5 Key Mistakes of Talent Acquisition in China

How artificial intelligence offers new ways to acquire and retain talent in China

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By Rina Joosten-Rabou

A workforce of 800 million people. Seven million graduates every year. Raising labor costs and intensifying competition. Foreign and Chinese companies operating in China competing for the best talent.

Working closely over the years with our clients in China, we listed the five most common mistakes when it comes to talent acquisition and retention in China. The good news is that they all can be avoided with some best practices and the assistance of clever artificial intelligence (AI).

1. The amount of candidates will be manageable.

False: Ignore the sheer size of China's workforce at your own risk. Back in 2014, when we started working on the campus recruitment campaign of a large cosmetics company, we collected 43,000 applications over a few weeks. As huge as the number sounds, it accounts for only 0.61 percent of the year's graduates in China.

The key here is to take the pragmatic road. When it comes to planning recruitment events, try to spread your intakes throughout the year if you can. And when looking for technology talent, we have examples of clients who experience year-on-year increases of 25 percent in the number of qualified applicants by lowering the application barrier with a mobile application page.

2. Chinese New Year is the holiday season.

False: Chinese New Year is job-hunting season. Companies experiencing high staff turnover know it all too well: Chinese New Year starts the annual job hunting season. For candidates in China, job hopping means accelerated professional growth, new opportunities and financial rewards. But for our HR executives around the country, this job-switching season causes them to see rising costs, impact on company performance and a temperamental talent acquisition process.

Our advice? Anticipate the problem and treat it at the root by assessing motivation and loyalty as early as the candidate screening process. Artificial Intelligence discovers the hidden part of the iceberg by analyzing the candidates’ language. Research shows that language reflects the true drive and behaviors of people.

3. Social media is for personal use only.

False: Ignore your target audience at your own risk. When it comes to employer branding, messages and channels, we have entered the age of digital and now social recruitment. And in that area, China seems again to be ahead of the curve. Align with your target audience, don't shy away from WeChat and Weibo, build your presence on the country's leading job boards. These simple but often overlooked steps will ensure you hit the talent pools that are right for you.

4. The more the merrier.

False: Quantity can be an impediment. Once your employer branding, social channels and presence on leading job boards is sorted, you can expect volumes of applications. But finding the right balance between quantity and quality can be problematic. For example, applying to a position advertised on 51job.com takes one click, which explains why most candidates have no idea about the company when a recruiter is calling them back.

This global high-end retail leader was facing a double-digit turnover rate, common for its industry. With 300 applications per week, quantity was not the problem. Instead, HR struggled to identify candidates with great customer service skills. Screening candidates with experience in the industry was not bringing them the top-performers demonstrating the right skills and loyalty. Instead, implementing AI for HR helped to identify the skills and behaviors correlating with sales success from the very beginning of the screening process, delivering a 25 percent increase in retention and sales performance above the company’s average for new hires.

5. The CV Is King.

False: Not in China. Job applications in China tend to be less tailored, more doctored and sometimes fraudulent.

Family and social pressure means that many candidates will have studied a field far away from their true interests. Therefore, CV information has very limited relevance and predictability about future job performance. Research shows that personal structured interviews are a good indicator for job fit but due to the large volumes of applications, HR cannot interview all applicants.

The solution? Today, a number of companies in China are a building competitive advantage by using AI solutions for HR to interview applicants through open text and video questions. The algorithms identify 90 percent of all hires in the first round, replacing four or five rounds of phone and face-to-face interviews.

AI solutions

In an experiment at a leading fast-moving consumer goods company, a sample of 16,000 summer internship candidates was used to compare two screening processes: The first utilized traditional in-house screening and phone interviews; the second used screening and ranking of profiles with Seedlink's proprietary AI technology. The results: AI offers the same accuracy when it comes to shortlisting the best candidates, but works 10 times quicker. That's the difference between having your results tomorrow or in two weeks, not to mention that fewer resources are involved, potentially saving hundreds of hours of interviews.

With technology coming to HR, we so far witnessed larger Chinese and foreign companies becoming early adopters of AI solutions. Small to medium-sized enterprises, on the other hand, have more specific needs and requirements, focusing on increasing brand awareness and talent inflow. For them, AI will play the role of an affordable head hunter.

After AI in internet, finance, advertising and medicine, AI is now in HR. Are you ready?

Rina Joosten is the Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Seedlink Technology.