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INTERVIEW With "China Daily"

China Daily reporter Alfred Romann asked ART's Managing Director to offer his opinions about recent trends in senior management executive searches in Shanghai and China

Atlantic Research Technologies, L.L.C. (ART),, is a global executive search firm, recruiting in the industrial, high tech and service sectors, for senior- and middle-management positions in general management, sales and marketing, finance, supply chain, manufacturing, IT, and human resources.

CHINA DAILY: What are the positions most sought in Shanghai? in China?

ART: “In Shanghai and throughout China, our client companies are most commonly seeking Chinese General Managers, Managing Directors, Presidents, CEO's, COO's, CFO's, and Sales and Marketing VP's. Our clients overwhelmingly are North American, European and Asian corporations --MNC's, medium sized market leaders, and well financed startups-- that absolutely require Chinese-English bilingual managers, ideally with experience working at similar world class companies. These managers must know the China market intimately – its opportunities and challenges -- and also understand the needs and concerns of foreign employers.

“In Shanghai, as well as throughout China, we also are typically asked to find factory managers and heads of procurement and supply chain. The profile is similar: local Chinese managers or fluent Chinese/English bilingual managers from other countries, trained in world class methods.”


CHINA DAILY: Are there any clear changes in the positions people are looking for, or that employers are looking to fill?

ART: “Several years ago, companies were often asking for Chinese managers who knew English and who had some job experiences at multinational corporations. These were sort of universal ‘minimum’ job requirements, and what resulted from this simplistic profile by some companies was a whole series of mistakes in hiring the wrong people for the wrong jobs. You would see absurd situations where companies making industrial products, such as automobile parts or machine tools, hiring senior managers from semiconductor companies, banks, software companies, or food companies, for example, just because they were big western firms. Some of these employers would be dazzled by good English skills or perhaps by candidates with MBA's from prestigious western business schools.

“In their home countries, these employers probably would not have considered as viable candidates for senior management people who did not know their markets or products.  For example, should a US firm hire an American candidate simply because s/he spoke English well? Is having an MBA without any relevant work experience really a good risk in choosing a senior manager running an important foreign business unit? In America, such hires would rarely occur, but in China, many western companies routinely based their critical senior hires on these simplistic criteria. I have seen European automotive or telecommunications companies hire people from firms like Danone - a yogurt company – simply because it is European firm.  But telecommunications network equipment and automotive parts aren’t yogurt, and a person who only knows yogurt is not automatically qualified to work for every other European firm. That’s true in Europe and it’s true in China, as well.

“This fast and sloppy reasoning by some employers, in our opinion, was a great mistake, and we fortunately avoided such search assignments.

“We have seen that in the last few years, many foreign companies are coming to realize that hiring Chinese managers should be done using criteria similar to hiring senior managers in any other country. A firm should require that their top local managers understand their industry and have verifiable track records of success in that industry, or in a closely related one. Candidates also must understand the requirements of a specific business model and be comfortable working in it. For example, a startup one-person software sales office in Beijing is going to be very differently organized from a Microsoft office employing 1,000 or more people. A medium sized consumer electronics company is not going to need the same kind of person who runs Philips or Dell.

“Our approach to executive search in China and worldwide is uniform, regardless of location: the candidate needs to prove to us that s/he has already done a similar type of job at a similar type of company. We need to see a track record of success in a candidate's work history. Our clients do not have the time to train their senior managers to do their basic duties, and they do not wish to take needless risks in the hope that our candidates might be successful some day, as if by magic. Our candidates are expected to have been successful managers in the past, and they are expected to be successful managers in their new positions with our clients.

“Our Chinese candidates are almost always expected by our client companies to be the leaders, to provide the roadmap to success in the China market to them. Our clients require a significantly higher standard of executive search than that which is provided by most companies engaged in recruitment in the China market.”


CHINA DAILY: Are there any positions/industries that are either too full of prospective employers or lacking in people to fill too many job openings?

ART: “There is an ongoing need for Chinese managers who can assume the highest positions at foreign companies with Chinese business divisions. Because of the shortage of Chinese managers with world class management style, many other Chinese-speaking managers, from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere are recruited by us to provide additional choices of candidates for our client companies.”


CHINA DAILY: Are there any other trends you may think significant or worth mentioning?

ART: “Because the majority of foreign employers in China were large multinationals, most of the best educated, most internationally trained Chinese managers, are people trained at those companies, and most of these managers are probably best suited for management positions at MNC's. But in recent years, there has been a large influx of small- and medium-sized foreign employers. Some of these companies will some day become great MNC's, but in their current development stage, they often need Chinese managers who can run smaller, unbureaucratic business units. A large number of our new clients entering China are seeking Chinese managers who could work as hands-on managers. In most large Chinese private and state companies, and in most foreign multinationals, it is hard to learn how to run a business in this manner, but this is what many new foreign companies need.  We feel that one of our specialties is finding this special kind of Chinese manager.

“Another trend that we are seeing is that Chinese offices of foreign companies are evolving from being headquarters of China operations into regional Asia-Pacific hubs. There is an additional challenge in finding China-based managers who could manage the entire Asia-Pacific region well, but we feel that with our candidates on six continents, in over 100 countries, we are prepared to meet this exciting trend.”

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