Don’t Sweat it: Tips on Job Interviews in China

Don’t Sweat it: Tips on Job Interviews in China
Nov 16, 2021 By

Going through an interview is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. There are often nerves, feelings of inadequacy and the fear of rejection. But unfortunately, it's something we all have to do at some point in order to land that dream job in China. Here are a few things to keep in mind when going for job interviews in China.

during an interview, being interviewed
Source: Gangplang HQ

1) Relax
This is probably the hardest advice to follow during an interview because sometimes your body will give you away with a trembling voice or sweaty palms. But to the best of your ability, try to relax. Try and force yourself to speak slowly, as the tendency when you’re nervous is to talk too fast. Also, always remember to think before you speak. It's better to take a few seconds to think about what you’re going to say than to begin answering immediately and have your brain play catch up with your mouth. If you come up with carefully formulated answers and you speak in a slow and composed manner, it will come across as confidence and impress the interviewer.

Remember what William Carlos Williams said: “It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it; there lies the secret of the ages.”

2) Exchange Business Cards
Despite the invention of WeChat, business cards are still very important in China. Ensure you exchange cards at the beginning of the interview, and remember to use both hands when taking another's card. If there is more than one interviewer you should exchange business cards with everyone, so bring enough. Make a show of studying each card for a second or two and them putting them on the table in front of you or in a safe place. Not only does this mean you have their contact details but it also demonstrates that you understand Chinese business customs.

3) Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Communication
One of the most understated aspects of an interview is what you don’t say. Your body will begin talking before your mouth does, so be aware of body language. Walk in confidently, make and maintain eye contact, and look excited and enthusiastic. In the event of equally qualified candidates, interviewers are more likely to go with someone who seemed energetic and upbeat.

4) Answer the Question
A common mistake many candidares make is not answering the actual question they were asked -- often a side-effect of over-preparation. When preparing, you will inevitably reherse answers for certain questions. However, you can get caught out when the question asked is similar, but not the same, as one you prepared. The interviewer will notice immediately and presume you don't work well under pressure if you haven't listened attentively. Also, if necessary, don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer to a certain question. Interviewers will usually be able to tell if you try to make something up on the spot, and admitting you don’t know the answer shows a certain degree of humility. If you don't know, say you're keen to learn and demonstrate your knowledge in an adjacent area instead. 

5) Use Examples
When asked a question about your experience, use examples from your past jobs. This will show that you have working experience of specific situations and can demonstrate how you solve problems. Some useful examples should be prepared in advance, such as a story about a problem you encountered and solved or a troublesome colleague you successfully managed.

6) Ask Questions
Be prepared to ask questions. A good way to calm nerves is to treat the interview as if you are interviewing the employer. When they are doing the talking, try to think of follow up questions that will demonstrate how you've been paying attention. This will show a level of curiosity and willingness to learn. Near the end of the interview you will generally be given the floor, which is your chance to ask questions. The worst thing you can say is nothing, so prepare some standard questions before the interview but also bring a pen and paper in with you and take notes as you go.

7) Prepare for Personal Questions
Unfortunately, certain questions that Westerners might think of as too personal back home are standard in interviews in China. These include questions about your family and background. Although asking women about their childrearing plans is now frowned upon, there really isn’t a topic considered too personal in Chinese interviews. Try not to get annoyed but be prepared to be unofficially penalised if you decide not to answer.

8) End Strong
By the time the end of the interview comes around, you'll have already made your first, second and third impressions. When you see that the interview is wrapping up, make sure to leave a lasting impression. Try to end by highlighting one of your strengths, especially if the interviewer hasn’t asked you about it yet. Also ask your interviewers about the next step; Where do we go from here? Hope to hear from you soon, etc. Be sure to look your interviewers in the eyes and thank them for their time and consideration. Once back at home, use the contact details on the business cards you acquired to add your potential new colleagues on WeChat or email to say thank you once again. While this may seem pushy in the West, it is typically thought of as courteous in China.

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Keywords: during an interview. interview process in China


All comments are subject to moderation by staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.


These are helpful tips. will sure try to remember them next time.

Oct 26, 2022 11:20 Report Abuse


This was so helpful, especially to me. Thank you so much!

Jan 16, 2022 15:34 Report Abuse


It's a good article! Thanks for the useful tips.

