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French companies eye China as talent source

Tuo Yannan
Updated: May 18,2015 9:50 AM     China Daily

As China deepens its economic cooperation with France, an increasing number of French companies want to recruit top Chinese talent to gain a foothold in the Chinese market.

Many French firms went to ChinForm, a job fair targeting Chinese students and job seekers, last month in Paris.

Ni Genming, the head of ChinForm, said that this is the second year the job fair has been held. More than 2,000 students and a dozen French companies, including Decathlon, Danone and BNP Paribas, have participated both times.

Ni said European demand for Chinese talent had increased in recent years, with companies facing new challenges in emerging markets.

“Despite the fact that the domestic French job market has been stagnant due to the financial crisis, the demand for Chinese talent is still growing steadily,” he said.

France has been seeking international cooperation because of a domestic recession and about 9,000 French companies have entered the Chinese market.

According to French customs data, France exported goods worth 14.4 billion euros ($16.28 billion), excluding military goods, to China between January and November 2014, an increase of 1.1 billion euros year-on-year.

However, its trade deficit with China is still larger than with any other country. French companies have increased Chinese investment in response and the demand for talent has also increased.

Kenny Xia, the hiring manager of Decathlon, a French sporting goods retailer, said: “The market share of Decathlon in China is only about one quarter of that in France, but we expected that in five to 10 years, the number will be the same in both Chinese and European markets. Our demand for Chinese talent is tremendous, especially in retail.”

Andrea Loke of BNP Paribas, its assistant vice-president of graduate recruitment and talent development for the Asia-Pacific, said the majority of the 70 graduates hired last year by the bank across the Asia-Pacific were Chinese nationals.

“Chinese employees are all very hardworking. They are able to learn new things quickly and they have strong language skills. As the business in the Asia-Pacific region rapidly expands, we have had a talent program for this region since 2013. The majority of our new employees will be sent to areas including the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong,” she said.

This year was the first time for famous French duty-free retailer Aelia to participate in the job fair. Marine Boulic, the hiring manager of Aelia, was impressed by the enthusiasm of applicants. “We are very satisfied, and we are surprised to see that so many applicants are interested in our company.”

She said the company was looking for Chinese administrative employees and sales staff to work in duty-free shops at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to better serve Asian clients.

France’s leading chemicals producer, Arkema, which has an office in Shanghai, needs more Chinese engineering students who have overseas backgrounds and wish to work in China.

Qian Kai already has some work experience in big companies and this year he went to the job fair to look for work.

“The job fair is fairly helpful, especially for students who want to return to China. It can help them get a better understanding of some companies. The biggest problem is that the number of companies is not enough, I suggest that next time the organizer find more Chinese companies based in France or startup companies to join the exhibition,” he said.

Graduate Di Xin said: “Generally speaking, the demand is greater than the supply. Recently the focus of the French job market has shifted more toward the Asia Pacific, and most companies prefer to recruit talent specializing in the fields of science and technology.”

She said there were not many posts for job seekers like her, who studied commerce at university.

Ni said problems sometimes arise when a foreign company recruits Chinese employees. There are differences in Eastern and Western corporate cultures and difficulties in recruiting and training international employees.

Chinese candidates with between two and three years work experience in Europe, with a good understanding of European culture and skilled in new technologies, are the most popular with French companies.

Ni also said that there are differences in outlook between perspective Chinese employees and French employers. French employers prefer to recruit those who can be sent to Asia right away, while Chinese students prefer to stay in Europe for several years to gain additional local business and management experience before going back in China.

Ni said he hoped to expand the scale of the job fair and bring it to Shanghai and Brussels, the capital of Belgium.

Han Yingya contributed to this story.