Interview Brunel EN

Brunel China is a company that’s providing recruitment solutions and HR consultancy. Besides that we are also providing engineering construction and project management consultants to our clients who are supporting them with the realization of big engineering and construction projects.

A lot of companies think that labor in China is cheaper than in Holland for example, that it is quite easy to attract people, that they are an attractive employer to work for, just because they are a foreign company or a startup. I think the reality is different.

What you are seeing is that the labor market is changing, ten years ago the majority of the fresh graduates wanted to work for a foreign company. You’re seeing recently that the big domestic technology companies are getting more popular. So people really want to work for companies like Alibaba, Huawei, Tencent and actually foreign companies are becoming less attractive or attractive in a different way to work for.

Really use all the different recruitment sources that are available, so you have like local jobboards, you have liked Linkedin, you have like special job apps, where people are posting their CVs on. Because you are not an attractive employer, because they don’t know you, you need to use much more pro-active recruitment, so that’s going to the market approaching people yourself instead just post your vacancies and wait until people are applying. Because the top talent that I was just describing will normally just apply for a job at a bigger company.

The key is to attract people. Attracting starts with defining what kind of people do you actually need. And then of course it’s going into interviewing them. And there you’re also seeing big differences. So a typical Dutch interview is probably considered very weird in China. If you ask somebody after three minutes, what are your strengths, what will you do in ten years time, how do you want to develop yourself?

These are all very direct questions that are considered as normal in Holland, but often not so normal in China. And it is also not the right way to getting the information that you need to have in order to determine if this person is suitable. It is normally quite important here to understand the background.

You see more and more that a healthy work life balance is something that is triggering people to move, especially if you want to attract tech talent. If they work for the big companies like Tencent, and stuff they are really working like probably 60, 70 hours a week. For them of course a reason to switch is maybe a little bit more private life, time to spend with friends and family. But in general the working hours in China are definitely slightly longer than in Holland.

So you should also understand the culture and the way how people are normally building up their career and based on that you should offer also the right job to the right person at the right time.

The majority of the companies that come here all have a similar requirement. They want young, enthusiastic people who want to take on a lot of responsibility. These are also of course the candidates that are approached by Chinese companies like Tencent, Huawei, etc. Well, maybe we Dutch are pretty good in educating people. Maybe it is better to develop your own talent instead of just attracting them from the market directly. That way it’s easier to find the people, to keep them in your organization. Because you are offering something different than most companies are doing. 

The other part is regarding salaries. Often salaries in China for big cities like Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou are often higher than you pay fresh graduates for example in Holland. That’s also something companies need to get used to. You should really just throw away your whole Dutch compensation and benefits structure and develop a new one. Where in Holland I think the majority of the people - let's say a fresh master graduate - will start with a salary of 2300-2500 euro’s and when they retire they’re basically earning maybe 5000 euros, that’s a factor 2. In China they sometimes start on like 7 or 8000 RMB but if they stop as a senior software engineer you’ll be easily talking that they are earning 40 maybe 50.000 RMB, what is like a factor 8. To offer growth in salary is very important. So you create probably much more levels and make a clear career path for these people. So you can also bring them up to this level. Otherwise a lot of people will actually leave. What you see right now is that it’s hard to retain talent. That’s mainly because companies are not willing to offer these big salary increases that they can get if they go to another company.

A tip that we can give to startups in China try to engage already with talent, Chinese talent overseas. Then bring them back to China, and let them grow your company here.

Don’t always try to hire people straight from competitors, those big companies, just try to find a way on developing your own talent pool. That way you can avoid the whole war of talent, with very high salaries.  And you can basically create your own talent. That way you can keep them longer and create a more stable company.