How to Get Hired in China

Before you can get that penthouse room overlooking Pudong, you must pass the interview. If you're preparing for a job interview in the West or China, keep a few things in mind.


Some Chinese workers assess you based on ethnicity and gender. Many employers, particularly at English schools, favor white men and discriminate against persons of color and Asians. Some applications need a picture of you before the interview to screen out individuals who don't fit the company's ideal employee. In larger cities, this outdated concept is dying away. Would you want to work for such a retrograde employer anyway? Keep applying for employment, particularly in established cities, and one will hire you if you satisfy the standards.


Some interviewers ask personal inquiries. Marriage? Children? Your parents what? What's your bank balance? What are your family plans? The ordinary expat in China is asked these questions every day by people on the street.

After six (long) years in China, I'm OK giving people personal questions; it doesn't worry me much... maybe I've gone tribal. If this bothers you, say, "I'd rather not say, it's personal." Strangers or interviewers usually back off.


Ming Ding and Jie Xu write in "The Chinese Way" that "[Chinese] people drink so much - sometimes to the point of getting inebriated" Foreign friends and innumerable Chinese friends have informed me interviewers have questioned, "Do you smoke?" and "How much can you drink?" Some positions need candidates to drink and smoke so they can entertain customers at KTV parlors and alcoholic luncheons.

Some may consider this a dream job; others may disagree. Ask questions to explain work expectations. This should be done whether in the East or West; it will save both parties time and suffering. Plus, it might assist you avoid a "face job" when the company uses you to impress customers.


Mandarin is necessary for many occupations (this shouldn't be a surprise). Fluency definition? HSK IV, V, or VI? Is it communicating your ideas? Can you make your argument with a few simple sentences? If they demand impeccable Mandarin, the interview will be in Mandarin.

Even if you don't need A+ Mandarin, be cautious. The employer will compliment your Mandarin as the greatest in the world when you say "Ni hao" and begin the interview in quick, severely accented Chinese. Truthful. If you're HSK Level VI, be sure to brush up on job-related phrases and vocabulary. Don't apply to positions requiring ace Chinese speakers if you can't inquire where the bathroom is.


Yes and no. It depends on the position and corporate culture. As in the West, some interviews may be informal, easygoing talks, while others may involve numerous rounds of drilling, interrogations, and tests. Some need a suit and tie, while others allow jeans and a T-shirt. The only differences are the things described above, but as you know, there are workarounds. Whether you want to make it big in China or are simply here for an experience, you must pass an interview. By following our recommendations, you may prevent the Chinese Dream from becoming a nightmare.

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