4 Strange Things that Might Happen in a Job Interview in China

4 Strange Things that Might Happen in a Job Interview in China
May 18, 2023 By Trey Archer , eChinacities.com

As a foreigner in China, there is ample opportunity to propel your career beyond your wildest dreams. Before you get too caught up in that dream, however, you’re going to have to jump over one very important hurdle: the job interview. Just like many aspects of life here, interviewing can be an all together different experience. Here are four strange things that might happen in a job interview in China.

pay day anxiety


Let’s tackle the most controversial point first. Unfortunately, some Chinese employees will still judge you on race, nationality, gender and age. A lot of employers, especially for English teaching jobs, sadly prefer white candidates and openly discriminate against people of colour. Many employers will insist you send them a photograph of yourself before the interview so they can weed out any candidates that don’t meet their company’s cookie-cutout of a model employee. English teachers who hail from countries where English is not the native language may also find themselves lumped into a less-desirable category, as will women of childbearing age and anyone pushing 50.

Luckily, times are slowly changing and such antiquated ideas, particularly in more cosmopolitan cities, are gradually fading, but it all still depends on the personal prejudices of whoever is hiring. If you’re worried about being discriminated against, don’t. Would you really want to work for an employer with such backwards ideas anyway? Keep applying to jobs, especially in more developed cities and at international schools, and you’re bound to find an employer that judges you on your merits, not your demographics.

Personal questions

Some interviewers in China will openly ask questions about your personal life. Are you married? Do you have kids? What do your parents do? How much is your rent? Could you please describe in detail your future family plans? This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been in China for a while, since the average expat gets asked such probing questions every day by complete strangers.

After six (long) years in China I’ve become rather desensitized to these highly personal questions and don’t mind honestly giving my answers, but my replies probably won’t affect my job prospects in the same way they might for a woman planning to start a family soon. If you find yourself in the latter category and are worried about being honest, the simplest solution is just to lie. The Chinese government has recently taken steps to discourage such intimate questions, however, so you could point this out if you’re feeling brave and/or aggrieved. Such action could, of course, lead your interviewer to put a big black mark against your name, however unfair that would be.

Penchant to party?

Here’s one that I dare say mainly affects male job applicants in China. Although this is another aspect of professional life that the government is trying to stamp out, smoking, heavy drinking and even enjoying the company of ladies of questionable repute are still very much part of doing business in some circles. If you’re applying for a job that involves entertaining clients, your interviewer may ask if you drink and smoke, hoping the answer will be, “yes, heavily.” Some jobs may require the candidate to drink and smoke so they can “better entertain” clients at seedy KTV parlors and boozy luncheons.

This may sound like a dream job for some, but for others it would be quite the opposite. If you find yourself faced with such questions, don’t be afraid to ask frank questions in return and have your potential employer clarify what exactly will be expected of you. It’ll save you both a lot of time, and hangovers, in the long run.

Language ambush

Anyone searching for jobs in China will have noticed that the phrase “Mandarin skills are a plus” crops up a lot on adverts for jobs aimed at foreigners. You may have alluded to some Chinese skills in your application, but how will these claims actually be tested? While a potential employer may ask to see certificates of any HSK exams or other Chinese qualifications you have, it’s much more likely they they’ll just ambush you suddenly at the beginning of the interview to assess your level themselves. Even if you’re fairly confident of your Chinese skills, be sure to brush up on a few key phrases and vocab related to your experience and the job before your interview. If you’re fresh off the boat and still can’t ask where the nearest toilet is, it’s probably best to be completely honest about this in your application so you can avoid this stressful interview aspect all together.

Is it really that bad???

Yes and no. Basically, it entirely depends on the job and company you’re applying to. Just as in the West, some interviews here may be casual, easy-going conversations, while others may require several rounds of drilling, interrogation and tests. As Forest Gump’s mamma taught him oh so well, you never know what you’re gonna get.

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Keywords: job interview in China


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Good article and very helpful!

Jan 13, 2024 09:22 Report Abuse


Hi I have done my bachelor's in physics and now I have great knowledge in physics .I love to teach maths and science especially for primary education department.

Jun 02, 2023 13:25 Report Abuse


1. Only people who come from one of the designated NES countries or who got their degree in one are qualified to get a work permit to teach English. Blame the government that makes the laws, not the people who have to abide by them. 2. Ten years working in China and I’ve never been asked any of those questions. 3. Most of those types of jobs are illegal and have been for a while now. 4. No.

May 18, 2023 16:43 Report Abuse


I somehow doubt you've never been asked your salary or marital status while residing in China.

May 25, 2023 17:41 Report Abuse


I agree with your points, unlike the other shy poster.

Jun 01, 2023 03:32 Report Abuse