China’s Three Second Rule: Things You Should Know about Recruiting in China

By May Ton

Value, cost and speed are usually the three major components when evaluating business success and operation efficiency. But plan on applying only one of these principals when recruiting in China. “SPEED”.

Considering China’s gigantic labor force, many may intuitively think recruiting talent should be relatively easy. However, the majority of candidates view, search and apply for jobs on the Internet completely different than westerners and Europeans.

Typical Candidate Behavior when Responding to Job Ads

Most job candidates in China are not interested in linking back to a unique ATS-hosted application page. They feel it is too time consuming especially when applying for what might be 30 separate jobs. As a result, Chinese job applicants apply by what is widely known as the — Three Seconds Rule. Job applicants routinely search by job title, city, and skills. When the results of the search are shown, the candidate merely clicks, APPLY TO ALL, and their pre-loaded profile is sent to the company’s resume management page located at the job board. This means that a candidate can apply to multiple jobs, as many as the page shows, in 3 seconds or less.

The Insignificancy of Applicants Tracking Systems in China

Remember that less than 6% of employers in China utilize applicant tracking systems. So candidates are never encouraged to reply to an apply-link in the job content (often called “link-back”).  This means that over 99% of job postings are void a link-back. Instead, companies rely on candidates utilizing their pre-submitted profile stored at each job board.

Companies Must Adjust to the Culture

Many of our customers outside of China have experienced a drastic increase in candidate flow when electing to remove the link-back requirement. Recently a large, global financial company headquartered in Europe went from receiving 6 candidate applies per month to over 60 per month when embracing the culture – and removing the ATS link-back.

APAC Job Boards Promote the 3 Seconds Rule

What’s Important to Know about the Three Seconds Rule and its Implications.

The commoditization of Internet Job Advertisements. Since job applications are completed within a few seconds it is difficult to expect applicants to spend quality time reading through the details of a job advertisement. Applicants tend to apply for a group of similar jobs simultaneously (within a few seconds). Therefore, regard your job ads like commoditized retail products for sale in a giant warehouse with a short shelf life. Advertising focus should be to make sure that jobs appear on top of the search result rakings.

 User experience is all about speed.  Internet job candidates are impatient and picky here.  This is a long time habit for all Internet and social media users in China. Successful        social media in China, such as WeChat, and Weibo, are all empowering users “speedy”  features – speedy sharing, speedy friends’ connections, and much more. In this market, the success of the user experience relies on speed, not so much on aesthetics.

Recruiting in China is an ever changing landscape. And my above writing, although practiced by the vast majority of Internet job seekers, should be considered as only a part of your larger recruitment strategy.  HR recruiters need to react fast, and make smart decisions to be successful in this challenging environment.

May Ton is Regional Director in the Asia-Pacific region for eQuest . Her time is spent speaking with job seekers, HR business partners, and customers from Beijing to Sydney.