Monthly Update – January 2011

Market News

The West Kowloon Cultural District suffered another blow to it’s development with the resignation of the CEO, Graham Sheffield. How this will affect the time scale of the district is still uncertain but a decision is due on the 3 current design proposals submitted by Foster and Partners, OMA and Rocco Design in the first quarter of 2011.

The world’s longest sea bridge was completed in January, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge. Stretching over 26.4 miles, the bridge could span the English Channel. This will soon be dwarfed however by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge which is under construction and will stretch nearly 30 miles.

It was announced that land sales in China during 2010 were up 70% year-on-year concerning some experts who think that the efforts to cool the property market are not working and are creating a bubble. There are still mixed opinions on this but in the long term, China still needs to build for it’s ever growing urban population and developers remain bullish. In efforts to cool the property market, Chonqing has announced a “high-end” property tax on commercial housing. This is expected to be adopted by other cities across China if it is seen to be having the desired effect.

High-speed rail continues to be highly publicized. This month it was the turn of Xian to open up a new station cutting travel time to two hours to Chengdu, four hours to Beijing and five hours to Shanghai. The different networks are now starting to link up meaning it will soon be possible to travel almost anywhere in China very easily.

In Beijing, the government has announced that work will begin to construct Beijing’s 2nd International Airport this year. This will relieve pressure on Beijing’s existing airport which served 74 million passengers last year by adding capacity for a further 40 million into the capital.

Beijing from the Airphoto © 2009 Andrey Belenko | more info (via: Wylio)

In Hong Kong, the Airport Authority announced it’s plans for expansion with a new HK$7billion mid field satellite terminal. This is going to be the last expansion possible on the currently reclaimed land and should allow passenger capacity to increase as the development of the third runway and growth is considered longer term.

And finally, plans were revealed to effectively create a mega city in Guangdong province linking up the 9 major cities in the region. Please check out the below link for more information:

What’s Hot

In the run up to Chinese New Year, January can be a quiet month in Hong Kong and China as companies look to complete deadlines and focus on recruitment following the holidays. However, we have been extremely busy within a couple of areas that continue to have high demand. In engineering, we are being asked to find experienced structural candidates to work in consultancies, developers and construction companies – these are for roles in Hong Kong mainly although clients are looking for people with experience in China and the associated language skills. There is also a shortage of good E&M candidates in the market. A number of clients are looking for hires with the key being strong E&M design experience rather than project delivery experience. In addition a couple of clients are looking to make key strategic senior level hires within the E&M discipline as they look to develop their teams on projects in China.

We have also found clients are keen to speak to Project Managers with building backgrounds. The projects range from infrastructure schemes through to hospitality and data-centre work. The key here is that candidate’s have a consultancy background and have specific relevant experience in specialised sectors.

A number of architecture firms in Hong Kong are looking to take on experienced candidates still. Clients are particularly interested in registered HKIA candidates with around 10+ years experience. Generally this is for a mix of projects in Hong Kong and also China. We are receiving indications that after the Chinese New Year, a number of companies will need experienced design staff in China to be based in Beijing and Shanghai mainly. This is due to a number of projects that are expected to be given the green light in February. On the interiors side, a few clients are on the look out for experienced hospitality candidates although again, this will perhaps be green lit after the holidays.

Most Urgent Requirements

We have outlined below the urgent vacancies we have had through from clients over the last month.

  • Project Manager – Manila – International consultancy firm to work on a hotel project
  • Project Manager – Hong Kong – International engineering consultancy
  • Head of Property – Hong Kong or Shanghai – Engineering and design consultancy, senior position
  • Head of MEP Engineering – Hong Kong – International engineering consultancy, senior position
  • Senior Architect – Hong Kong – Growing practice in Hong Kong looking for HKIA registered candidates
  • Senior Interior Designer – Hong Kong – Bespoke luxury hospitality and residential projects

In addition we are still keen to hear from engineers at all levels with strong structural, M&E and MEP experience for positions in Hong Kong. We’d also like to speak to experienced architects interested in roles in Beijing and Shanghai.

