Monthly Update: July 2011

Market News

Hong Kong was the world’s 3rd largest recipient of Foreign Direct Investment in 2010 with an influx of US$69 billion, up 32% on the previous year. However US$76 billion in investment also flowed out making it slightly unclear as to how much of the investment actually remained in Hong Kong.

'Hong Kong' photo (c) 2005, Herry Lawford - license:

Shanghai this month announced plans to develop 7 new satellite cities. As part of China’s 5 year plan the hope is to encourage development of suburban areas rather than focusing simply on downtown development. This should in turn provide a balanced rural and urban development system.

Shui On Land also announced an expansion of it’s “Xiantiandi” brand in Shanghai with the opening of a new district close to Shanghai’s second airport and high speed railway station at Hongqiao. It is hoped that it will mirror the successes of the other Xiantiandi area which it opened 9 years ago and has seen significant increases in it’s rental yields over recent years.

'' photo (c) 2010, The Fool's Age of Wandering - license:

Another month, another record. This time it is the Qingdao Bridge which opened to become the world’s longest sea bridge at 41.5km. Linking to districts in Qingdao, journeys times have been cut by 40 minutes and it is hoped that this will relieve congestion and encourage trade in the area.

Poll Result

This month we asked people to tell us where they would prefer to be based when working on a project. The results can be seen below:

We were not too surprised to see that most respondents, some 59% of you would prefer to be based in a head office location with only regular travel to a project site. Just over 1/3 of you would be happy to be stationed on a project site whilst hardly anyone didn’t want to visit/be stationed at all. We find these result quite interesting and in line with the requests we get from candidates. A willingness to be stationed on a project is the fundamental requirement for a lot of our clients and with so many candidates only wishing to travel to sites it isn’t surprising that demand is extremely high for those who will relocate. The need for staff to be located on sites, often in 2nd or 3rd tier cities in China, is unappealing to a lot of candidates. However it is worth noting that companies, in particular developers, are increasingly offering very strong remuneration packages and regular trips home to those that will make the commitment. We have found that those of our candidates who have been flexible and based themselves in slightly unusual locations have had extremely successful experiences and it has also allowed them to move up the career ladder quickly in comparison to their non-stationing peers.

The response this month was great as always and we’re keen to keep getting your views. There will be another poll to vote on in August so remember to check back soon and we’ll announce things on Twitter/LinkedIn.

What’s Hot

We have had an extremely busy July continuing on with lots of requirements from developers ramping up growth within their teams in mainland China.

Architectural project managers (and those with engineering backgrounds) are still needed for projects in China. Those willing to be stationed are particularly sought after and we’re finding candidates increasingly have a number of options to consider now if they are open to relocation. Senior project leaders are the most sought after candidates – people with solid experience managing and delivering large projects who are also capable of leading a mid/large team.

Mandarin speaking architects remain in high demand with design firms in Hong Kong and China. A push for really strong design talent, particularly those with some big name practices on their CVs is apparent. Work seems to be continuing to flow in for architects and designers and most firms seem to have needs at some level. It is increasingly difficult for international candidates to secure options, particularly if they do not have any China experience or speak the languages. A lot of firms are probably quite well resourced with international candidates so the focus is very much on native Chinese candidates either in China or returning to the region. A range of opportunities exist for candidates in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing and we are keen to speak to design candidates who wish to work on some fantastic projects in China.

Most Urgent Requirements

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

  • Senior Project Managers – Hong Kong and China – multiple needs from Top Tier Developers
  • Senior Interior Designer – Shanghai – fantastic international retail/mixed used architecture practice
  • Senior Quantity Surveyor – Hong Kong – top developer
  • Architectural Assistants – Shanghai – international design practice
  • Design Director – Shanghai – Lead the studio in a top architectural firm
  • Project Director – China – 2 or 3 positions for a Top Developer to be based on landmark schemes in China
  • Urban Planners – Hong Kong and Shanghai – multiple roles within a growing award winning design firm. Bilingual candidates only
  • Urban Designers – Hong Kong and China – award winning international practice
  • Senior Architects – China – Mandarin speakers needed for a variety of top design names

We also have many, many more roles posted on our website and these are only an overview of our top positions at this time. Please check back regularly. The easiest way to stay up to date with our latest positions is to follow us on Twitter.

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

Follow us on Twitter here: Please also subscribe to our blog by filling in the email subscription form on the right to stay up to date with our latest posts, updates and information.


How to Interview Successfully – Part 2

Following on from last week’s article about “Instilling Confidence” we this week are focusing on the other important aspect to consider when interviewing, enthusiasm.

