Trends in recruiting in Hong Kong & APAC through the last Quarter of 2016

28th November 2016

Clients are starting to ask me how have I found recruiting in Hong Kong? Is it busy? Are you struggling? In short; “awesome, yes and no way”. MCG Associates are well equipped to move with the market and our coverage across PR, Digital and Creative has enabled us in a very short time to provide an incredibly effective solution to a new market in just 2-3 months having now placed in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai across creative, client service and production.

I understand why clients are asking this question as some are struggling in the wake of economic pressure from China, outsourcing to cheaper studios and the political oddities that have occurred in the past few months. There appears little rhyme or reason as to why some agencies are doing so well and others are struggling. We are working with networks that are hiring, others that have put roles on hold. Those that have put roles on hold have told us there is no way that this will be lifted; others fight for what they want / need and surprise surprise if you want it bad enough then there are always ways around even the tightest of restrictions (you know who you are when reading this!). It appears in the last quarter that the majority of group owned agencies; both PR, Digital and Creative with whom we are working with are either slowing down their recruitment into 2017 or have indeed put it on hold. Those roles that remain open are starting to become slower to work on and although the urgency is there to fill them I wander if they will realistically get sign off when that final call comes before 2017. Time will tell and as I said earlier those agencies that want someone; or a role filled bad enough can make it happen despite protests from above the local hiring heads.

Independent agencies are generally speaking doing well it appears in Hong Kong and beyond. Despite some of them telling me they are struggling or holding fire they appear to be in a good place and as a result are able to hire relatively quickly, go outside of the job spec and increase / decrease budget quickly to find the right talent in the local market. It appears that many are pitching at the moment as competition is fierce but those that are able to reduce costs and win work this way will benefit it seems. Good luck. Some agencies have changed their business model from being a ‘brand’ agency to becoming ‘digital’ agency in a short space of time and although this makes it a very attractive sell to those wanting to have a more diverse client base and talent looking to join a more versatile agency they are struggling to attract the ‘pure’ talent in the local market place that don’t necessarily see them as specialists competing against the obvious competitors. It is however something that agencies are needing to do. Unless you are an expert and have carved out a niche in selling what you do even the big boys are offering up a much more ‘integrated’ offering. I have seen large Ad based agencies that externally appear to be just that however having been taken on a tour of the premises and having met the teams they offer up a much more holistic offering from branding to events to production and artwork that allows them to move with the ever changing market. If you are not adapting I see 2017 as being a struggle.

One thing I have noticed this quarter is the increasing demand for local talent in Hong Kong or the surrounding locations. The cost to relocate is less of an issue as is the hiring quota however the language skill that a local Cantonese / Mandarin speaking candidate has massively outweighs the likes of someone like me with only English. So much business is being done in China that it’s not just desirable now but almost seen as a necessity. I’m curious to see how this develops into Q1 in 2017 or if this is just a case of trying to source the ‘perfect’ candidate before 2017 lands. If you are an expat like me don’t feel disillusioned as I am working on plenty of ‘expat’ roles where language is not an issue and in some cases desired that a candidate has been educated and worked in a Western country; either for their grasp of the English language, or as a request by an agencies client.

Either way Q4 has been an incredibly busy start to MCG’s Asian expansion; and with the addition of new staff members in January 2017; we know that we will be best placed to help our partner agencies in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore to recruit and retain their top talent well into Q1 of 2017! I am in the process of meeting clients to help offer advice and assistance in terms of benefits and bonus packages that are available in the market that will make them attractive to both new talent as well as helping them retain their existing staff as well as discussing what they can do in 2017 to make sure that they don’t fall foul of a vastly changing market.


If this is something that you would like to discuss with me or anyone at MCG then feel free to drop me a call on +852 3977 0707 or email me at; I’d love to connect and help make sure that 2017 is a success for your agency!

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