Foreign Companies: Sexy No More

Last week I attended an event hosted by Servcorp Shanghai where Christian Groeger and Valourie Xuan, from Fiducia Management Consultants, delivered a presentation entitled “Winning the Talent War (in China) in 2011”. I will be writing a few posts based on insights from that presentation.

One of the first watch-out points was that foreign companies are no longer the preferred employer for Chinese graduates. It may not be breaking news but the fact is that foreign companies seem to be losing the talent war. The reality on the ground is that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private Chinese companies are successfully pitching for that limited resource. I have already mentioned this in a previous post entitled “Top Challenge for Foreign Companies in China: Human Resources Constraints” quoting key findings from this year’s AmCham Shanghai China Business Report.

Mr Groeger shared the results of a survey published in 2010 by Universum. In this report (32.561 participants divided by field of study) graduates expressed their employer preferences. The top results for business graduates were as follows
1. Bank of China
2. China Mobile
3. Procter & Gamble
7. China Development Bank
8. Citi
9. China Merchants Bank
10. SGCC

Do you see a lot of foreign companies in the list? (you can read the Top 100 ranking for 2010 here).
Some other surveys paint an even grimmer picture. An article from China Business Review mentions the results of a survey conducted by (a poll of 200.000 students across 700 universities). The list of top 50 preferred employers included only four foreign companies, down from 21 the previous year. That sounds like a big switch in preferences in just one year.

Do you also feel it is getting tougher?


  1. Certainly, the word is out that Talent is harder to find and retain, but many bosses still respond with phrases like “They should be thankful they have a job” or “Everyone has turnover” Even at 100% annual turnover in some companies I know, I see little action on having a better culture to fix the problem. Companies respond by spending more money on workers in one way or another without facing the facts of it being a war for hearts and minds.

  2. looks a bit flawed to me.
    #1 – The common thread there is not foreign or domestic but finance. Everyone wants to work in a bank & earn those red bills.
    #2 – The sheer size of domestic banks means they are hiring thousands of grads every year which simply puts them high on the radar (same for China mobile, Sinopec, etc). How many does GS, McKinsey, Apple or Google hire?
    #3 – Quickly looking down past the top 10, there are many, many foreign companies there.
    #4 – is this that surprising? that a fair amount of students want to work for domestic companies? not sure if this would make news in most other countries.