Part 2 – Demonstrating Enthusiasm

What about demonstrating enthusiasm? This is simply showing you have taken the time to understand the company you are interviewing with. This will show the client you are keen to work with them.

It goes without saying that you need to prepare before the interview – make sure you have gone through as much background reading as possible. Check the company website but go further and look for specific articles about the company in the press. Try to find the their financial information if it’s published and look for any information you can on upcoming projects, key people, organisation structures etc. Learn some key facts and figures which you can drop into the conversation, usually during the period of the interview when it is time for you to ask questions. For example:

“I noticed that your office in Chongqing was 11% more profitable than your office in Shenyang – do you foresee that the company will focus their efforts and growth more on this central/Western region of China as a result?”

This is very different (and much more powerful) than simply asking:

“Where do you plan to focus your future growth in China?”

And this leads nicely to the next point on demonstrating enthusiasm and that is asking questions. Generally an interviewer will offer you the chance to put some questions across to them. This is the chance for you to use your research to ask some very specific and hopefully detailed questions about both the role and the company. Avoid asking generic question such as:

“Where can my career go in this company?”

“What projects will I be working on?”

“How often will I receive a career review/pay rise?”

Instead try to use some of your research, facts and figures in your questions. I have re-worded the above generic examples below:

“I see from your organisation chart that the company has a flat structure. Does this mean that the next steps in my career would be X and Y or can you perhaps outline how I may get to the next stage with your company?”

“I noticed that you currently have 5 hotel projects in Thailand and 2 in Malaysia. Based on my experience would you say I would be suited to any of these or would you have some others in mind for me?”

“Your company has won awards in 2008, 2009 and 2010 as being one of the best employers in Hong Kong. Am I right in thinking therefore that you have a structured career process in place and if so could you please talk me through this?”

As you will see, they are essentially the same questions being asked but with that extra level of detail that an interviewer will pick up on. They cannot fail to be impressed by the research you have done and they will think you are interested in working for them. You’d be surprised how few people bother with this approach but in my experience and from the feedback I get from clients, it really does work.

One final area which clients will often touch on at interview is your salary level. It is important to be prepared for this, particularly in Asia, where it is common for companies to expect detailed breakdowns of current packages and remuneration. The key things here are to be honest about your current level and open to the possibility of what the company could offer. You could have done an excellent job instilling confidence and showing enthusiasm only to overprice yourself (or worse for you, undersell yourself) at this point. If the client is likely to have an idea of your current package before interview (from a recruitment consultant or information you may have already provided) make sure you say the same numbers. When it comes to what you expect, I suggest being pretty open. Something along the lines of:

“My current package is X. Ideally I would be looking for an improvement on this but I’m reluctant to say a figure at this point and would welcome the chance to receive your feedback and review anything you would deem appropriate in an offer.”

It can seem like you are avoiding the question but it is often better than throwing a number out there and being discounted for being too expensive. Put the ball in their court if you can. If you are using a recruitment consultant, refer the client back to them in a similar manner and they should be able to negotiate on your behalf.

I think there is one final thing useful to remember. At interview, it is your job to get an offer. It is not the point to decide if you want the job, you can do that later. You are in a much stronger position if you have 3 offers to choose from rather than the client deciding it’s a no for you. Therefore make sure you are enthusiastic with every company you meet and do the same level of preparation for all, even if you are not initially convinced that the role is right. You can ultimately turn down offers. It’s about getting yourself into a position where you have options to consider.

Once the questions are over, that’s it. End on a positive note and state how you look forward to hearing from them in the near future. Hopefully you will have talked through your work and instilled confidence in your ability and also shown you have researched the company, asked relevant questions and demonstrated your enthusiasm for working with them.

How to Interview Successfully – Part 1

Attending an interview doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. There are a number of key things that can help you succeed at interview and ensure you are coming away with the best possible chance of receiving an offer. This guide will aim to give you some detailed advice on how to maximise your chances of success and will focus on the interview content itself.

Please also refer to our article “Interviewing Basics” which outlines a check-list of what to prepare and do during interview – this highlights things such as dress code, body language etc. We have also written a guide for interviewing in different formats other than the face-to-face meeting “Telephone and Video Conference Interviews” – Click on the following for Part 1 and Part 2.

The first thing to remember is that an interview is your chance to impress a company and ultimately receive an offer of employment. To get that offer you will need to instil confidence and demonstrate enthusiasm.