Please visit our website for more information on the above roles and our other vacancies:

If you wish to enquire about a position please send an email and your CV to

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Chinese City Fact: Hangzhou

Hangzhou is one of the Seven Ancient capitals of China and has a history dating back as far as 4700 years ago when people first settled there. Hangzhou is one of the most widely visited tourist destinations in China and will become more so now a 202 km high-speed rail link has been completed linking it to Shanghai shortening journey times to around 45 minutes.

Perhaps it’s most famous for the West Lake “a paradise on water or water in paradise” which has long been known for it’s picturesque scenery in addition to being associated with many scholars, heroes and revolutionaries. Many ancient buildings exist around it’s shores and the lake is widely regarded as one of the most revered national treasures of China.

2006-02-08-Hangzhou-0025photo © 2006 webmasternic7918 | more info (via: Wylio)

It is highly recommended as a place to visit as part of any trip to Shanghai as outlined in this Telegraph article:

2006-02-07-Hangzhou-BateauLacOuest-0005photo © 2006 webmasternic7918 | more info (via: Wylio)

For more information on Hangzhou please visit: or

Telephone and Video Interviews – Part 1

This is a 2 part post. Part 1 – Telephone Interviews is posted below. Part 2 – Video Interviews will follow in 2 weeks.

In the current climate, it is increasingly common for candidates to look further afield in their job search. This can mean looking to relocate overseas for job opportunities. Some companies recognise they also need to look further afield and therefore need to interview these candidates. In the majority of cases, companies prefer to meet candidates face-to-face for interviews but this is sometimes simply not possible. Thankfully modern technology allows for some alternatives and this article aims to outline how to make the most of two of the most common methods: telephone and video interviews.


For both telephone and video interviews, you will have to demonstrate one key thing to clients. That is your commitment to moving over to work with them in another country. A client will want to understand what research you have done and how much you know about relocating. You MUST prepare for this because if a client feels that you’re simply seeing what is out there, they will not move forward with any further interviews. A lot of people simply say “I want to work in X” and then when questioned by clients about what they know about life in the country, they fall down quickly. Don’t be that person. If you want to relocate and go through the process of interviewing with firms internationally, do your research and then use the telephone and video interviews to really prove to the clients you want to move and can fulfil a role for them.

Part 1 – Telephone Interviews

This is not the preferred method for clients or candidates for interviews but has become increasingly used in this era of better communications. Generally a company will arrange to call a candidate at an assigned time (usually with big time differences taking into account) and will use the telephone conversation as an initial screening process. It is very unusual for a client to agree to hire only through telephone interviews instead relying on further video interviews or flying candidates out should the initial telephone conversation go well. Telephone interviews therefore tend to be slightly shorter ranging from 20-45 minutes long with most being around 30 minutes.

A telephone interview is notoriously difficult to get right. Both parties are unable to see each other and make use of the many visual signs (both body language etc) that face-to-face interviews present. Parties are relying solely on vocal communication and the candidate’s ability to talk through their experiences and aspirations effectively. It’s therefore important to practice talking through your CV and projects. You should prepare to speak about specific project examples going into detail where relevant and outlining your particular role. With a telephone interview it is even more important that you listen very carefully to any questions asked and answer them specifically. You have less time than an ordinary interview and therefore need to present as much relevant information as possible to the interviewer in the time available.

It’s still equally important to prepare for a telephone interview in the same manor as any other interview. Make sure you have researched the company and can use any key facts and figures you have memorised during the conversation. Without seeing you, the interviewer is going to need to be convinced to take the interview process forward. By demonstrating that you know something about them and are enthusiastic about working for them, you will stand a good chance of going to the next stages.

the telephonephoto © 2007 sam garza | more info (via: Wylio)

If you are interviewing for a design or projects role, a telephone interviewer may or may not have a selection of your work or a project list to look through in front of them. You may therefore be asked questions about these projects so it is important you remember what you sent through to them originally. Clients often ask for more examples at this point which you should send through at the conclusion of the interview.

