That depends very much on whom you ask, and what you have experienced in the past years leading up to a need for a change...
What is the ideal profile to take the company to the next levels - and how to execute (confidential) search?
Since Access People started in 2006, there has been a change in the way a 5 to 7 candidate shortlist often ends up being for Mid to Senior Management and Executive roles.
10+ years ago, most often the GM/MD/CEO of an international company in China – Small-Medium sized company or a larger MNC – was a foreign leader (in the 1990s often South East Asian, Taiwanese, HK). Sometimes of other Asian origins, but most often European, American or Australian. Very rarely, the foreign leader of the company had Chinese language skills at the advanced level. That has all changed.
Today, we have a lot of 30 to 40+ years old foreigners who came to China early in the career and have most of their work experience from China/Asia. From a younger age compared to their counterparts overseas, they have in China/Asia from early on in the career been given and expected to manage people and business from a younger age. They learn and develop fast, and often in P&L roles from their mid-30s.
Moreover, candidates in the 30 to 40 years age bracket often have developed intermediate to advanced levels of Mandarin language skills. That being said, far less than 1% of foreigners in China are business fluenct in mandarin. They can be found of course, also in combination with the other important skills needed for a role.
At the same time, the far larger pool of Chinese GM/MD/CEO/Director level candidates have of course developed also. The strong combination of Chinese and overseas education, work experience from China and expatriation to postings in Europe/America have made Chinese candidates very seasoned and more than qualified to work with as candidates for the Executive level roles for foreign companies.
All in all, we today have a much larger and more diverse candidate pool to tap into for mid- to senior-level roles as well as individual contributor and specialist roles. We often recommend that a shortlist of candidates with relevant industry experience could be quite diverse, and hold a good combination of:
Strong Chinese candidates who have experience from multinational companies have lived/studied/worked abroad enough to have perspective, able to lead both chinese and foreign employees in China, transparent and clear communication skills. It could often be candidates who have worked in overseas HQs before. There are many chinese candidates age 30 to 45 who fit this profile.
Localized and well accustomed foreign candidates who have spent the larger part of their career in China/Asia, candidates who have intermediate to advanced mandarin language skills, have China as their home for the next many years and thus are a long-term solution to the role in China/Asia.
The exact profile match to a role is discussed in every detail before we start approaching candidates to discuss their background, career plans and match to the role.