Part 1 – Instilling Confidence

To instil confidence you need to convince the interviewer that you can add value to their company. This will be through detailing your experience to them and in turn demonstrating how this could be of benefit to them. Regardless of whether you are at graduate or senior director level, it is important that you prepare properly to talk about yourself in a manner which shows you can ultimately do a job for the client. This means re-reading your CV in detail before the interview to make sure you can take the interviewer through your career history and achievements. Remember, at this stage, the interviewer will only have had your CV to read through so they will want to break down the content and gain a real understanding of your background and experience when they meet you in person. You’d be surprised how many people don’t take the time to know what is on their CV and therefore come across as unprepared.

When speaking about your experience it is important to detail YOUR specific experience. For example, if you worked on a particular project, outline your role on that project, your input, how you fitted into the team – a lot of people simply say something like: “I was the project manager on a $1 billion Casino project.” This is not enough as it’s likely there will have been quite an extensive team on a project of this type. The interviewer will want to know what part of the project you worked on. Was it the retail? Was it the hotel? Was it Phase 1/2/3? Were you responsible for the technical delivery or design management earlier on? Did you see if from start of construction to completion?

Throughout the interview, you will of course be asked a number of questions. Really listen to what is being asked and think carefully about each answer. Try to be precise, detailed but also to the point when responding. When you have finished your answer, think to yourself, “did I just answer the question asked?”.

If you are presenting a portfolio or project samples at interview, this is again a great opportunity to instil confidence. I will outline in a forthcoming article how to put together a strong portfolio. When talking through your work make sure you highlight YOUR specific experience as when talking about you career history. A well constructed portfolio will tell a story to a client, not just of a particular project, but of your experience as a whole. Therefore go into detail about what drawings are specifically yours, how they developed and where you started. Take the interviewer through your initial concepts and show them your reasoning for the solution you chose and developed. If you are a strong designer, show them YOUR designs. If you are a strong technical candidate, show them YOUR detailed/construction drawings. The presentation doesn’t necessarily have to be chronological – you can select projects that are relevant to the company your are interviewing with. For example, if you are meeting a residential design firm, show your residential projects first. This will also show the interviewer you have researched their company and go some way to demonstrating your enthusiasm to work for them. Typically, a portfolio presentation will make up for around 30-40 minutes of a 1 hour interview so do practice presenting your work prior to an interview. A lot of senior candidates will have quite large portfolios so it is therefore doubly important to select some relevant projects to talk through – it isn’t necessary to detail everything from a 20 year career – the interviewer can always ask to see more if they want to.

The same basic rules of presenting a portfolio apply even if you are not talking through visual samples of work. You may have a project list that shows what you have project managed or worked on as an engineer. As with a portfolio, select relevant projects to expand on and be prepared for in depth follow up questions about your specific role and input on these schemes. For example, one candidate of mine went to interview for a role as project manager on a hotel scheme and was asked questions regarding what they would choose as the thread count for the carpets in the hotel corridors and public areas and where they could be sourced! This may sound a little extreme but it was simply the client wishing to feel confident that the candidate was capable of coming in and doing a specific job for them i.e. instilling confidence.

Part 2 – Demonstrating Enthusiasm will follow next week.

Chinese City Fact: Guiyang

Guiyang is a cultural diverse city of nearly 4 million people in Southwest China. It is home to a mix of more than 30 different ethnic minority groups including Buyi, Miao, Dong and Hui. During the invasion of the Mongol army in the 13th Century, it became an important army post acting as a “pacification office” during the fighting.

Guiyang streetphoto © 1999 Peter Van den Bossche | more info (via: Wylio)

The city has expanded rapidly in the 1990’s and has been built up around a cross shaped layout (the Chinese character for the number 10). It is known as one of China’s “Spring Cities” for it’s generally temperate climate. It is also known for being home to some of the most laid back people in China. It is common for people to stay up late and rise late in the day and tourists can often find local inhabitants playing chess and games together along the streets.

Kina 2009 0446photo © 2009 Einar Fredriksen | more info (via: Wylio)

Opinion Poll: July 2011 (Poll Now Closed)

  • UPDATE: 26th July 2011 – thank you to all who have voted this month. We now have enough votes so the poll is now closed. Please check back again next month for another poll. We’ll discuss the results of July’s poll in our Monthly Update on Friday.

We find that a lot of the roles we get require candidates to be stationed in various locations, particularly in China, that are away from a company’s main base of operation. Some candidates are very happy to move to where the projects are located, others prefer to stay in the main office with regular travel to the projects. We want to find out what the overall sentiment is by asking what you would would prefer.

Please assume that the project location is perhaps more than 4 hours away from the home office i.e. it requires a significant journey to get to it.

We look forward to hearing your views! As always please let us know where you are based when you are voting. This is totally anonymous.