5 Red Flags to Look Out For When Starting a New Job in China

5 Red Flags to Look Out For When Starting a New Job in China
Dec 17, 2020 By Cian Dineen , eChinacities.com

China is very much the land of opportunity when it comes to jobs for foreigners, but with so many gigs out there, expats can afford to be a little bit choosey about who they work with. So how do you sort the good from the bad? Here are five red flags to watch out for when starting a new job in China.

finding a teaching job while already in China

1. Less than rigorous vetting process

If I had RMB10 for every time I saw a company advertising for “any foreigner”, “a white face”, or a “native speaker”, I’d be rich enough to retire by now. While such a low bar to entry may seem enticing to some, it’s actually one of the biggest red flags you can come across when looking for a new job in China.

If the bar is set that low for new hires, chances are it’s set just as low for everything else in the company, from the way workloads are managed and projects are planned, to the treatment and morale of the staff. Also, if the requirements are low but the salary is exceptionally high, you may want to seriously question if the offer is too good to be true.

2. Long probation periods or delayed payment

Even if you think you’ve found a legit job with a decent salary, it’s important to review the finer details before you sign on the dotted line. Red flags are also prevalent when it comes to probation periods and payment terms.

Chinese employment law stipulates that employers cannot put new hires on probation for any longer than a month for a one-year contract. Some employers may try to get around this by offering longer contracts for a longer probation period, such as three months for three years. This is not technically illegal, but ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s acceptable. If you’re being offered a one-year contract but being asked to complete a three-month probation, you should seriously consider negotiating or walking away altogether. Companies that try to break the rules at the offset will likely continue to disrespect your rights throughout your employment.

Similarly, think twice if your employer discusses payments terms that are any more complicated than a simple monthly salary. Salaries paid quarterly, linked to the end of projects or completely dependent on performance are to be avoided.

3. Promises that are not in the contract

Make sure you get everything that’s promised during the hiring process down in writing and signed in the contract (both the Chinese and English version) before you start. While this is common sense for any job anywhere in the world, it’s especially important here in China. If you don’t get it down in writing, you only have yourself to blame when a perk you thought was coming your way doesn’t materialise.

This includes promises of annual bonus, annual leave or any other benefit, like a paid flight back home. These kind of employee perks are not generally covered by Chinese labour laws, so if there’s any dispute later, you’ll need supporting evidence. If your prospective employer is making these kinds of promises via phone calls or WeChat messages and is avoiding putting them into a contract, it may well be a sign that they have every intention of reneging on their assurances.

4. A lack of emphasis on quality

Even if you’ve already started working at your new job in China, you should still be on the look out for red flags in the early days. One very obvious issue is when the company doesn’t seem to care about quality of its product.

Are deadlines too short? Does it seem like the company is uninterested in the final product? Are customer concerns dismissed by management? If the answer to these questions is yes, you might want to consider getting out before it’s too late. Working environments where nobody cares about quality can have a detrimental effect on employees. It will likely instill you with bad habits and crush all enthusiasm you previously had for the role.

Even if you can accept shoddy working practices, consider your long-term future. After all, how long can a company survive if it’s consistently putting out poor quality products or providing a below-par service? Do you really want a company with a bad reparation on your resume?

5. Constantly changing staff

Another equally big red flag at a new company is a high turnover of staff. While a revolving door of personnel can sometimes be partially explained in startups that are new and still expanding, a high turnover is often indicative of something rotten at the core of the company. On a practical level, it also makes your life as an employee particularly hard when you’re constantly having to get used to new people and work styles.

If it appears that staff have a short shelf life at your new company, it may mean employees are either burning out or not being treated well by management. You may think that you can make it where others gave up or that you can change the system from within, but be realistic about succeeding where most others have failed.

Even more concerning is when a company that previously managed to retain a high percentage of its staff suddenly starts shedding them left, right, and center, particularly at a higher level. This may be a sign that the company is in financial trouble. The last thing you want is to start a new job in China only to have the company shuttered before you’ve got your feet under the desk.

Any other red flags to watch out for when starting a new job in China? Drop them in the comments box below.

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Keywords: starting a new job in China


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A company with high staff turnover is not a healthy sign. As usual that may be an signal that one should avoid such companies.

Mar 24, 2021 10:28 Report Abuse



Agreed. Such companies should be avoided.

Apr 02, 2021 10:59 Report Abuse



It is important that one read the contract carefully before signing one.

Mar 24, 2021 10:24 Report Abuse



if you need to be told these things, maybe you are not ready to work in China.

Dec 18, 2020 21:32 Report Abuse



Obvious points

Dec 18, 2020 20:38 Report Abuse



pretty obvious points

Dec 18, 2020 13:03 Report Abuse