanking them for the follow-up. This is what really senior people do.

Of course all of this assumes that the recruiter is intelligent, knowledgeable, and professional in the first place. But if they weren’t you wouldn’t be talking to them, would you?

In the west, recruitment has moved on. It’s no longer the domain of those who haven’t been to university, or those who are good at selling printers. It attracts intelligent graduates.

The relationship between HR and recruiters has also moved on too. It is all about collaboration and respect, not politics and posturing. Isn’t it about time China grasped this too? Think of the time it would save!

This article was written by Robert Parkinson, Founder & CEO of RMG. He can be contact by email via [email protected] or via +86 10 5896 2210 (direct).

If You Are Not The One


Imagine being promoted to managing director of your company in China. How would that make you feel? Perplexed, pleased, excited, or perhaps a mixture of all of these feelings? This possibility might seem pretty remote for most young expats. That is why I am sharing this story to help you prepare for that moment in the future.

In 2002 I joined a very reputable recruitment company to establish branch offices in Amsterdam and Brussels. It was a tough and challenging period working with many nice people during exciting times. Then my life turned a new page when I went to China. When my boss asked me to come to Beijing, I did not have to think about it. I was very excited to learn about business in China.

Today I’m glad that I made that decision. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here to talk about expats managing Chinese employees. Over the years I have heard expats complain that Chinese workers do not understand teamwork or cannot solve problems alone. Sometimes I wonder if they have ever tried to connect with their employees besides just dropping a “how are you” once in a while. I have three suggestions for expats managing Chinese employees.

The first problem has to do with speech pace. Expats from English-speaking countries are often blamed by Chinese colleagues for speaking incomprehensively fast. Unfortunately, without any awareness that they are speaking too quickly many expats simply blame “the Chinese” for not understanding English.

Think about it the other way around: what would happen if a Chinese manager spoke Chinese to foreign employees? The expat employee would feel awkward at work. For that reason, I suggest foreign managers slow down when they speak. Make sure you get responses (either verbally or through body language) from your Chinese employees. To encourage feedback, you might ask them what they think of your plan or how they are going to execute it.

Second, many expat managers have difficulty listening to their Chinese employees. If you are troubled by Chinese employees’ active obedience problem, here is my advice to you. A successful expat manager needs to understand Chinese culture and have good listening habits. In Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the fifth effective habit is listening.

I benefitted a lot from this habit in my management style. In my last company there was a shy Chinese girl named Joy. One day I asked her to come to my office to give me feedback on the company website. I could see her hands tremble as she listened to my long speech. At that point, I realized that I would have to stop talking and listen to her thoughts. At first she was nervous, but she calmed down when she got active responses. I wasn’t surprised that her feedback was very helpful. If you want other people to listen, you have to listen first.

My last tip for expat managers is to reject the image of “the big boss” in company culture. Ideology and cultural values are deeply rooted in Chinese minds; even those who mask themselves with Western culture sometimes behave in traditional ways. For instance, I can feel the “big boss” problem from the way some employees ask for help, how some girls flush when I give them feedback, and even when someone prepares my coffee.

However, I try my best to discourage my colleagues from thinking this way. Expat managers should try to build rapport with their Chinese employees and break the cultural ice between them. The ideology of the “big boss” originates from the hierarchical structures of feudal society. In modern society, it evolves into courtesy. For example, your opinions are seldom rebutted by Chinese employees, who don’t dare to contradict you. One of the problems this causes is that you will never discover the creativity and intelligence of your Chinese staff.

Adapting to a new culture is a big step for expat managers. I hope my suggestions can help you become one of the many good managers in China.

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Education Today – China’s Minority Language Promotion Plan

EDU-2 China is to add more than 30 minority language courses by 2020, such as local languages used in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus. For more on this issue, our host Wu You talks with Ruben van den Boer, Consultant from RMG Selection, an international recruitment company.  

Holiday Anomalies


The week-long National Day holiday at the beginning of October is a firm favorite among Chinese employees. It is a prime time for them to ask for leave to go traveling or visiting relatives in other cities. However, if you are about to email to your Chinese boss to ask for 20 days of annual leave to travel somewhere in China, then I  have to stop you right there! It is confusing enough for expats to understand the complicated Chinese holiday exchanging rules–holiday anomalies rules, but you are about to discover another culture shock – the difference between East and West when asking for leave.


Many expats give their Chinese bosses a bad impression when asking for leave. In fact, “random” and “impolite” are often used to describe expats’ manner of doing so. So I would like to share with young expats the Chinese-friendly way of asking for leave. In particular it’s time for those who work in local private firms or state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to pay attention.


Let’s talk about taking sick leave first. Over the years I have heard from HR managers who complain about young expats who do not follow the correct protocol for taking sick leave: They don’t feel well, so they take the day off without informing the HR department or their line manager. The next day, they stroll back into the office. There is nothing wrong with asking for sick leave if you feel sick. However, you need to follow company procedure. For instance, in some Chinese companies it’s necessary to supply a note from the doctor to get approval for sick leave.


If you are seriously ill with a potentially contagious ailment, you should not come to the office and expose colleagues to your germs. If the condition is mild – one that does not affect your work or the health of your colleagues – then you are fine to come into the office. On the other hand, if you need to rest at home, it is important to notify your line manager before applying to the HR department for sick leave. It is also necessary to inform any colleagues you might be working with on a project or in a team to re-arrange the workload.


In some Western countries, when employees need to take a long period of leave, say, one month, to take care of sick family members, they still get their basic salary during the leave. The terms depend on local government regulations. Therefore, you should not take the labor rights you enjoy in America or Germany for granted in China. For employment of foreigners in China, such terms as working hours, leave and vacation, work safety, health and social insurance should be in accordance with local regulations. Therefore, if you really need to take a month of sick leave, then you must explain this and discuss the situation with your Chinese line manager. In some local companies, especially SOEs, line managers do not have the power to make the decision. In this case, you must go to the head of your business unit. Fortunately, most Chinese managers and colleagues understand that expats are different from them – at least, your hometowns are much further away than theirs – so expats are often granted holidays more readily than their Chinese counterparts.


In addition to sick leave, annual leave is confusing  for expats. If you currently work with local companies in China, then you will probably be shocked by the number of days of paid annual leave that Chinese employees enjoy – five days in the first 10 years of their careers, 10 days for the next decade and 15 days, the maximum, for the years beyond. Compare that to some European countries, where employees can enjoy a minimum of 30 days of paid annual leave and you might feel sorry for Chinese employees. Expats who work at the senior management level in multinational companies in China mostly enjoy the Western annual leave entitlement, but on the whole, the number of days of annual leave for expats varies from seven to 20.


Surprisingly, what to expats is one of the most valuable deal-makers when signing a contract is normally forfeited by employees in China. This often happens in small and medium-sized Chinese companies. When you ask for annual leave, it suddenly becomes awkward for your Chinese manager. If they approve your 20 days annual leave application, how are they to explain this to your co-workers? If they do not approve your request, then they risk upsetting you. This is just one of the difficulties a manager has to deal with.


I would suggest that you consider your holiday arrangements carefully before signing a contract with a Chinese company. It is also not the norm in European countries to take a month off in a company. Put yourself in your employers’ shoes – wouldn’t you be worried about your performance after a month away? Besides, you have to assure your Chinese boss that you can pre-plan your workload before taking the holiday. In this way, you help your manager out the problem of being short-staffed.


This is one angle to help expats get along with Chinese bosses. If you have never considered any of the issues described above, it’s probably time to check your record and get the leave application right next time.

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