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Modest suggestions on landing dream job
(That's Guangzhou)
Updated: 2004-03-04 10:31

Job hunters and headhunters agree it takes more than good grades and a glossy resume to bag the right job.

This month that's Guangzhou digs deep into the minds of several human resources managers, a headhunter and an overseas study returnee. Each has their own take on how to best land that dream job.

Away from the Books

Guangzhou-born Raymen Yang is Human Resources Manager for Proctor and Gamble. Raymen graduated from Jinan University. He currently manages staff training and recruitment at P&G's head office in Guangzhou.

When it comes to landing a job with a multinational company, most graduates are keen to present a polished CV that highlights academic achievement and involvement in extra-curricular activities down at the student union. Yet to many Human Resources managers and recruitment specialists these credentials mean little when compared to the countless other applicants toting the same experience.

In fact, many job recruiters are looking for applicants who possess people skills that can best be obtained off-campus. According to Proctor and Gamble Human Resources Manager Raymen Yang, the best way to develop that kind of maturity and skill is by getting a part-time job and doing some volunteer work.

"You need to change yourself from a student to a businessman," asserts Yang, a Jinan University graduate who was ranked in the top ten per cent of his class. During his university career Yang held part-time jobs as a sales and marketing promoter for Sony electronics and as a salesman for an insurance company. According to Yang, his part-time work experience equipped him with business knowledge and personal skills that benefited him after graduation. "That experience helped me a lot before I got a job at P&G," explains Yang.

Yang says that most students are unprepared for the real world because they spend so much time studying. "In some Western countries you have to earn your own tuition through a part-time job," says Yang. "But here the system is totally different because students' parents pay for everything."

Besides getting a part-time job, Yang advises students to invest their time in volunteer work. "When I was in college some friends and I started an organization called 'Warm Touch.' We made regular trips to the orphanage in Long Dong where we played with the children and washed their clothes," recalls Yang.

"When you're helping others you need to do something selfless. This is the foundation for working with others," says Yang. "I think the most meaningful things for me in college were the things I did for others."

Interview Polish

Yang Zhi Hui is Recruitment & Personnel & Hong Kong Human Resources Senior Manager at Avon (China) Company, Ltd, and has been working in Hong Kong for the past 14 years. Yang is responsible for nationwide recruitment on the mainland.

The fresh graduate job market is very competitive, as Yang explains: "According to some unofficial statistics, there are currently about 230,000 graduates trying to find jobs in Guangzhou, and while skill levels are increasing, so the quality of applicants needs to increase as well."

Quality, or lack thereof, is something that always comes out in an interview. Mistakes are often made during the interview process - which can usually be avoided. "Interviewees from big companies are sometimes overconfident, give sketchy answers and prefer not to be too detailed," said Yang. "This can lead to a bad impression."

Yang experienced one such case while interviewing a candidate from a famous Beijing university who met the criteria and had excellent qualifications. But during the meeting the candidate challenged Yang's experience, insisted the interview be held in English and asked many complicated questions. "I felt like I was the one being interviewed," Yang recalled. Impressed with the candidate's skills, Yang called him back for a second interview, but the candidate replied that he was too busy and would call back later with an answer. At midnight, the candidate woke Yang up in his hotel room and said, "I'm free now. Are you?" Yang, clearly more patience than most, agreed to meet the candidate the following day.

In the end, the candidate was offered the position and is now a senior level manager at Avon. "The point," Yang concluded, "is that an interviewer needs to judge objectively, and overlook occasional behavioural problems. Our job must be to assess whether the candidate is capable of doing the job or not." While not all interviewers are as professional as Yang, candidates looking for jobs can increase their chances of a successful interview by avoiding such faux pas.

Getting a Head

Jonathan Fraulo, originally from the United States, is Business Manager at 51job.com. Jonathan is based in Hong Kong and leads the company's headhunting department for the South China region.

Handling six million CVs from across China at any one time is no easy task. When Jonathan Fraulo and his team at 51job.com are hired to sift through a gargantuan database to find just the right candidate for a company, it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Still, Fraulo and his colleagues regularly manage to fill senior, middle and junior management positions for multinational companies looking for local talent.

"At the middle management level there is an absolute shortage of qualified people," says Fraulo, who agrees that more vacancies have been appearing as many big-name multinational companies have been localising their staff in recent years. "In Guangzhou there's a war for talent."

According to Fraulo, headhunters typically search for prospects on campus, through job fairs or via a database such as the one constructed by 51job.com. But for graduates and other candidates who are already in the work force, Fraulo has some practical advice for getting noticed.

"Most people spend way too much time crafting a resume," says Fraulo. "The only purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. The average time a resume gets looked at only lasts between 10 to 15 seconds. That's all the time you have."

The best thing a job seeker can do to increase their chances of getting spotted is listing quantifiable work achievements. For example, if you are looking for a job in sales and you helped your company turn over a 30 per cent profit last year, then highlight that on your resume. "You want to be able to give measurements about how effective you've been," said Fraulo, who added that any cross-cultural experience should also be identified.

There and Back Again

Dee Lee, 24, is a Guangzhou native who graduated with a master's degree in International Marketing Communication at the University of Greenwich in England. After studying and working in the United Kingdom for one and half years, Dee returned to Guangzhou where he discovered that finding a full-time job was not as easy as it seemed.

"For some time after I returned from the UK I felt lost. I had spent 15 months in London, earned between GBP 3,000 and 4,000 doing part time jobs and visited ten European countries. I found it all very splendid and worthy, until I started looking for a job.

"In November, the first month I started looking, the only reply to my 60 outward enquiries was from a very famous advertising company. The chief director told me I would have to start from the bottom as an account assistant, making me equal to some secondary school pupils. Besides the frustration, I did not buy what she said about my ability being self-deceiving. So I kept looking. Time flew by and I became bitter - there were no more replies to another 60 application letters. I could not help wondering why I had gone to the UK for a master's degree and got nothing in return.

"At the beginning of January I received six calls. After many interviews, I chose Guangzhou's biggest communications company. My faith in myself was reawakened. The salary was good, the company was good and the colleagues were fantastic. Everything seemed perfect, except for one thing - the unbelievably scary workload. This made me anxious about my future at this company. A leisurely life as a student in the UK had given me an easy-come-easy-go attitude. I was freaked out and decided to do a runner. Though my childhood dream was to be in advertising, I left the company without informing my supervisor who had given me a warm reception and so much training. I felt guilty and a coward, not for running away, but for doing so without any acknowledgement to my colleagues. I still sometimes tell myself I am an idiot. The job was great but I could not make a proper connection to it.

"Any job hunt is about finding who you really are. Having a master's degree or good oral English is meaningless until you can apply them. Even with a gimmicky job title and a high salary with a famous company, nothing is more important than the future. I finally got a job at Meinet Marketing Research, a small private company, where I now work as a market researcher. The most important thing you can do is to choose an industry or company that you know you are going to enjoy. In the long run this is more important than the salary or the status that goes with working for a big company."

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