Jan 03, 2022 14:44 Report Abuse


It really depends on the company you are interviewing for. If it is a MNC, then they should be more familiar with foreigners and the HR or person conducting the interview would be more 'regular'. However, if it is a private company looking to take the leap of doing international trade or start to have an 'International' flair, then your approach may be very different. Firstly, if it's an MNC, your competition in recent times may not be another foreigner but a local Chinese. Increasingly MNCs will have positions that traditionally go to expats but now they have it as a local hire. This is predominantly due to costs, avoidance of admin issues (Visas, quarantine, home trips) and stability (expats will go home one day). Think about how you may edge out a local. Foreigners are not necessarily better but we do have our strengths. International exposure, language (great if you are multilingual), constant communication with overseas based corporate HQ, etc. Secondly, if you're going to a local company, be prepared that they DO NOT KNOW expat packages. Many are not even aware of the associated costs such as medical insurances, home trips, annual paid vacation, performance bonus, etc. So be prepared to ask these questions, at least let the HR know that there are such components if they are looking for expats. The greatest challenge for foreigners to join local companies, especially those that just started out hiring expats, is the company's awareness of the role and fit and culture. For example, if they want a German to handle their exports going to Germany or Europe, then do they know what Germans expect in terms of work ethics, practices and compensation? Most will not. They may not even understand why foreigners cringe at working on Saturdays (work-life balance), answering calls or Wechat messages at ten at night. I may be generalizing but my point is alignment of expectations. Some foreigners join a company with good faith that the company will do what is right but reality may not be what it seemed. So beware because a lot is at stake when you take the first step. Work Visa, residential stay visa, social insurances, registration with the local police (vital), etc.

Dec 30, 2021 09:17 Report Abuse


It's a good article! Thanks for the useful tips.

Dec 20, 2021 15:21 Report Abuse


One thing the poster has ignored is the fact that most of the interviews are now held online, so body langauge is not relevant. AND Chinese read body langauge differently from non-Chinese. The same applies to business cards - they are unlikely to be presented EVEN at an in-person interview for a teaching position. Thirdly, don't expect your questions at the end to be answered. When asked a direct question (especially about terms and conditions) you will probably be ignored. Also don't EVER give any information such as passport number UNLESS a firm offer is made - be aware of identity theft (a very common problem in China)

Nov 17, 2021 02:28 Report Abuse


Don't cave into answering personal questions that you are not comfortable in answering. They may be 'standard' questions in China, but you should be shown some cultural respect as well. Respect does not only go one way when it comes to customs. To disregard the cultural norms of the person being interviewed is just plain rude.

Nov 16, 2021 19:32 Report Abuse


This is very average advice for a job interview. It isn't great advice for a job interview in China. In China, you don't need to follow Chinese customs. You are a foreigner. If they wanted to hire someone that was great at Chinese customs, they would hire a Chinese person. They are looking for someone with much needed skills or someone that can give them great face or maybe both. So during the interview you need to show that you can bring what they are looking for. If it is face that they need, speak with confidence and dress sharp. Show them that you can sell yourself. If it is skills they need, impress them with your mad skills by showing them examples.

Mar 20, 2018 14:32 Report Abuse


Very helpful tips. Thank you.

Dec 30, 2017 06:48 Report Abuse



Mar 28, 2017 06:33 Report Abuse


really helpful and useful! thanks !

Mar 15, 2017 14:55 Report Abuse


I found these points to be very helpful. Thank you so much.

Jan 21, 2017 21:36 Report Abuse


“It is not what you say that matters, but the manner in which you say it..." I specifically like this one. Very apt.

Aug 22, 2016 21:58 Report Abuse


Really helpful. Thank you.

Jan 20, 2016 21:19 Report Abuse


Don't get drunk the night before.

Oct 13, 2015 15:55 Report Abuse


very useful tips, thanks!

Oct 05, 2015 22:03 Report Abuse


thank u very much

Mar 14, 2015 01:19 Report Abuse


nice interview tips ...

Feb 27, 2015 11:35 Report Abuse


These are really useful tips that everyone is looking for a job must attention in his or her interview. Thank you

Jan 14, 2015 18:01 Report Abuse


All 8 points are very helpful! Thank you!

Oct 12, 2014 20:54 Report Abuse