Moving to Hong Kong - 2012

It’s now been a year since we first wrote about moving to Hong Kong and while we see HR developing as a function here it is still evolving and has some way to go to match processes seen in the US or the UK.

Expatriates continue to remain in Hong Kong, especially in high level HR roles at Western companies whose global Head Quarters are in either Europe, the US or Australia with subsequent regional hubs in Hong Kong. However the influx of candidates being imported from overseas has slowly decreased over the year, mainly due to the difficult economic conditions.

While to the outside world Asia continues to be a booming hub, it’s worth pointing out that a lot of that growth is still coming from China and with that comes cultural and language issues that are virtually impossible for someone from overseas to overcome unless you possess Mandarin skills that are usable in a working environment.

Westernised Chinese candidates are clearly at an advantage if they have these skills and candidates without these abilities will struggle as it means they are pushed towards industry sectors where languages are less important; essentially finance and professional services. The news around the finance sector is hard to ignore so we all should be aware that roles in this space are limited and therefore you need to possess strong sector specific skills that truly set you apart.

While there remain some tricky economic factors to overcome, that isn’t to say that it is impossible to find a role here. Some of the fundamentals remain true and if you can display the knowledge and skills that people want to see you can still make a move happen.

Why Hong Kong?

Most employers continue to spend at least 15-20minutes assessing why you are interested in a move here. Moving with a spouse/partner is a clear reason to be here and is one way to make this question redundant, although if this isn’t the case you really need to think carefully about your answer. Stating that economic conditions are subdued in your part of the world isn’t an answer that goes down well and clients are more interested to understand the positive reasons for a move and your cultural understanding of Hong Kong rather than anything else. Even now it is incredible that some candidates are unaware of the time difference to Hong Kong or even the main languages spoken here.

There are a number of factors that remain true when applying for a role here and before speaking to anyone I would recommend thinking about the following:

  • Cost of living, what will this mean for you and your family?
  • Exchange rates, what does this currently look like, how does it look historically?
  • Have you been to Hong Kong?
  • Interest rates
  • Taxes
  • When could you move? How easy would that be?
  • Your main reason for applying

Being Flexible

It is truly a “client driven” market at the minute which means that clients have far more candidates open to them than in many years previously. Therefore patience, understanding and selling skills that are in demand here are key ways to make a client sit up and take notice. Making a sideways move in terms of your career is never ideal, but if it gives you exposure to a new region and you are bored in your current position it is something that you should definitely consider.

High Demand Positions in 2012

Graduate Recruitment

– this is an interesting area that never seems to have enough great candidates. Until this function is seen as true career option in Asia we will always be interested to speak with strong overseas candidates with great campus experience.


– as clients have started to look more at streamlining and utilizing systems, we’ve seen an increase in demand for people that specialize in this space.

Change Management

– as teams start to streamline functions, it has led to a number of HR Transformation initiatives. Candidates that are mid-career and coming straight from consulting are particularly in demand.


All of the above points are cause for concern and we would recommend that you speak to someone here at Elliott Scott to assess the best time to do a trip and whether it is even worthwhile. Things have changed and you are no longer guaranteed to have a number of interviews on a visit here. In saying that, if you’ve never been and want to find out more it is well worth a personal visit that can also allow you to meet people should we be able to organize it.


There will always be a market for very strong expatriates with good HR expertise, but the market is tighter than it has ever been and there should be no expectation that you will walk straight into a role here. Your recruiter needs to manage this for you and even work to a time frame that talks more in terms of months and years rather than days and weeks. While being flexible will help, today it is more about patience and allowing the market to recover, if you want to make a move happen you can do it, you just need to bide your time.

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