Hays sets out challenge for candidates in securing work in 2020.

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Strategic upskilling will be critical for candidates who want to maximise their market worth among employers according to Hays in Hong Kong. Gaining success in the workplace will require effort from candidates and recruiters alike as market conditions in Asia will be slower this year putting more pressure on delivering cost-effective hiring. This will require candidates to differentiate themselves through optimised CVs, build a strong personal brand, and develop soft skills such as flexibility, networking, communication and more.

The ongoing influence of emerging technology and digital transformation is a significant moving force behind these trends with upskilling playing a very important role in keeping candidates relevant and safe from automation. Another significant move that could prove beneficial to candidates is the continued emergence of flexible or contracting roles in response to market conditions. Employers across Asia are gaining more value for the contributions of contract workers who are increasingly granted compensation and benefits on par with permanent employees, alongside better work-life balance, professional networking opportunities and access to top companies and industry-leading projects.

Commenting on this, Jack Leung, regional director for Hays Hong Kong said: “Despite challenging market conditions, candidates across Asia will continue to push for better pay packages, new challenges, and ways to improve their career trajectory. At the same time, the rapid pace of change, particularly that of digital transformation, will undoubtedly push more candidates to critically examine their current skillset and relevancy, as well as their potential to upskill. Unsurprisingly, ‘hard’ skills such as data analytics will be a priority for employers, but soft skills such as problem solving and stakeholder management are fast catching up. Many employers in Asia are also starting to consider temporary or contracting workers to bring in these highly sought-after hard and soft skills, marking an interesting shift in mindsets. The flexible recruitment space is certainly an area to keep an eye on as it continues to grow.”

Hays have published top 10 tips on how to get a job in 2020:

1. Prepare for a data-driven future, regardless of your role

The collection and use of data to inform business decisions and strategy is fast becoming the norm across industries, even pushing more traditional, non-digital sectors like accounting, hospitality and HR to expedite their digital transformation and keep pace. From operations to finance to marketing – the influence of data can be felt across business functions as more companies look to home in on customer behaviour and enhance user experience. Companies understand well that data without insight is of no value, making candidates with the ability to interpret and visualise data into actionable insights the need of the hour, regardless of industry or function. No matter what your role is, invest in upskilling your knowledge of data and its applications in your field.

2. Get certified in project management

Alongside digital knowledge, project management is one of the most in-demand skills across industries and will continue to be so, owing to the rapid pace of change in the region. Organisations need to combat global challenges and respond to internal/external threats without undue delay while staying aligned to business goals and consumer needs. For this to be done effectively, project managers carefully manage resources and ensure these responses are conducted in a structured, organised manner to deliver timely results. Certifications such as Project Management Professional (PMP) Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) and Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) will open doors for candidates in an increasingly uncertain global climate.

3. Explore contracting roles

The global economic slowdown and ongoing trade tensions have put several companies on the backfoot as they become increasingly conscious of costs and adding new headcount. Additionally, rapid digitalisation and business transformation has heightened the need for specialised professionals who are as flexible and adaptable to change as they are experienced in their field. This has led to an influx of temporary or contracting roles in the market across most Asian metropolises, that provide a doorway into cutting edge and business leading projects. Candidates who are open to such roles may discover a bevy of benefits not found in permanent roles such as better work-life balance, better pay, access to diverse or high-profile work across industries and a fast-growing professional network. 

4. Spruce up on soft skills

As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to impact a diverse range of workplaces and jobs by replacing or taking over manual and repetitive tasks, employees will be left to zero in on the more advanced aspects of their job. Soft skills are a lot more difficult to automate or outsource and are increasingly in demand for the diverse range of benefits they bring to an organisation – be it stakeholder management, communication skills, teamwork, adaptability, or even just creative thinking. Global trade tensions and business restructuring have also made working regionally or cross functionally a sought-after skill, while even ‘hard’ fields like data analytics need more articulate employees who can translate complex technical data to non-technical stakeholders. Building soft skills has never been this crucial an aspect in future-proofing your career.

5. Optimise your CV for algorithms

The HR function has recently been transformed by the influx of technology like automated machine learning algorithms, commonly referred to as applicant tracking systems (ATS), that can greatly reduce the time to hire. An important aspect of ATS is CV parsing, a software that ensures the automatic processing of data from a CV through a preliminary scan that analyses a candidate’s skills, experience, education and even job titles. It has thus become vital to optimise your CV to make it through to the shortlist, which requires a strategic and generous use of the right keywords, moving beyond clichés and adhering to an optimised CV format.

6. Keep abreast with industry happenings

Ongoing disruption in the world of work has proven to be indiscriminate, pushing candidates and employees across to board to take the time to stay relevant. However, change is not to be feared as it also brings new opportunities; but in order to take advantage of these opportunities, the willingness to learn and adapt has never been so important. Candidates must plug any shallow gaps in their knowledge by keeping on top of current trends and changes relevant to their sector by reading reports, news articles, attending networking functions and seminars, and participating in online discussions.

7. Upskill outside of the workplace

Although many employers offer both on-the-job training and the chance to take more formal qualifications, it’s still up to you to keep your skills sharp and abreast of developments in your field. This includes learning a new language, considering bilingual and trilingual candidates are highly sought after in Asia, particularly in China, Hong Kong SAR and Japan. Fluency in another language opens new opportunities overseas and is also a specialist skill that can can attract greater demand and higher pay. Other ways to upskilling on your own time include taking up mentorship programs (either giving or receiving) and following industry-specific webinars and podcast.

8. Build a personal brand

As cost efficiency pushes companies become more selective of their new hires, it is becoming increasingly important to differentiate yourself in your resume and during an interview. For example, were you one of the highest achievers in your university degree? Have you improved customer retention levels or led a project successfully? Have relevant examples and statistics at your fingertips. Building a personal brand online can also be a powerful way to enhance your distinctive qualities. Your social media footprint, for example, can work to be an endorsement of your soft skills such as communication, creativity and professional conduct. Read more about building a strong personal brand online here.

9. Use your networks

Whether or not you are currently looking for a change, begin this year by contacting a recruiter, searching job websites, or using social media sites such as LinkedIn to stay in touch with your networks, industry bodies and university alumni. Expanding your network by attending industry relevant conferences, for example, is equally important as it allows you to build your reputation, generate trust and open doors to new opportunities. Face-to-face networking and personal communication skills can be incredibly beneficial when actively or passively looking for new opportunities and can only be developed through practice.

10. Be patient

A global atmosphere of uncertainty and cost control have led to recruitment processes taking longer to complete. This is further impacted by ongoing talent shortages in the region as well as growing ageing populations. In response to this, candidates would do well to be more patient in awaiting the outcome of their application as companies are likely to deliberate more in search of the perfect fit. Our advice for those in the interview stage is to follow up with interviewers after meeting with a courtesy thank-you note.

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