As this is often an initial screening interview, clients can ask for details about current and expected salary. As with any interview it’s worth avoiding discussing this in detail for fear of overpricing or underselling yourself. By all means be honest about your current package but perhaps highlight that your expectations are open at this stage and can perhaps be revisited as the interview process moves forward and you both learn more about each other.

End the telephone interview on a positive note reiterating your interest in taking things forward whether it be with a video interview or in potentially flying over*.

One final note on telephone interviews – it is worth providing a couple of numbers for the company to contact you on should there be any communication problems. A land-line is generally the best option and gets around mobile reception issues and potential battery problems.

*A Quick Note on Flying Over for Interview.

Some companies will cover the cost of flights over for a candidate to interview. However, this is rare in the current climate and is generally only for senior appointments. Some companies will look for a level of commitment from a candidate and ask if they will fund a trip over for themselves. This would be regarded as a positive sign to the client. You really need to think carefully here. A flight and accommodation will require an investment from you and you need to remember that by flying over it does not guarantee that you will automatically secure a position. It certainly helps greatly but this is really a decision you need to think about carefully. If you have a few potential meetings lined up then it can be worth it or if you feel that one role is worth the risk then great. However I would only fully commit to a trip if you are guaranteed to be able to meet someone. I would of course always recommend a trip to your potential place of future residence to assess the environment if nothing else. A lot of candidates combine these trips with meeting companies thus killing two birds with one stone.

For some further tips on interviewing in general, please take a look at our other post Interviewing Basics.

Chinese City Fact: Ningbo

Ningbo is one of the oldest cities in China and an important trading hub for the economy on the east coast of China. It started trading goods in the 7th century. Ningbo is currently in competition with Shanghai to win the race to be the port of choice on the East Coast. Historically it was one of China’s original 3 port cities along with Guangzhou and Yangzhou and became designated as one of the “Five Treaty Ports” after the Opium Wars. It has some advantages over other ports in the region in that it is a deep water port and multi-purpose (consisting of estuary, inland and coastal harbours).

As a successful port, the growth in economic growth in Ningbo has been rapid and as such, the construction of a Ningbo Eastern New City is currently underway which will had 16 square kilometres to the city and vastly improve it’s infrastructure allowing it to compete with China’s other growing cities.

Ningbophoto © 2010 Taco Witte | more info (via: Wylio)

Anna Maersk in Harborphoto © 2009 Tyler | more info (via: Wylio)

For an interesting site with information on Ningbo please visit:

Opinion Poll – January 2011 (Poll Now Closed)

Thank you to everyone that voted, we’ve had a great response – this poll has received over 100 votes and is now closed. Please click below to see the results and add any comments or questions you have. A new poll will be published in February.

Chinese City Fact: Shenyang

Shenyang is the biggest city in Northeast China and a rapidly developing metropolis ranked as one of the top 20 emerging cities in China. It is the local centre for commercial activities particularly with Japan, Russia and Korea. Less known is that is also classed as a forest city. It has 13 nature reserves covering nearly 14% of the city and per capita public green space area is 9.8 square metres. In the last 10 years more than 19 million trees have been planted as part of a wind-breaking and sand fixing ecological initiative.

Many Hong Kong and Chinese developers are investing in large retail, residential and commercial developments in Shenyang and it is quickly turning into one of China’s new modern cities.

North Tomb in Shenyang, PRC 中國東北沈陽北陵photo © 2007 Prince Roy | more info (via: Wylio)

North Tomb in Shenyang, PRC 中國東北沈陽北陵photo © 2007 Prince Roy | more info (via: Wylio)

For more on Shenyang please visit:

Interviewing Basics

I have put together a list of 10 tips which I think will help you in getting ready for and attending an interview.

**Please note, I will go into a lot more detail regarding interview content specifics in the articles “Interviewing Successfully” and “Telephone and Video Conference Interviews – Some Pointers” which will be published in the coming weeks.**

This guide is designed to provide an overview of what you need to do to have a successful interview. There are lots of resources out there on the web but this has been put together based on my experience over the years with candidates interviewing at companies in Asia.

