Chinese Job Market
Competition in the job market in China can be quite intense. There are many highly trained and educated applicants for the best positions. Major industries include: mining, textiles, armaments, chemicals, consumer products, telecommunications equipment, satellites and transportation (cars, ships, aircraft). Workers with skills and experience in IT and related technical qualifications are most in demand. Some of the main international companies with business in China are: Nestle, Goggle, Shell, IBM, HSBC, Microsoft, Airbus, Clifford Chance, Procter & Gamble.
Expats in the Job Market
Expats can find work in China, but unless they are comfortable selling their main asset, English, they will need to have relevant, paid work experience. Many employers in China value paid work experience over experience gained in voluntary and casual work. It is often important to have attended a well known, "big name" university. Relevant work experience or great Chinese (or preferably both_ is your best bet to finding a good position. Skills sought include languages, including proficiency in English, teamwork and communication skills, leadership and ability to learn. The key is usually being persistent, patient and lucky.
Before starting out on your job search, determine what you are looking for.
- What field do you want to be in?
- What salary do you expect?
- How long can you live without a salary?
- What is your ultimate goal in coming to China?
Though many people are transferred by their company or find a job in China before moving, many other come to China still looking for employment. It is common to spend 3 months looking for work. This can be a valuable time of getting settled, enhancing your Mandarin, and making connections. Be prepared for this reality. There is also no shame in first becoming employed as a teacher. This is by far the easiest position for a native English speaker and can help get you started.
Resume / CV
Resume versus CV
- Resume- brief overview of work and educational experience. Prominent in the US when applying for employment. Typically one page.
- CV (curriculum vitae)- more in depth look at work and educational experience. Prominent in Europe and the Middle East. Typically two or more pages.
China usually uses a resume, although they are often longer than a US resume at about 2 pages. International companies stationed in China may prefer a CV. This information should be listed in the ad, but you can inquire if still uncertain.
Prepare both a Chinese and English versions of your resume only if you are fluent in both languages. If you are submitting an English resume only, it is helpful to duplicate in Chinese your name, contact address and company names.
Note that discrimination laws are not as stringent in China. It is not uncommon for employers to ask for specifics like gender, age, photos and decide on these factors.
The Resume should contain:
- Contact Information: Relevant personal contact information at the top of the page including: name, phone number, fax number, address, email address, date and place of birth, gender, marital status and number of children. Resumes may be kept on file for long periods, so any contact details you give should remain accurate long-term.
- Professional Experience: Usually this information is listed chronologically. List your work experience with: your title, the name of the company you worked for, the dates of your employment, and a brief description of your achievements in that position. Any gaps in work history should be explained.
- Education: This section should come before work experience if you are in school or have been out of school for one to three years, depending on your level of work experience and how relevant your education is to your career. Big name universities can catch a recruiters attention.
- Certificates & Diplomas: Courses, seminars, congresses or conferences that are relevant. Note if you received any special honors.
- Languages: This is extremely relevant to an international job. The major language is Mandarin Chinese, but the working language for multinational employers tends to be English. List which languages you speak and your level: advanced, intermediate or beginner. Point out if you can translate, speak, or write in each language and list any associated degrees. If you are submitting your resume in a language other than your native tongue, be sure to have a native speaker read it first.
- Computer Skills: Programs, applications, word processing, database, Internet experience, etc.
- Interests: You may include personal interests such as hobbies, sports, activities.
- Style should be straightforward. Use standard paper and a simple font, such as Times New Roman (12 font) or Arial (10) font
- Print original copies on high quality paper - don't send photocopies.
- Be neat. Take care with the presentation, design, spaces, and spelling of your resume. Punctuation and grammar are extremely important. Don't use abbreviations.
- Make sure your CV is as organized as possible, so the information can be found easily.
- You do not need to date or sign your resume.
- Have a base CV that you can adjust to each job you are applying for.
A cover letter usually accompanies a Resume in a job application. In the format of a letter, it establishes your tone and intent. Also known as a cover letter, covering letter, motivation letter, or letter of motivation.
- Header - Standard business letter style, with the sender's address and other information, the recipient's contact information, and the date sent after either the sender's or the recipient's address. The final part of the header is a salutation (e.g., "Dear Hiring Managers").
