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A faster career path and stimulating salary scheme will bring Malaysians home


Family ties and Malaysia’s culture bring many overseas Malaysians back home, but good job opportunities and the possibility of a faster career path also help attract returners, according to a survey by recruiting experts Hays in Malaysia.


Hays spoke to Malaysian residents who are either studying or working overseas, but thinking about coming back to Malaysia for their next career step.


“Returning Malaysians offer employers the opportunity to recruit local talent with highly valued international experience, but they come with a price tag,” says Christine Wright, Managing Director of Hays in Asia.


“For both local and Western businesses they are an alternative to Western expatriates. In our survey, we sought to find out what motivates Malaysians to return, what real value they offer over less expensive candidates without overseas experience, and what is the best approach to their recruitment.”


According to the findings:


·         Motivations: 62% of potential returners said they are motivated to return in order to live closer to family. A further 53% miss the culture and lifestyle of Malaysia. 23% feel that Malaysia has more job opportunities for them, and 31% expect to have a faster career path in Malaysia.

·         Type of organisation: 74% want to work for a foreign-owned enterprise if they return.

·         Industry: If they were to return, 20% want to work in Malaysia’s financial services industry. 14% want to work in IT/telecommunications, 14% elected engineering and 12% said professional services.

·         Salary: 38% will only come back to Malaysia if they can increase their salary. A further 39% want a salary equivalent to their current earnings.

·         Advantages: 41% said cross-cultural communication skills are their number one advantage over local candidates. 35% said it is their overseas work experience.

·         Length of job search: Almost half of our survey respondents (48%) expect it will take one to three months to find a job if they were to return to Malaysia; 18% think it will take more than six months. 56% think it’s easier to get a job where they are currently living overseas.  

·         Movement overseas: In a separate survey, Hays asked a selection of our candidates in Malaysia whether they would consider working overseas, either now or in the future. The majority (82%) said they would consider working overseas for better job opportunities, career development or exposure. So it seems that the movement of professionals overseas shows no sign of abating.


“Many returning Malaysians understand their worth in the global marketplace,” said Christine. “They are aware that Malaysian employers – both home-grown and multinational – value their Westernised way of thinking and business experience, mixed with their local knowledge and cultural understanding.  As a result, many want to realise that value in the reward structures that they receive upon returning.


“According to our survey, if they were to return home, 39 per cent would like to earn a salary equivalent to their current earnings. A further 38 per cent will only return if they can increase their current earnings.


“However, Malaysians appear to be less motivated by increased salary alone than those thinking of returning to Hong Kong (53 per cent) or Singapore (49 per cent) where we ran simultaneous studies,” she said.


Advice for employers

When recruiting returning Malaysians, the greatest challenge faced by employers is to avoid overpaying while still making sure they offer enough to secure this great global talent.


According to Hays, employers recruiting such talent should firstly make sure they pay appropriately for skill, and nothing else. ”While salary is a key driver, think about your overall offering and benefits package,” says Christine.


Then, find your leverage and recruit intelligently. “What attracts a candidate to your organisation might not be purely financial,” says Christine. “As our survey shows, talent can be brought home by family ties and career advancement opportunities, so talk to your recruiter to gain a deeper insight into what motivates the candidate. With this knowledge, you can tailor your offer.”


Finally, employers should also work to hold on to the professionals they already have. “According to our survey, 31 per cent of returners are considering coming back to Malaysia because they believe they will have a faster career path here. This highlights the importance of putting a solid and individualised retention plan in place, which includes open and honest discussions with returners about their career development expectations,” she said.


Profile of Hays’ survey respondents

Of our survey respondents, 25 per cent had studied in Malaysia and 25 per cent in Europe.  Returning Malaysians are typically a highly educated group. 44 per cent hold a Bachelor degree, 37 per cent a Masters. Almost one third (30 per cent) of our survey group have 15+ years experience and 22 per cent have between five and ten years of experience.


For more, read Hays’ Malaysian Returners Report at


Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.



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