Inncube, the newly-opened co-working space in Beijing’s expatriate-oriented Sanlitun neighborhood, saw job seekers and recruiters interacting at company booths while some candidates practiced their elevator pitches in four-minute speed-networking sessions with potential employers. At the same time, speakers took to a stage to speak about inspiration.
That was the scene at JingJobs and SCHSAsia’s job fair on a busy Saturday afternoon in mid-March. The event used the mantra, “Gen Y not! Job Fair. Be inspired”. It was JingJobs’ second go at organizing a job fair.
March is the beginning of a recruiting season in China because candidates are exploring opportunities after Chinese New Year once they receive their bonuses, said Samantha Kwok, founder of JingJobs.
A millennial woman founder’s blood, sweat, and tears
The two-year-old platform connects recent graduates, who are multilingual and have an interest in working in China, with potential employers in China. At age 21, Kwok was one of these recent graduates before founding her startup. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, she relocated from Sydney to Beijing to study Mandarin. She had a tough time searching for the right job after browsing many Chinese job-seeking sites that were not user-friendly.
Like most entrepreneurs, she found a gap in the market that she wanted to fill. She admitted that she was clueless about how to run a business when the site first went live in January 2014, five months before she registered her company in Beijing.
“I didn’t have a monetization plan and a plan of action,” Kwok said. “People said to have a three-year or five-year plan; I barely had a one-year plan.”
She said after numerous trial-and-errors with tears and searching for coding solutions online to debug her site, she began to have answers on how to develop her platform. She also discovered the power of one’s networks connecting her with opportunities.
“No opportunities are just going to whack me in the face, someone with power has to be there to offer it to me,” Kwok said.
The focus on Guanxi
In the early stages, she was initially in denial about the importance of connections to move her business forward. She later learned to focus on networking with the right people, who can either help her grow the business or are interested in her services.
Making the right connections is no strange idea to entrepreneurs. It’s even more apparent in China. The Chinese emphasize the term, Guanxi, which means relationships that will benefit both parties in business.
Uber’s independent operation in China is an example. Kwok had previously worked with China’s second-largest ride-hailing startup, regarding market share, back in summer 2014 to offer free rides to her job seekers’ interviews for two months. However, the company declined the invitation to JingJobs’ inaugural job fair last year.
She said the rejection was due to Uber not hiring for junior roles at that time, but Uber turned the tide this year. Not only did they set up a booth at the job fair, but they also provided Cindy Wang, senior marketing manager at Uber in China, as a speaker to talk about why she is passionate about the company.
Saying yes to O2O
The tech scene in China focuses on O2O (online to offline). Kwok is taking this concept seriously.
Although job fairs and recruiting events happen everywhere in China, she said her company’s point of difference from her competitors lies in the fact that JingJobs has personality. Instead of facilitating a platform that connects job seekers and recruiters online only, she also focuses on offline events.
When she runs out of resources to hold events solely from her company, she collaborates with the Beijing Women’s Network, chambers of commerce, and other organizations to organize events that will benefit both employers and job seekers and encourage them to meet.
“I think HR is still human to human, no one is going to hire you purely through your online connections,” Kwok said. “It’s so easy to connect with people on LinkedIn, but stuff [resumes] gets lost in cyberspace.”
She firmly believes in keeping each round of her speed-networking sessions at four minutes tops. She said it’s because employers can tell if the candidate is a right fit right away.
As first impressions are crucial, she also holds many elevator pitch workshops.
The butterfly struggles out of the cocoon
Two years into Kwok’s entrepreneurship journey, she said she had grown professionally. She used the lean startup method to test out a community for the first six months to see if there is a genuine need for her services.
The responses she received have proven her concept. She has since launched a startup consulting service called HR Butler last October to facilitate the hiring process for startups in Beijing. This consulting service is her current main revenue model. She said 60% of her clients re-use the service.
A grant of RMB 100,000 (USD 15,000) from a district government in Beijing will help her launch a new version of her site in the fall of 2016. She and her team are working on a freemium model for the website. The extra services will allow her clients to find curated jobs or candidates. The details of the services are under review.
She is now ready to scale her business with the vote of confidence. The next stop is Shanghai. She plans to have six events in Shanghai this year, on top of another six in Beijing. She is holding career workshops at the Shanghai campus of New York University next week.
Following China’s startup hubs, her eyes are in Shenzhen as well. She has previously helped American startups to source talent and connect the teams in the southern Chinese city.
With her initial bootstrapping and financial support from friends and family, she’s now accepting angel investment.
This story was published on AllChinaTech.