Opinion | 01-12-15

Is the end of the year a good time to look for in-house opportunities at MNCs in China?

At SSQ we are often approached by lawyers wondering if the end of the year is really a good time to start considering an in-house move or if they should wait until March or even April, after the Chinese New Year, to consider new opportunities. In this article Li Ji outlines why these questions arise and what lawyers should consider regarding timelines. 

Are there many in-house roles available at the end of the year and why is this?

Essentially there are two reasons why legal counsel positions come to market. Firstly the role is a new opportunity, created based on a company’s current requirements. Secondly, it is a replacement which has opened up as a result of the former in-house counsel leaving the position for any number of reasons. 

The headcount plan of a company is usually decided as part of an annual budget plan and is usually fixed at the beginning of the fiscal year (i.e. January or March). Thus, the number of new roles coming to market at the end of the year is few and far between. Of course there are always exceptions. For example, some companies decide to establish or enlarge the legal team at the end of the year due to internal restructuring or as a result of an external merger / acquisition. 

For replacement roles, the recruitment process will typically be kicked off once an employee has left (excluding some companies with headcount freezes due to bad performance and those who are more organised and begin the process while the incumbent is working their notice period). However, the end of the year tends to be an unlikely time for an employee to hand in their notice given that many are eligible for their year-end bonus, amounting to 10% to 20% of their annual package (or in some cases even more). This can be paid anytime from the end of the year to the following February or March and therefore the employee needs to remain employed and usually not under notice in order to receive it. In addition salary reviews generally occur early in the year, therefore an employee would expect an even greater salary increase if he/she is requested to be on board before the end of the year. Thus, even those who are actively looking for opportunities in the year typically become relatively passive at this time, unless an opportunity comes live which is particularly attractive to them.

Having said this, it does not mean that there are no opportunities available now. There are always reasons why people leave their positions, even at the end of the year, and therefore there will always be some opportunities coming live. 

In addition, there are often opportunities available where a suitable candidate has not yet been found and the client is still very actively looking for CVs and interviewing candidates. 

Is the end of the year a good time to look for a new role? 

This is the question that we get asked and many lawyers will want to know if perhaps they should wait until March or April before beginning their search. However, generally we feel that candidates do not need to wait to start their search.

  1. First of all, quantity does not equal quality. The key issue to consider is whether a specific role is suitable for you and this role could come up at any time. If you don’t pursue this opportunity, someone else might and the role may be gone if you wait.
  2. As we discussed earlier, due to year-end bonuses and salary increases, many candidates become passive at this time. Therefore, there is less competition for roles and it could therefore be a good time to see what opportunities are currently active. 
  3. Businesses tend to try and move quickly to secure candidates during this time in order to get new starters on board before the end of the year. This helps to avoid any potential cut in headcount during the company’s budget planning. 
  4. Now is a great time to get your CV out to recruiters so that you are front of mind when more roles do start to come live in January and February. You can use this time to discuss the market with your recruiter and work out exactly what you are looking for in your next role. Your recruiter will also be able to tell you about any potential opportunities which they already know will be coming to the market in the New Year. This way you will be ready to move forward straight away. 

On the whole, securing a new role is down to many more factors than just timing. Therefore any time can potentially be the right time to start considering a move and it is never a bad time to work on your CV and start speaking to your recruiter. If you would like more information on the current market or to discuss any opportunities which are currently available please contact Shawn Chen on +86 21 6103 7331 or via email [email protected].