Alibaba’s sudden cut in campus new hires sparks controversy

Jing Gao

20150907_083534_223 (1)In response to the rumors of a drastic hiring freeze, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba told China Business News Monday morning, that while it is scaling back campus recruiting, it will honor all the job offers it has given out so far.

Qu Yang, director of Alibaba campus recruitment, said that Alibaba has confirmed 1407 offers, less than half of Alibaba’s primary goal of recruiting 3000 graduates for summer 2015.

“We will keep to our promises, unless it is the student who gives up the employment opportunity,” Qu said.

A rumor circulating online suggested that Alibaba had slashed its campus recruit target from 3000 people to just 400. In fact, few of Alibaba’s-800 2015 summer interns have nailed a job offer, which was said to be promised before. Most have been told that they have been wait-listed, according to The Paper, a Shanghai-based news publication.

Some of the students who claim to have landed job offers with Alibaba say that they have fallen through. Three senior students using aliases told Jiemian.com, a news website, that this may have happened to hundreds of fellow applicants.

“Their stock price has recently plunged… I can’t really blame them for cutting new hires. But the announcement came between the paper test and the on-site interview, when most applicants were anxiously waiting and expectations were really high. It is really a heavy blow,” one said.

A notice dated September 1 on Alibaba’s campus job board reads, “We are very sorry about this: because of an adjustment in our human resources strategy, Alibaba will be cutting back on the recruiting of new graduates. For various openings, we will set more stringent, merit-based selection criteria, which means, students who could have been hired according to our initial hiring plan will now be faced with fiercer competition.”

The openings that previously existed on the job board appear to have been taken down.

Alibaba’s company value is shrinking. The Nasdaq-listed e-commerce giant that filed for initial public offering a year ago, has of late, seen its share price take a dive. Share prices at Alibaba have fallen below their IPO price of US$68 to $63. Various analysts have cited China’s economic slowdown, falling exports, financial market turmoil and even the possibility of the Chinese dot-com bubble bursting, as likely reasons behind its woes.

In April, founder and chairman Jack Ma said at conference with Alibaba employees, he believed Alibaba had been growing too fast, and that its 30,000 strong staff size is more than enough, according to The Paper.

“For 2015, the entire (Alibaba) group will not see a single new person. One person has to leave before another comes in,” Ma reportedly said.

But Alibaba’s hiring freeze may be a windfall for Baidu and Tencent. Together, the three tech behemoths are often referred to as“BAT”. An online survey conducted by Jiemian showed that more recent graduates listed Alibaba as their dream employer than Tencent and Baidu combined. The latter two may see a brain gain as result.

Tencent has reportedly made snarky comments in approaching those chased out by Alibaba, according to Jiemian, “Everyone, please give Alibaba’s HR a break. And please stop spreading rumors about something as groundless as an IT winter.”

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Jing Gao

Jing founded her own blog Ministry of Tofu and worked with Los Angeles Times, Greenpeace and LinkAsia. She graduated with a master's degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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