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Asia Pacific – Why engagement is key in APAC

Samir Khelil

Recruiters across APAC ranked Talent acquisition as the 3rd largest challenge their organisations are faced with, according to the Deloitte Future World of Work report. Speaking to recruiters covering 16 different countries in APAC, and seeing for myself just how different talent acquisition actually is across the region has been a fascinating learning curve. Contributor Samir Khelil of Oleeo.

Asia Pacific is a mosaic of 16 countries with different sets of challenges almost on a country by country basis: language, processes or recruitment seasons, varying levels of appetite for technology, extreme demographics … Whilst countries like Singapore or Hong Kong are closer to EMEA recruitment habits, anyone who has tried to recruit in India will be familiar with the incredibly fast pace of recruitment (early talent can sometimes be as fast as 1 day recruitment cycles!)

Equally, anyone recruiting in Japan would be wise to spend time understanding how the strict local recruitment timetable works, or how demographic changes are impacting recruitment behaviours, forcing organisations to increase the proportion of international talent they hire.

Hiring is no small feat and engagement is essential. Oleeo has worked on numerous gradate hiring initiatives in the region and seen this first-hand. Although APAC is now home to over 55% of the world’s graduate population (and growing), the region is not immune to the global talent shortage. Indeed Manpower found Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong to be 3 of the top 4 countries suffering of the most talent shortage worldwide (Manpower Word of Work 2016 – numbers include lateral hiring).

Oleeo recently analysed 253,000 graduate applications across its APAC client base. These cover offices across the region including Singapore and Hong Kong – also reviewed were roles advertised in offices in Shanghai, Sydney and Mumbai.

Across different client sectors, results reveal the following:

Like the rest of the world, competition is extremely high – only 2% of between 40 and 60,000 applicants will get offers.

Female hiring is starting to show signs of growth year over year, growing from a quarter of hires to around just over a third. Recruiters rely heavily on screening to whittle down lists putting more emphasis on answers to questions than other parts of the world. Withdrawal of applications is low in percentage terms across APAC.

Decline and renege rates are high, though not as much as the Americas – employers must focus more on engagement to retain top talent. Inundated with an average of 5,000 marketing messages a day (according to LinkedIn), potential candidates still find it difficult to differentiate companies, and feel recruitment efforts lack the following:

Honesty and transparency – all recruiters have heard it in the past, “tell me something I can’t already find on your website” or “what is it really like to work here?”. An interesting report from Bright Network found that 28% of UK candidates assume organisations putting forward their equal opportunity policy only do it because they have minority recruitment quotas.

Candidates are looking for the inside track, not the official company line.

Most organisations already understand this, and deploy alumni, or members of the business during recruitment events. Whilst those help, they often remain one-off initiatives with little follow up.

Continuity of message and experience– with recruitment teams more and more present out there (on campus or otherwise), it is likely students will interact with different representatives of your teams. How likely are they to get a consistent message throughout the experience? What is the impact of inconsistent messaging, and what does it say about the organisation that is trying to recruit them? Furthermore, the multiplication of platforms candidates interact with during any given recruitment process can be very confusing, potentially leading to loss of interest.

Personalisation – the more you know someone, the more you are able to focus your interactions on what you have learnt about that individual. Why should it be any different during the recruitment process? Candidates expect that each interaction with your teams enables you to focus the conversations on what really matters to them. Most companies claim people are at the heart of their strategies. This is however rarely reflected during the recruitment process, which often fails to acknowledge individuals by delivering generic content. A lot of resources have been involved in defining your Engagement Value Proposition (EVP), the next step is to make sure the right content reaches the right candidates at the right time!

Guidance – the recruitment process is long…and it is getting longer. Keeping candidates interested requires not only that they are interested in your company, it requires that they learn something in the process. One thing we know for sure about GenX and Y is that they make learning a big priority of their careers. Make the long process a dynamic two-way conversation, help them learn more about their professional selves!

Increased competition for talent as well as ever changing applicants behaviours make candidate engagement a key topic. Whether it is engaging your student population, or key stakeholders such as their families (parents are first influencers for GenZ students according to a 2016 Media Lab research), companies are going out of their ways to reach candidates.

Any given company is nowadays using a combination of technology providers (virtual events, applicant tracking systems, online tests, video interviews, gamified assessments …) to engage and successfully hire the right ones – it’s great to see such engagement in action. Yet, unless you tick all five boxes listed above, it may arguably not be enough to win the battle for the best talent!

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