One thing I would say above all others is that an interview is your opportunity to get yourself an offer to consider. Even if you are not 100% sure about the opportunity you are interviewing for, make sure you get yourself the offer to consider and then decide if you wish to turn it down. Don’t let any lack of enthusiasm show to the interviewer. A lot of people are rejected by clients for a perceived lack of interest in a position. This is easily avoided. Now for the tips:

1. Be prepared

Make sure you know your own CV and you can talk through all your experiences in detail. Research in depth the company you are meeting too. Do check out their website but go further and look for more information e.g. press articles, financial information, company structures, information on key people. Memorise some key facts and figures you can use during the interview. Also practice any presentations you are going to make.

2. What to wear

The general rule here is if in doubt, dress as smartly as possible. Some firms (particularly design companies) are more casual in their office attire. If you can, try to find out the interview protocol if you are unsure – ask your recruitment consultant or someone you perhaps know at the company. If in doubt wear a suit and tie with smart shoes. If you are certain of protocols at a company and know things are more casual, a smart jacket, trousers, shirt (no tie) with smart shoes is ok.

3. What to take

If you have some examples of work, whether it be a project list, portfolio or laptop presentation, make sure it’s all in order before you leave. Charge up any electronic equipment you need to take or use. Ensure the portfolio or project lists are in the correct order for the interview. Generally speaking, it is always safer to take too much with you to an interview rather than too little. You can always be selective about what you show.

4. Know where you are going and who you are meeting

Sounds simple really but there are a lot of people who don’t know where their interview will be or who to ask for when they arrive. Taking the time to confirm the address, look it up on a map and preparing your travel arrangements accordingly will help reduce the stress on your part. Also asking for the right person on arrival and knowing who they are will ensure get into the interview room with the least stress and potential for delay, which leads to…

5. Arrive early

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview. Try to arrive at the building if nothing else 10-15 minutes early and get yourself composed. You’d be amazed how much this can reduce the stress of interviewing. On the day, check the weather, confirm your travel arrangements and leave with lots of time to spare.

6. Greet your interviewer with…

A firm handshake and a smile and look them in the eye. Allow them to introduce themselves and to get you settled. Accept a business card and if in Hong Kong or China, take the card with two hands and study the information for a moment before putting it down. A good interviewer will start fairly casually and put you at ease before going into detail about your experience.

7. Body language

There are lots of websites outlining this in detail. The basics are to maintain eye contact, smile (where appropriate), sit up straight and with an open stance and to talk slowly and confidently. Try not to slouch or mumble through answers and avoid shying away from eye contact. Listen carefully to any questions and if you need to, take some time to answer but make sure you answer the questions asked! Some people when nervous speak very fast, try to focus and speak slowly and keep things brief and to the point. Avoid excessive hand gestures and try to maintain a calm and composed appearance.

8. Asking questions

Before the interview and based on the research you have done you should prepare some detailed questions to ask the interviewer. Make sure they are relevant and are equally about the company and the role. Try to avoid generic questions and go into a bit more detail bringing some of your facts and figures out if you can. This will show you are enthusiastic about the opportunity and company. Try to avoid questions that a cursory glance of the company website could reveal the answers to. You will come across as unprepared and appear not to have researched the company.

9. At the end

Thank the interviewer for their time, smile, maintain eye contact and offer a firm handshake again. Equally show your interest by indicating you look forward to receiving their feedback in due course. You can sometimes ask when you can expect to hear or an interviewer will often let you know.

10. Follow up

On most occasions it’s worth sending through a polite thank you note by email to the interviewer. This can thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in hearing from them soon. Offer any further material or information that they may have shown an interest in seeing.

One final tip, it’s always worth being polite, attentive and chatty to the secretary or receptionist who you meet on arrival/departure. Once you walk out the door, quite often the interviewer will turn to the receptionist who could offer up a “they seemed nice” or if you’ve got it wrong “they seemed rude.” You’d be surprised how often I’ve heard this in feedback so it’s worth keeping in mind.