When assessing senior level candidates, there are certain attributes
that are consistent across most cultures. However, there are some
important differences among the world’s regions and Asia also has unique
charactistics. Some of the special differences that are unique to the
Asia Pacific region are discussed below.
Frequent job changes are considered a concern in virtually all regions
of the world when it comes to recruiting senior management people. For
various reasons, job stability is perhaps more important in Asia than
The economies of Southeast Asia (mainly Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand,
Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam) are relatively small on a global
scale and many industries are dominated by a few family-owned conglomerates. As
a result, there are a small number of possible employers (as well as
customers and suppliers) in each industry sector. Because of these
limited employment options, senior managers tend to stay with their
employers for longer periods of time.
Another reason senior managers are inclined to be stable has to do with
the importance of relationships to doing business in Asia. Job-hopping
is a notorious bridge-burning activity and too much of it is seen as
harmful to a senior manager’s career.
Exceptions to this rule have become apparent over the past few years in
Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong. These countries have experienced
extraordinarily strong demand for experienced managers because of high
rates of economic growth and foreign investment. The result has been
that a habit of frequent job changes has developed. International
managers building businesses in these countries should not be
disappointed if the candidates they see have uncomfortably high rates
of job changes.
2. Local Company Experience
Within most of Asia, there are still a lot of perceived
differences between the quality of managers developed in “local”
companies as compared to international companies. This
distinction is slowly fading as more locally-owned organizations
aspire to become more professional in their management style.
These days, each country in Southeast Asia has a number of
successful companies employing superb senior managers. The most
obvious examples of this are Singapore and Hong Kong where leading
local companies would be considered internationally competitive by any
Despite these exceptions, the perception of international hiring
managers is that only people with multinational company experience
should be considered for management positions in multinational
organizations. There are various reasons behind this but some
stereotypes of emerging country companies include: overly hierarchical
management style, promotions based on personal loyalty rather than
performance, hiring of friends and relatives, overly centralized
decision making, and so on.
managers who are hiring leaders need to ensure that candidates have
experience working at, or very close to, international standards.
Otherwise, they may end up with an organization functioning in a
stereotypical third-world company manner.
3. Blames Past Employers
Most people would agree that something is very wrong when a senior
leader points his finger at others for mistakes that were made while he
was in charge. While this is true in all societies, it is of particular
concern in Asia.
It is reasonable to say that Asians are generally more concerned with
matters like good manners and relationship-building than people in
other regions. They are diplomatic people and usually very cautious
about what they say about others.
It should be considered a great cause for concern if a candidate
denigrates a past employer or its senior managers during the interview
process since it indicates that he could have burned bridges at
previous employers. If he has done so with employment relationships,
there is a risk he may have done similar harm with other relationships
such as with clients, suppliers, regulators, etc. and this is not a good thing
4. Decision-Maker or Order-Taker?
Unfortunately, there are some international organizations that do not
empower local managers to make decisions of any consequence. In these
companies, important decisions are made in a regional office and local
management merely carries out instructions. Across Asia, there are too many
senior managers with impressive sounding titles who are mere figure
heads – they do not have the authority that their position would
In addition, it has long been a grievance of regional managers that some of their
Country Managers behave like “relationship managers” rather than
leading sales initiatives. In these situations, local managers simply
maintain customer relationships with people who they already have
long-term relationships with. They rarely prospect for new clients or
even try to introduce new products and services for existing
A disproportionate number of large Asian companies are
family-controlled and family-run businesses. Decision making is often
centralized among family members and a few personal confidants.
Employees outside this narrow sphere are not able to develop what would
be considered by multinational companies as management accountability.
When assessing candidates from local companies, it is critical to
determine the exact nature of the organization’s reporting
structure and authority.
5. Can’t Describe Career
A primary duty of virtually all senior managers is to communicate their
ideas and instructions to others in clear and compelling manners.
Successful managers typically have a high sense of self-confidence and
can usually be expected to talk a lot about themselves and their
amazing achievements. If a manager representing himself as senior is
unable to describe his own career history in an understandable and
convincing manner, it should be cause for concern.
That said, it should be understood that Asians are not as comfortable
with self-promotion as western managers. Asian culture demands a softer
approach that avoids being seen as boasting. As well, English is a
second language to most Asians and this will somewhat limit their
ability to make a strongly-worded western-style sales pitch.
Another important consideration is that people who have a history of
long-term employment within one or very few organizations can be bad
interviewers. These desirable candidates may not have interviewed
competitively since graduating from university and are understandably
out of practice with what is expected.
On the other hand, people with career histories of frequent job
changes or sales experience will usually be experts at selling
themselves. If not, it may indicate that the candidate is less
impressive than he seems on paper.
6. Overly Eager for Job Change
Successful senior managers are generally entrenched in their roles and
usually cautious about entertaining other opportunities. Within the
tightly-knit economies of Southeast Asia, it is not uncommon for
managers to be wary even about meeting to discuss new opportunities
since they realistically fear negative impact of a privacy breach.
If a candidate seems overly enthusiastic about making a career change, it might be because
their current employment relationship is either severely flawed or soon ending. This
may not be a bad thing but it is useful to understand why.
Helpfully, international managers (westerners or otherwise)
representing multinational companies will usually not be perceived as a
confidentiality risk by local managers since they are seen as coming
from outside. People are naturally interested in meeting such people to talk about
7. Risky Loyalty
International managers who are new to Southeast Asia are often impressed when a newly hired
local Country Manager brings team members with him from his previous employer. Group transfers like this are not
uncommon since managers in Asia often have very close relationships with their staff.
