How to Stand Out From the Crowd as a Foreign Worker in China

How to Stand Out From the Crowd as a Foreign Worker in China
Apr 07, 2021 By Randall Cox ,

Many foreigners come to China for employment opportunities. As a foreign worker in China, you can expect a healthy job market with competitive salaries in many industries. And while many would-be expats are currently unable to come to or return to China, making the labour pool nice and small for those of us already here, it’s still necessary to set yourself apart from the pack. Below are some ways that you can stand out from the crowd when looking for a job in China.

How Stand Out From the Crowd as a Foreign Worker in China

This information is based on my personal experience in applying for jobs in China, as well as the experiences of my current and former coworkers. I’ve filled in the gaps with some online research. This is meant as general guide. Naturally, more detailed requirements may apply to specific industries or companies.

Learn (at least some) Chinese

First thing's first: learn some Chinese. It may sound obvious and, of course, there are ways of getting by in China without speaking Chinese, particularly if you speak English, but the benefits of some level of Chinese proficiency are undeniable.

In my experience, most locals are impressed and encouraged by a foreigner’s Chinese, even if it’s at a very basic level. It signals to potential employers your interest in and commitment to living and working in China and will naturally put you ahead of a candidate who doesn’t speak any at all. A little bit of basic understanding will also make navigating the recruitment, application, interview and hiring matrix easier in general.


The concept of guanxi may at first feel unfamiliar to foreigners in China. In its simplest form, though, it’s not much different to networking. This networking can be with recruiters, colleagues, peers or other foreign workers. Guanxi is sometimes hard to see, and the extent to which it informs decisions and opinions is almost impossible to measure. But rest assured, it’s a very real thing in China.

You can improve your professional guanxi by getting involved in social clubs, organizations or even online communities within a certain industry. Often it is as simple as staying connected to developments in a given job market and staying in touch with potential employers and the ever-present army of recruiters. Be sure to send out holiday greetings to others in your industry on WeChat, which, as you know, is the social lifeblood of China. Attend job fares, open houses and other networking events. A lot of this you would already do in your home job market. In China, it’s even more important.

Travel in China

Travel as much as possible. There’s no better way to understand China and your potential place in it than by seeing as much of the country as possible. At a very basic level, it can open your eyes to other opportunities and/or put your current situation in perspective. And while traveling is a bit trickier and involves more planning these days, it’s still possible and rewarding.

There’s virtually no end to the things you can learn from traveling within a country, particularly one as big and as old as China. And the more you learn about China and its varied cultures, the more attractive you’ll be to employers looking to hire foreigners who truly understand the country.

It’s also always a good idea to familiarize yourself with a new city or a new district before moving for work. Obviously the high-speed train system in China is as convenient and affordable as anywhere in the world, particularly if you live in eastern China. About a year ago I moved cities for work. I’m glad I did, but I might not have taken the plunge if it hadn’t been so easy to hop on a train and spend a weekend in my new potential city before I made my decision. These days, location should not be a barrier to your career progression in China.

Swat Up on Chinese Culture

Chinese culture is, of course, rich and ancient. It can at times be confusing, murky and inscrutable, but attaining a basic understanding of the worldview your colleagues isn’t too difficult. Alongside learning some basic pop culture references and keeping up with domestic news, reading up on Chinese workplace culture will help you avoid work-related stress and conflict with coworkers.

One thing that’s often a cause of misunderstanding is the value that Chinese workers place on workplace harmony, of not upsetting the apple-cart. In much of the Western world, we take it for granted that employees will voice concerns with management and take steps to ensure that they’re not being taken advantage of. In the Chinese workplace, however, the emphasis is on compliance and harmony.

Certain norms can be hard to adjust to for foreign workers, but recognizing cultural conflicts when they occur could save you a big headache, or worse. I’m not suggesting you abandon your principles — after all, you were hired as a foreign worker and your employer should understand the cultural values that you bring to the table. Just remember that understanding is a two-way street.

Strengthen Your CV

Of course, the best way to stand out from the crowd as a foreigner in China is to have a sh*t hot CV. While work experience goes a long way, Chinese employers are also increasingly looking for various professional credentials, certifications and commendations. For foreign teachers, for example, this can be anything from a Master’s degree in education to a specialist teacher certification program or volunteer work with vulnerable groups.

Another key, and something I’ve been encouraged to do by recruiters and hiring managers, is to be more detailed on your CV. Don’t simply list your previous jobs and where you went to school. Give details and offer specifics about what you studied/were responsible for. Don’t be afraid to show recruiters and potential employers how you’ve shone in the past and what makes you the ideal candidate for any given role. I’ve never been very comfortable “selling” myself to recruiters or employers, but it’s a necessary skill, so try to put modesty aside, at least on paper.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to edit your CV to include certain keywords in the job description of the role you’re applying for. Recruiters and HR departments are increasingly using CV scanning software that picks out the CVs with the right keywords from a pool of applications. What is a five-minute editing job may be the difference between landing an interview or not.

There are many great jobs out there for foreigners in China, and now more than ever you may be able to land a role that was previously unattainable. To do that though, you’ll need to know how to set yourself apart from the crowd. I hope the above information will help you do just that.

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Keywords: foreign worker in China


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I’m from Ghana and I’m hoping to work in China in the years to come. I love China so much and I don’t even know why. I hope my dream of teaching kids in China will come true after I’m done with my degree program here

Jun 05, 2021 07:11 Report Abuse



These are some useful tips to set yourself apart in the Chinese job market. Thanks for sharing.

May 03, 2021 08:27 Report Abuse



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Apr 26, 2021 15:34 Report Abuse



Chinese etiquette is a crucial part of living in China and once it did help me to avoid paying for an extra bag I had with me. It was a city airport, the check-in opened. The Ticket in my hands allowed me to baggage only 23 kg. The second bag with another 30 kg had to be paid extra. I am reaching the counter, giving my passport to the airline office with both of hands (!) And wishing him a good morning . That's it, both bags are checked in! The situation felt fishy to me and I asked if I had to pay for the second bag, "No, that's all fine! " was what I heard. Believe it or not but in the neighbouring counter was a passenger with a tiny mini suitcase and the airline rep made him pay 200£ .

Apr 08, 2021 06:31 Report Abuse



maybe ur blonde hair

Apr 08, 2021 10:12 Report Abuse



The problem is that many companies are unable to hire foreigners because a license is required

Apr 08, 2021 04:30 Report Abuse