Looking for a job? You need market intel

Tracy Li
The coronavirus outbreak in China has changed the landscape of the job market, particularly for job-hoppers, who crave for career advancement, new opportunities, and better pay.
Tracy Li

Zhu Ting, 28, a member of China’s “job-hopping generation,” is looking for yet another job.

In June, she quit her work as a public relations officer. after working at the firm for one year. She said she is looking for other posts in the sector, or perhaps in marketing.

Zhu’s main search tools are the apps Boss Zhipin and Lagou, two online recruitment platforms. Lagou actually promises job seekers a job offer within 24 hours.

   It didn’t quite happen so quickly for Zhu.

“I am feeling a little frustrated because, in the wake of the pandemic, there are so few jobs that are suited to me,” Zhu told Shanghai Daily.

The coronavirus outbreak in China has indeed changed the landscape of the job market, particularly for job-hoppers. Unlike their forebears, who typically stuck to one employer for life, the current generation is more restless and always on the lookout for career advancement, new opportunities, better pay or escape from boring work.

The good news for them is that the availability of jobs is improving, thanks in part to government efforts to stabilize companies as they recover from the pandemic.

In the second quarter, according to online recruiter Zhaopin.com, more positions were posted during the April-June period, compared with the first quarter. At the same time, the number of applicants has been decreasing month by month.

Of course, numbers don’t tell the whole story of company employment strategies or individuals seeking work. Some companies are promoting from within rather than hiring from outside. Some job-seekers have skills but they don’t match industry needs.

One thing is pretty constant. Both employers and prospective employees are turning to online channels. Many emerging job platforms are more user-friendly than traditional job bulletin boards, providing direct, convenient two-way communication between hiring managers and job applicants.

“Technology is an enabler for the job market,” said Jennifer Feng, public relations director at 51job.com, one of the more successful platforms.

  Meanwhile, for Zhu, the search goes on. It can be a minefield. Most of the “help wanted” posts online are put up by small companies, offering smaller salaries and benefits than her previous employer.

She applied for one marketing job only to discover out it was really just sales work. She figures it may take her 4-5 months to get hired again, much longer than the time she usually spends changing jobs.

“I don't want to get a job in a hurry at the expense of a pay cut,” Zhu said.

She is equally disgruntled by the increasing use of remote job interviews, which deny her the opportunity to step into an office and get the feel of a workplace.

“For me, remote interviews, especially those done via telephone, are really too hasty,” she complained.

   Talia Zhou is another job seeker. She is a white-collar worker with nine years of experience in marketing for an information technology company. The intensity of the work caused her to quit.

Zhou said the effects of the virus were obvious when she began looking for a new job in June, though the number of positions in better companies seems to be improving.

“There is no salary reduction, as far as I see,” she said, “But any pay rise I might get is definitely not as big as before.”

Company size and position level, however, are more important to her than salary. A big company, she said, is more likely to weather adversities like coronavirus.

 “You know, everyone now wants to find a stable place,” she explained, noting the large number of interviewees going after the same job as her at a state-owned bank.

Looking for a job? You need market intel

LinkedIn help

Job-hopper Liu Jia favors LinkedIn for her job search, especially its “people you may know” recommendations. That allows her to link up with people relevant to her career.

Liu said the platform will automatically make recommendations and do some job matching if she takes the initiative to find opportunities. She said she assumes that is the result of “some kind of technology.”

She is right.

LinkedIn has been at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence for years, and its “people you may know” function uses technology adopted in about 2006, before AI became a buzz word, Igor Perisic, chief data officer and vice president of engineering at the company, said in a recent interview with Forbes.

For recruiters and company personnel managers, the digital trend has been a godsend.

Mabel Meng, deputy manager at life insurer Aegon-THTF’s Shanghai branch, said Big Data and other technologies are used in talent profiling, testing and candidate information updating.

Coronavirus made it difficult to recruit and retain agents, she said.

“We used online interviewing when the pandemic was ravaging the country, but we didn’t find it all that productive,” she added

Meng said real-time, active data are more useful in recruitment.

“For example, if we learn that a person of interest to us has just updated his resume or done new research on job sites, we get the signal that maybe he’s ready to change jobs,” she said. “Then we can take action, such as contacting him.”

Among the industry leaders in the new look of personnel management is 22-year-old, Shanghai-based 51job, which receives the majority of its revenue from job ads placed on its online site.

Feng at 51job said the company has evolved into a consulting firm offering data-based, integrated services for company clients.

Those clients, she said, are now hunting for people with strong digital capabilities – a trend that has grown in the past three years.

In 2017, 51job introduced an “intelligent” recruitment system to improve hiring efficiency and help employers find the right workers more easily. But coronavirus has changed employment trends, Feng said.

“For example, now we are all talking about the misallocation of talent, which is not uncommon,” she explained. “More companies are now pursuing a more dedicated development, leaving fewer new jobs on offer.”

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