This year, the need for outstanding business support candidates is higher than ever in 2023, as companies’ expectations for employees in the Hong Kong market continue to grow.

Key areas that will most likely see a demand for business support staff include the financial services and professional services sectors, with the five skill sets below being the most sought-after.

1. Language skills

Trilingual candidates who can speak native Cantonese, English and Mandarin are particularly sought-after because of their great flexibility in working with internal and external clients.

Boosting current employees’ language skills, through, say, professional classes, can also be an excellent retention strategy as employees can gain excellent exposure and employers will have better bargaining power to retain talent.

2. Cross-functional support experience

In addition to trilingual candidates, those with the ability to do cross-functional work (accounting finance and logistics, for example) and possess various IT skills are always highly sought-after.

With their wide pool of candidates, recruitment agencies will be able to help introduce companies to these highly adaptive and high-calibre candidates who are able to support more than just one business function.

3. Legal and Compliance experience

Legal and Compliance remains a hot area of recruitment, particularly due to tighter internal regulatory compliances following 2008’s financial crisis.

Candidates with experience supporting legal and compliance teams will have an advantage in attracting employers looking to expand their teams in this area.

4. Presentation skills

Secretarial candidates, especially those who work closely with top management, should ideally have solid verbal and written presentation skills. Such skills will help them take succinct notes and interact with business partners, even at external meetings.

5. Strong interpersonal skills

Business support employees, especially secretaries, are more than paper pushers or scheduling coordinators. They are often required to work closely with senior management, which is why having strong interpersonal skills, like flexibility, friendliness and optimism, are important.

Bosses often appreciate an excellent secretary who goes the extra mile for them, say, through maintaining composure when interacting with difficult clients — and that’s why some bosses, when joining a new companies, make it a point to bring along their current secretaries who have performed well.