Don’t Say This in an Interview
If you are thinking of starting a new life in China then obviously your first priority will be to find work. This could mean that you’ll find yourself on the opposite end of many intimidating individuals while you scramble to put your life into a perspective that’ll leave a positive impression. A common area for foreigners to look for employment is in teaching English as a second language, either at school or University levels and can be done in class or online. Dave’s ESL Cafe is a great place to look for such positions.
The culture in China differs vastly from that in the US so an interview will be very different but with the correct preparation, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be considered as a top candidate. Here are a few things to keep in mind when interviewing for a position at a Chinese company.
Know the company you’ll be working for
Not unlike any other job interview you need to know who you’ll be working for, what they do as a company and what you’ll be doing as an employee. Doing online research is a good start but often that may not be enough, and you may consider contacting a current employee for further information you don’t find on their corporate websites like the dress code, company philosophy, and work regulations. Make a list of any questions you might have about the company as your interest will be seen as a sign of respect but try to avoid questions regarding salary during your first interview.
In the same way, you’ll need to be prepared for an arsenal of questions about yourself. The Chinese put a lot of emphasis on building relationships, whether it be with employees, partners or clients. Therefore don’t be offended if you’re asked a lot of personal questions since this is a good sign and indicates that they are interested in who you are. This also means that any small point on your resume could result in a whole conversation so be prepared to back it all up.
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This is a scary one since many people struggle to learn new languages and also because Chinese is considered to be one of the most difficult languages to master. It is possible though that speaking Mandarin or Cantonese will be a requirement for working at that company so you might want to consider an online course or even going to classes. If speaking Chinese is not a requirement, then the interview will most probably be conducted in English or through an interpreter. If however they wish to test your Chinese linguistics, then a portion of the interview may be done in Chinese so be prepared for this. If you’re struggling with the language then at least prepare some answers to common questions that may be asked.
Documentation is essential for Chinese employers so be sure to have a copy of your resume and relevant certifications on hand. It’s also recommended to have a business card available with your contact information and also to have a pen and notepad ready.
Chances are the dress code will be formal and generally Chinese companies prefer to dress conservatively. Women should avoid high heels and men should not choose a conspicuous tie. Also, remember to clean and polish your shoes.
As part of the relationship building phase, it’s common for Chinese employers to arrange for a face to face meeting and therefore body language is of vital importance. If the distance is too great, then a phone call may suffice however it’s more likely that the interview will be done over a video call.
It is not uncommon for a Chinese employer to give you an awkwardly long handshake or stand closer than you’re used to. They tend to take note of your entire person and will pick up on things people from other countries may not so be sure to sit or stand up straight and don’t talk too fast. Lowering your head slightly when facing your interviewer is seen as a sign of respect.
Don’t waste time with divulging unnecessary information but also try to avoid one syllable responses. Remember they are trying to build a relationship by getting to know you. Humility is a trait that is particularly valued in Chinese culture so when discussing your qualifications or achievements, try not to sound boastful as this may be seen as a sign of mistrust. Be aware that they will be verifying any of the skills you list on your resume so under no circumstances should you “stretch the truth” on your application. Also do not by any means speak ill of your former employer, disrespect is not well received in China, even disrespect to others.
Be punctual. This cannot be overstated, rather be early than late. Conform to the way in which your interviewer greets you; this could be a handshake or a brief bow of the head.
In China, names are generally pronounced surname first and do not be scared to confirm the correct pronunciation of your interviewer’s name. This will not be seen negatively. Business cards are exchanged at the beginning of the interview, and Chinese people tend to accept an item with both hands.
The interview will cover a wide variety of questions, some more personal than you may be used to. They’ll inquire about your interests, motivations and why you chose to move to China. They’ll also inquire about your experiences with Chinese people and culture so being knowledgeable about their culture should earn you some extra points right off the bat. Don’t be surprised when asked about your marital status, children or even your age, however, should you feel uncomfortable answering any of these questions then explain that those questions are considered too personal in your culture. Obviously, they’ll be asking about your career history and future aspirations so have answers ready for possible questions in this regard.
Finally, it’s not uncommon for a job offer to be made at the end of the interview so make sure you’ve done your research and asked all the questions you wanted so you can give an answer immediately if needed. It’s also important to offer your hand at the end of the interview to say thank you while sending a letter of appreciation to the interviewer will also be seen positively.