Interview with Nadia Ponomareva, Managing Director of Sky Executive: China’s Leading Recruitment Agency


Thank you for joining us, Nadia! Can you explain briefly what Sky Executive does, and what your role entails?


Sky Executive is an executive search company, with headquarters in Shanghai. We cover Mainland China and other countries in the APAC region. 

Sky Executive is operating at an exciting time for businesses in Asia, particularly China. What opportunities do you see in the Chinese market for the coming years?

The Chinese job market is very intense and aggressive. You really need to go in depth on industry specifics to understand how and where to find the right talent for every particular project out of thousands of specialists. As we became an expert in recruitment and executive search in this region, we are confident that we can provide quality service in the most efficient way to our partners. We are glad to share our expertise and explore new business coming to and developing in China.

Why are some businesses struggling to attract the right talent when they enter the Chinese market for the first time?

There are many challenges companies can meet when they start to search for the right talent, such as language and cultural barriers, what platforms to use, how to approach candidates, how to attract candidates to join the company, how to structure a competitive package, what regulations must be followed (e.g. the local labor law), package negotiation, and even time difference can impact on the efficiency of the hiring process, and number of other difficulties can accrue. In our experience, using an executive search agency like Sky Executive will actually save you time and money, and your nervous system, which is even more important!     

Sky Executive operates in countries across Asia, not just China. Are you seeing similar issues arising for businesses expanding into all countries in Asia, or are there special characteristics of each market?

There are always specific issues in every country, no doubt. Each country has its own law and regulations, own culture, own way of doing things, etc. You need an in-country expert to avoid any unnecessary complications in the business expansion process, including recruitment activities. We have agents all over the Asia region to provide expert solutions for every project we have.   

The average turnover rate for private companies in China is 19%. What is causing this, and what do businesses need to do to be prepared for this going forward?

The turnover rate is relatively high in China. There are so many opportunities in the market and people aim to climb the career ladder and move to higher positions simply by joining another company. It is just much faster that way. Very few people will stay at the same company for a long time waiting for promotion. 

There are solutions to keep employees in the company, such as healthy company culture, employee friendly environment, keeping employees challenged and developed professionally, opportunities for promotion in-country and in other entities of the company around the world, etc. All these factors create a company where people just want to stay and develop their career internally. The Chinese market is very competitive, and you need to keep up with the changes.  

Historically, foreign companies looking to open branches in China have had concerns about trust, especially when it comes to resume and qualifications. Are these still prevalent concerns? If so, how can businesses overcome them?

It is true, you cannot know for sure if all you see in a resume is real. That is why our clients prefer to work with us, taking under consideration that we are experts, and deal with resumes, interviews, reference checks, and the like everyday. We know how to interview and select specialists for every particular project we have. 

In five years’ time, what do you see as being the highest growth industries in Asia?

The change in Asia is so rapid; it is very dynamic environment. What you think will boom today in five years would be completely different. At the moment we see a strong growth of IT, media management, and education and training. Also, more traditional industries innovate and re-build their usual processes to be up-to-date with developing technologies. There is a big demand of such specialists on the market. 

What is the best way for companies to ‘test the waters’ in China? Is there a reliable way for foreign companies to outsource their recruitment and HR needs?

Absolutely! We are consulting and working with many companies that are entering the Chinese market, or just thinking about it. We developed a wealth of knowledge of how to assist such companies at this stage. It is a very sensitive topic and companies are very careful as China can be a completely different way of doing business. It is extremely helpful to have professional in-country experts to consult on entering the market the most efficient way.  

Social security and tax systems can be complex for businesses entering Asian markets for the first time. What are some measures that executives can take to mitigate operational and legal risk in this regard?

I would definitely suggest being aware of all the local regulations and risks before entering Asian markets.  Our experts can provide such consultancy and guide you through the process. 

If you had to pinpoint the greatest challenge for a foreign company trying to establish a presence in Asia, what would it be?

As has been mentioned above, the biggest challenges would be language and cultural barriers, knowledge of the local government rules, laws, and the overarching regulatory environment. In addition, there is market knowledge: how things are done here, negotiations specifics, what you should and should not do to keep your business compliant. Every country has its own specifics, and you need to follow all the rules and regulations in order to develop your brand in this region in the long-term. Our team is not just recruitment specialists, they are in-country consultants and experts who provide an advisory service and guide you through the whole process of establishment and follow up with your company development.  

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As a specialist in the area of overseas business expansion, Alan covers global business topics with a focus on identifying emerging markets and helping companies expand globally.

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