The short-term benefits are obvious since an organization can be built
from scratch quickly. However, the risks should also be evident.
Employees are loyal to their local manager and less so to the
organization. Some of these employees will almost certainly be
long-term friends and possibly even relatives of the manager who hired them (but
use different family names).
the international manager tries to make necessary changes to “his”
organizational structure or replace staff, he could experience
tremendous resistance. He may also discover that when the
local Country Manager leaves the company, he will leave with everyone
he came with.
Across Asia, there are international managers who feel they have lost
partial (or sometimes complete) control of their organizations because
they did not understand the nature of the relationships of their staff.
It is important to understand ahead of time whether your new senior
hire will attempt to build staff loyal to the company or to
Developer of People
It used to be a common negative perception of some Asian managers that
they were more interested in building a fiefdom for themselves than
building capabilities of their people. For various reasons, traditional
managers in emerging countries used this strategy to ensure tenure of
their own employment. They hired and promoted staff based on
assessments of personal loyalty rather than on performance. In this
way, everyone would cover everyone else’s backs and the boss would
never have to worry about someone showing him up or threatening his
Gladly, this self-retention strategy seems to be losing favour as local
managers come to understand the benefits of modern management
practices. Nevertheless, work is required of international managers to
research the practices in the candidate’s past work-places.
9. “Connected” Candidates
When meeting candidates for senior positions in Asia, international
managers will discover some who describe their personal or family
connections with supposedly high-powered people. They may mention
an uncle who is the head of this or a friend from school who is the
head of that. They may also emphasize their last name as part of some
Many international managers are perplexed how to determine whether such
relationships exist, first of all, and then whether they have more
value than risk to the organization. To people from egalitarian
countries, it might even seem revolting for candidates to pride themselves
on supposedly unearned advantages rather than on earned achievements.
Nevertheless, relationships are important to doing business in Asia and
the international manager will need to determine which ones are
important to his business.
In general, if a business involves large contracts and approvals with
high profile people in government and the private sector, then
candidates with established personal relationships could be important to
success. In that case, it is necessary to assess the suitability and
quality of candidates’ relationships through extensive background
checks. It is not enough that candidates are beneficially connected –
they need to be willing to use those relationships for the benefit of
If a business requires a hands-on manager to drive a sales business,
then a manager who has worked his way up the ranks solely on his own efforts will be better
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Associates provides its Executive Search and Recruiting services throughout the emerging countries of the Asia Pacific
region with specific focus on Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos.
proactive and well known in our sectors of focus. Regional
Managers use us to help bridge the gap between local environments and
the world-class requirements of multinational corporations.
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CEO Forum presented by PLDT ALPHA Enterprise is the largest
regular business event in Philippines and considered one of the
most important in the Southeast Asia region. The forum serves as a
hub for the spreading of ideas that help executive managers
overseeing enterprises across the Asia Pacific region.
Attendees are both expatriate and Asian management personnel
overseeing multinational and regional organizations. Held in
Philippines, presenters are leaders in their industries and
engaged in momentous pursuits of significance to the entire
CEO Forum is operated as a CSR (Corporate Social
Responsibility) activity of Chalre Associates, one of Southeast
Asia's most prominent senior management executive search firms, to
promote Philippines as a premier business destination in the Asia
Here to go to Asia
CEO Forum now!
CEO Awards presented by Aseana City represents the
grandest alliance of local and international business people ever
created to promote Philippines on the world stage. As one of the
largest events of its kind in the Asia Pacific region, it is
considered a must-attend occasion for business leaders active in
The star-studded Board of Judges of Asia CEO Awards give
away 10 awards to many of the most accomplished leadership teams
and individuals currently operating in Philippines and the region.
The awards recognize extraordinary leaders who have demonstrated
outstanding achievement for their organizations and contributions
As one of the fastest growing nations on the planet, the world's
business leaders have their eyes on Philippines like never before.
The annual gala was established as a natural outgrowth of Asia
CEO Forum, the largest regular networking event for the
business community in Philippines.
to go to Asia
CEO Awards now!
throughout the world call upon the Principals of Chalre Associates for thought leadership.
Below are some examples of published material written by our
consultants or international journalists who refer to them. For a complete list of published work,
Getting Ready For The
Deluge: Outsourcing in Philippines
Chalre Associates senior staff
Economist Intelligence Unit of the Economist magazine
asked Chalre Associates' Chairman, Richard Mills,
to write a chapter about the Philippine outsourcing sector
in its annual Business Guide Book. The material
provides a Executive Briefing on the progress and major
issues facing this industry that is certainly one of most
significant growth stories in the world.
Asia Pacific Mining
Conference 2007 - Report
Chalre Associates senior staff
The 7th Asia Pacific Mining Conference put on by the Asean
Federation of Mining Associations was perhaps the largest
such event in the region. Richard Mills, Chairman of Chalre Associates
gave this report on what was said by the prominent mining
people who presented.
State of BPO in Philippines: Dan Reyes Speaks
Chalre Associates senior staff
Mills, Chairman of Chalre Associates,
interviewed Dan Reyes of Sitel for ComputerWorld (US) recently to get
his views on the state of the BPO industry in Philippines. Dan
presented US readers with compelling information to support his view
that Philippines is currently seen as the "Number 1" option by global
companies sending BPO work to offshore destinations.
Dan Reyes is easily one of most experienced Business Process
Outsourcing (BPO) managers in the Asia Pacific region and the world. He
is head of the extremely successful Philippine operations of Sitel, the
world's largest call center organization. Among other things, he is a
founder and former president of the Business Processing Association of
the Philippines. more