- Introduction - The introduction briefly states the specific position desired, and should be designed to catch the employer's immediate interest.
- Body - Highlights material in the resume or job application, and explains why the job seeker is interested in the job and would be of value to the employer. Also, matters discussed typically include skills, qualifications, and past experience. If there are any special things to note such as availability date, they may be included as well.
- Closing - Sums up the letter and indicates the next step the applicant expects to take. It may indicate that the applicant intends to contact the employer, although many favor the more indirect approach of simply saying that the applicant will look forward to hearing from or speaking with the employer. After the closing is a valediction ("Sincerely"), and then a signature line. Optionally, the abbreviation "ENCL" may be used to indicate that there are enclosures.
For some basic templates for CVs and cover letters, try Career Lab, Great CV's, or the Career Resource Center.
A checklist of what you need to start your career:
- Write a curriculum vitae (CV)
- Research potential employers
- Find job opportunities
- Write cover letters
- Complete job applications
- Get hired!
After you have completed your CV, it is time to search for jobs.
Search engines allow you to scan a great variety of jobs, and narrow down your search on certain criteria. It is also a good idea to post your Resume online so hiring managers can find you. They may also allow you to sign-up for e-mail alerts for when new jobs become available.
Forums & Networking
Expat and social forums are another resource for job seekers. You can get a realistic expectations of what it is like to work in Beijing as well as make helpful contacts. Check out Easy Expat's Job Listings and Resume Service for China as well as the forum to connect with expats there.
If you know anyone in China- get in touch! It's not necessarily what you know, but who you know. Friends and family, or any contact you have in your desired business may know of a position. If you have already moved to Beijing, talk to people and make contacts.
There are also professional social networks like Linkedin which allows for people to make business contacts.
Several papers have a helpful classified's section.
Interviews are a chance for a company to get to know you before hiring you. It is not uncommon for there to be a series of interviews, with possible candidates being narrowed down over a few hours, or a few days.
- Dress neatly and conservatively.
- Before arriving for an interview, research the company you are applying for. Knowing about their mission and accomplishments will impress them.
- Get comfortable talking about yourself. Practice a short "speech" of introduction that explains who you are and what you do. Try to use the same keywords you used in your job resume.
- Display a positive attitude.
- Chinese take punctuality very seriously. Meetings always begin on time, so arrive at least 10 minutes before a job interview and turn off your cell phone.
- Business cards and photocopies of your resume, cover letter, and academic certificates may be expected. Business cards should be printed in English on one side and Chinese on the other. Make sure the Chinese side uses "simplified" characters and not "classical" characters.
- A reference letter from your academic supervisor or employer can be helpful during the job interview.
- Demonstrate good etiquette by observing seniority and rank. When introduced, expect a handshake and a bow. Do not touch, hug, lock arms, back slap or make any body contact. Address the Chinese by appropriate professional title or Mr., Mrs., Miss plus family name. Do not sit until invited. Do not interrupt the interviewer and criticize former employers.
- Unless the job you seek requires that you only speak English, be prepared to discuss in Chinese what you have written in your resume during your job interview. Talk effectively demonstrating your knowledge of the industry and/or the company.
- If you feel uncomfortable with a question, explain that "In my country, that would be a strange question."
- Ask questions about the job, the lines of authority and your future responsibilities. Avoid asking about salary or benefits early unless invited to.
- At the conclusion of the interview, ask "When can I expect to hear from you?". Thank everyone present for interview and shake they hands.
- It may be appreciated to send a thank you letter, email or phone call. Employers regard this as an indication of your strong interest in the position.
Teaching English is one of the most common jobs for a new expat. Qualification requirements vary considerably, from city to city and among different employers. Research schools and laws carefully as broken contracts are common and employers may not always have your best interests at heart. For many institutions it is possible to teach without a degree or teaching certificate, but beware of doing so illegally as penalties can be severe.
Salary & Benefits
Pay and conditions vary greatly depending on location, experience and qualifications. An average salary would be about 12,350 RMB. A public college or university will often pay less than a private school, but will also require fewer teaching hours. Government schools tend to offer the best all-around deals. Free accommodation, provided by the institution, are common. Many jobs pay for all or part of an annual trip home. Teachers usually make enough to live well in China. Some positions only pay for 10 months of the academic year, making for lean summer months.
