You’ve updated your CV and you’re ready to start your next big job hunting adventure, this time in China. Whether you’re looking for your first China job or your fifth, navigating the job market here can be tricky at times. To make sure you’re not caught off guard, here’s a brief guide on what to expect when you’re job hunting in the Middle Kingdom.
Job Hunting. Photo: Robert S. Donovan
1) Patience is a virtue
It can take a very long time for companies to respond to an application, and we’re talking up to a few months, or sometimes, never.
Competition is fierce in a job market where you’ll be up against not only other foreigners, but increasingly against highly skilled local talent with excellent English. Make sure you start hunting at least a few months before you intend to move on as the response time for companies seems to be slower than in the West.
That said, there are two lessons to learn from this: start your job search well in advance and don’t give up hope if your dream job doesn’t respond right away.
2) Network, network, network
Networking is crucial in any job market, but in China, with its age old tradition of guanxi, this importance increases tenfold.
The first thing to remember is that while it’s tempting to only network within the expat circle, if you really want to get a grasp on the full range of opportunities in your chosen field, try your best to network within the Chinese community too. Learning some Chinese, even just the basics will help too.
Connections with people who work in HR departments of companies are extremely valuable and enquiring about job opportunities through them will get you a lot further than ‘cold’ applications through job websites and recruitment services.
Remember, as a foreigner it’s easier to network with Chinese people sometimes as you always have talking points to break the ice and people will be curious about what you do and where you come from.
Have a look at our article on how to best maximize your networking potential.
3) Things aren’t always what they seem
A lot of expats come across red herrings in their job searches.
Many expats find job descriptions that suit what they’re looking for, apply, sometimes interview, and will be offered a job which differs wildly from what they were lead to expect, some of which turn out to be the notorious ‘face jobs’; where foreigners are employed by the company for their Western appearance to basically act as a mascot to be paraded around during meetings.
Another common occurrence is recruiters mysteriously getting hold of your contact details and aggressively promoting positions to you. Love them or hate them, recruiters will play a big part in your job hunt in China, so be ready to insist on what you want and don’t be afraid to hold your ground.
Read our guide on how to spot and avoid face jobs here.
4) Manage your expectations
China isn’t the land of opportunity it once was. Ten years ago, foreigners were a much rarer commodity and native level, fluent English a sought after enough skill to land you a job that far exceeded your level of experience. However, what the foreign community has lost in terms of highly paid jobs based on very little credentials, it has gained in terms of real opportunities that can give you valuable experience, help you hone your Mandarin and lead to increased career potential in the future.
Salaries won’t be as crazily high as they used to be, especially if you are hunting from within China, but before you complain, remember that you will more than likely be receiving a lot more than your Chinese counterparts could hope to expect. See it as an important stepping stone and embrace what you can learn from the experience.
5) Cultural differences
You are looking to enter a job market in a society that is in many ways far less progressive than in the West. Your future employers and colleagues are likely to be fairly conservative, particularly among the middle aged men who dominate at management level. With this in mind there is unfortunately an accepted level of gender and racial discrimination when hiring.
Questions about your marital status, age and family situation are not only common but expected in a job interview. How you respond to these questions is up to you, but be aware that they are standard practice in the hiring process in China.
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Keywords: Job hunting in China advice What to expect job hunting in China
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true about the part you mention China isn’t the land of opportunity it once was. when i first arrived to china, the only thought i had on me was that my mother tongue is spanish and that I'm fluent in english too, so i always thought i had a huge advantage in china's market. But afte studying for a few years i've come to realize that only mastering languages isn't enough.
Jul 03, 2014 18:16 Report Abuse
I can say only from my experience: your knowledge, your experience, your education or else- it all doesn't matter if you don't have any connections (unless you are looking for a teaching job and you are a native speaker or you've been sent by your company to China to expend the market).
