It’s been an interesting few years in the Vietnamese executive search market, and with the Covid-enforced changes worldwide over the last year it will likely be another fascinating year ahead.

If you look back a decade or so, before the global financial crisis, there was no real competition among recruitment agencies here. Then, as Vietnam’s markets took off after the crisis, dozens of agencies moved in and clients were able to engage multiple headhunters at once, which doesn’t work well as a model.

Argyll Scott had been recruiting mid-to-senior-level roles for many years and always had an established, high-caliber network in the region, so when we saw that there was an opportunity in Vietnam for a reputable firm with a strong track record and sector expertise, we opened an office here. We’ve since grown in size in response to demand, and despite the unusual year, the activity in the market suggests that we’re going to continue to be busy.

Vietnam is coming out of the pandemic downturn stronger than most countries, with the IMF predicting 6.5% growth this year. As a strong tech manufacturing nation, we’ve benefitted from the rise of people working from home around the world, and with Apple and Samsung moving here, that reputation is set to intensify. There’s a positive knock-on effect on a number of other sectors, which means that executive job seekers have excellent opportunities right now, although there are still plenty of challenges for them.

In recent years, the government has prioritized hiring local talent over expat talent, except where there is a skills shortage. So, large banks undergoing digital transformation, for example, are still looking at expat expertise due to the lack of good local candidates. But otherwise, local executives, particularly those that have studied or worked abroad and have international exposure, are in demand. For expat executives, it’s tougher due to the initiative, but again, those who have been here a long time and integrated well into the Vietnamese culture have an advantage.

The main challenge for both local and expat executives is that the process has changed somewhat post-pandemic. Recruitment processes have moved online, so networking, a defined online presence and video communication skills have never been more important. Interviewing over Zoom is a new skill that candidates are learning quickly, and we’re seeing a sharp rise in top candidates taking courses about Zoom and other digital proficiencies to improve their chances. Again, the early adopters, those who maintain their LinkedIn profile and reach out frequently, will have a competitive edge over other job seekers.

In the market, it’s the organisations that have acclimatized quickly to the new ways of working that have performed well. Those who either pivoted into digital or increased their e-commerce presence have moved ahead of the competition, and those already in tech are taking advantage of the ongoing rise in online communication usage. It’s a similar story for executives too, and those individuals who have adapted easily should see more opportunities than others this year. Digital is reshaping the business landscape worldwide with online interviewing and working from home here to stay for the foreseeable future. Now is the time for executives to embrace that because hiring and networking aren’t going to stop just because it can no longer be done face-to-face.

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Tim Burrill
Membership Manager & Executive Assistant
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