The easiest way to get started teaching English is to find a school. The best situations are companies that pay adequately and aid in getting visa paperwork completed. These positions may be difficult to come by and there is fierce competition in some cities. In China there is a fairly strong preferences for native English speakers and for citizens of the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Some schools may not be interested if you are from another country or have a different background than traditional anglo-saxen. Some overseas Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Malaysians, American Blacks, and especially Africans have problems finding jobs or receiving adequate offers even with perfect English. That does not mean they cannot find work, it just might be more difficult.
Applicants usually submit their resume and application, and if the school approves, the applicant will be asked for an interview. The interview may consist of a sample lesson or a grammar test. Some schools will throw teachers right in for a 90 minute class where the school observes and either offers the job, or does not.
It is common for new teachers to only receive a few classes at first. If they are able to prove them self reliable an be able to handle a class, they will gradually be given more classes. Many teachers work at two schools or also give private lessons.
These courses tend to be expensive, but in a competitive market they will make you a more desirable candidate.
It is also an option to work for yourself. Private Lessons are usually more profitable per hour, but a lot more work finding customers. The best way to get private students is to post advertisements in business newspapers, on bulletin boards, or offer your resume on expat site's like Easy Expat's job listings. It is also common for teachers to work at a school, and offer private lessons on the side. Having basic native language skills will help expand your clientele as you can then work with beginners.
Private lessons in technical and business English at private companies is the most lucrative strain of teaching. These jobs are hard to come by without experience. Teachers must provide valid permits for these positions.
TESOL(also known as TEFL) is the acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. A TESOL certificate is the most common qualification required to teach English abroad. There are a wide variety of TESOL courses available, ranging from 4-week intensive, classroom based TESOL courses with TEFL International, to TESOL courses studied online. It is even possible to combine a period of online study with a shorter classroom based course. In addition to standard TESOL certificate courses there are also more specialized courses such as courses for teaching business English, or teaching English to young learners. There is also the more advanced TESOL diploma course.
Work Permit for Teaching English
To legally work as a teacher in China you need either a Foreign Teacher's Certificate (FTC) or a Foreign Expert's Certificate (FEC). Both are issued by the State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs(SAFEA). In practice, most people get the FEC. Whether this is enforced depends on where you are, how well-connected your school is, and how much trouble they are willing to go to.
If you are planning on teaching, you should be strongly advised to enter the country on a Z visa. Some schools recommend entering on a tourist visa which they will convert, which is very difficult and you cannot work on a tourist visa. Working visas can only be obtained outside of China and require an invitation letter from the prospective employer. A health certificate will usually be obtained in your home country. The physical includes: EKG, chest x-ray, sonogram of heart and stomach area, blood test, and urine screen. Make sure to have the form stamped with the official seal of the hospital.
If you are caught working illegally, the fine is up to 500 RMB per day. Upon receiving a FEC, a Residence Permit should be easy to get.
Most jobs rely on an employment contract (except for positions no longer than one month). The contract must be in writing and can include details of the type of work to be done, duration, salary, and benefits.
It is common to have a probational period at a new job. The length and requirements of this period should be detailed within the contract, including what should happen if either side wishes to terminate the contract.
If you are in need of short term work of any kind, there are agencies that will find you employment with another company. As an added bonus, sometimes short term work can lead to longer contract.
Wang & Li is a top recruiting agency and also offers competitive market information. They may be able to provide information about temporary positions.
Work Visas & Permits
An employment Visa, or Z Visa, is issued for aliens who come to China for employment. It can also be applied for by family members of someone working in China. Hiring companies may pay for some or all of the costs involved, so negotiate this into our contract if possible.
- Valid passport (must have at least 6 months of remaining validity with at least one blank visa page in it)
- Application form
- Photo: one recent photo of 2 by 2 square inch (black & white or color is acceptable) glued or stapled on the application form.
- An original and a photocopy of the Work Permit for Aliens issued by the Chinese Labor Ministry or the original of Foreign Expert's License issued by the Chinese Foreign Expert Bureau.
Consult the Visa & Passport section for further information.