Aug 28, 2014 17:34 Report Abuse
Hi guys. I am of Polish origin, have teacher qualifications and teaching experience and wanted to teach English in Southern China. But it looks like you are either "discriminated" because youre non-native speaker or they offer you work, asking to enter the country on tourist visa and then they will "change it for you" to a working one. One employer during a skype interview told me "Beijing is far away, things are not so serious over here". Essentially, you are expected to work illegally. One way or another, it seems to be tough to get to teaching. At the same time, lots of non-natives with no qualifications, barely speaking any English themselves teach English in cities like Shenzen, getting 2000CNY/hour and theyre laughing. So, does anybody here know the best solution?
Mar 11, 2015 19:25 Report Abuse
jacklondon so true =) I've been sending my countless CVs all over the China for a month and all the recruiting agencies are ready to offer me is a tourist visa and 5000 RMB, I've studied English, methodology and psychology for 5 years and that's all they offer. I can easily earn this sum in my country, why go to China then,huh
Aug 21, 2015 19:40 Report Abuse
Being white will help you out a lot though. I'm a native English speaker but I'm not white and a ton of jobs pretty much only want white native English speakers. Even though the largest English speaking country has like 80 million non white citizens.
Sep 28, 2015 18:34 Report Abuse
So true, I went for the job interview 1.5 yearsago in Dongguan, and school's director decided to convince me to agree for a small salary by showing other teacher's contracts. And I saw that Russian girls got paid 7000 rmb per month, and a Kenyan guy was paid only 5300 rmb. I asked why so, Kenya is an English-speaking country, so is a native speaker, but the director said 'he's happy to get this money because he can't get it by working in Kenya,so who cares?" Irealizedthen that he is just an asshole (pardon my French) and refused to take that job.
Jun 29, 2016 22:14 Report Abuse
@jacklondon I Know plenty of people working here with a tourist Visa because it seems lots of language schools offer a high salary but you don't really have much job security in these private schools and they seem to mess people about alot. In my opinion you are better off getting into a government school or University to begin with. The only downside of this is it will be a lower salary but on the other hand you will have a lot less hours and you will get a proper contract and work visa and you can feel at ease knowing you have job security when starting out and trying to gain some experience. Also it will be better for your resume working in Public school/university if you plan to teach in other countries in the future.
Apr 20, 2015 16:38 Report Abuse
Offer maths and/or sciences. It won't matter what colour you are and you'll earn the equivalent of a high wage back home in a 'developed' country. I started studying maths at age 30 and 25000 yuan/month is now the minimum wage offer I receive when job hunting. Don't be shy, offer a valuable skill in high demand.
Sep 15, 2015 16:11 Report Abuse
Cultural difference is a biggie. I do have a lot of patience from being a teacher and understand that I probably will never see the person giving the interview ever again or just on paydays. My main concern is how the students treat me day one and how they treat me by day two.
Nov 13, 2015 09:23 Report Abuse
Pretty good article for a starter like me. I'm just started looking for the position of English teacher and the first advice here of being patient cause it is not very fast in the way of getting response is really encouraging :-) Hope I can find a (decent) school till September. I just wonder, for how long, you guys, have been looking for your job in China before you got it ?
Apr 17, 2016 11:49 Report Abuse
There are actually many job postings that appear daily but perhaps 99% of these seek only native English speakers. Hopefully, others who do not squarely fall within this single qualification but who are perhaps even more qualified in some other aspects would be given equal consideration.
Aug 21, 2016 23:57 Report Abuse
Cultural Differences: Cultures are different. It's what makes them unique. But rejecting someone becuase of the colour of their skin, is hands down racism. Colour does not define Culture*. After reading this article it really opened my eyes that people in China finds discrimination and racism acceptable. Where I come from we have laws that prohibit the abuse of humantiy, job discrimination is one of them. This is a serious issue, I been in China for a year and they not only discriminate among themselves. But they are also racist to their own kind. It is quite sad really.
Sep 13, 2016 14:21 Report Abuse
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