That depends very much on who you ask, and what you have experienced the past years leading up to a need for change....
What is the ideal profile to take the company to the next levels - and how to execute the (confidential) search?
Since Access People started in 2006, there has been a change in the way a 5 to 7 candidate shortlist often end up being for Mid to Senior management and Executive roles.
10+ years ago, most often the GM/MD/CEO of an International company in China – Small-Medium sized company or a larger MNC – was a foreign leader (in the 1990s often South East Asian, Taiwanese, HK). Sometimes of other Asian origin, but most often European, American or Australian. Very rarely, the foreign leader of the company had Chinese language skills at advanced level. That has all changed.
Today, we have a lot of 30 to 40+ years old foreigners who came to China early in the career and have most of their work experience from China/Asia. From a younger age compared to their counterparts overseas, they have in China/Asia from early on in the career been given and expected to manage people and business from a younger age. They learn and develop fast, and often in P&L roles from their mid 30s.
Moreover, candidates in the 30 to 40 years age bracket have often developed intermediate to advanced level of mandarin language skills. That being said, it is still far less than 1% of foreigners in China who has business fluency on mandarin. They can be found of course, also in combination with the other important skills needed for a role.
At the same time, the far larger pool of Chinese GM/MD/CEO/Director level candidates have of course developed also. Strong combination of China and overseas education, work experience from China and expatriation to postings in Europe/America have made Chinese candidates very seasoned and more than qualified to work with as candidates for the Executive level roles for foreign companies.
All in all, we have today a much larger and diverse candidate pool to tap into for mid to senior level roles as well as individual contributor and specialist roles. We often recommend that a shortlist of candidates with relevant industry experience could be quite diverse, and hold a good combination of:
- Strong Chinese candidates who have experience from Multinational companies, have lived/studied/worked abroad enough to have perspective, able to lead both Chinese and foreign employees in China, transparent and clear communication skills. It could often be candidates who has worked in overseas HQs before. There are many Chinese candidates age 30 to 45 who fits this profile.
- Localized and well accustomed foreign candidates who have spent the larger part their career in China/Asia, Candidates who has intermediate to advanced mandarin language skills, has China has home for the next many years and thus a long-term solution to the role in China/Asia.
The exact profile match to a role is discussed in very details before we start approaching candidates to discuss their background, career plans and match to the role.