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Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in China

Submitted: December 2013

Finding a Job

Around 85% of foreign workers are employed by businesses partly or wholly foreign-run, known in China as Joint Ventures and Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises respectively. These companies are well-established, but facing more competition from local businesses, whose expertise is increasing steadily. One of these companies will probably be your best bet for a job, as there won’t be the starting communication difficulties.

Expats looking for employment in China are most likely going to find jobs in the IT and communications sector, as foreign language teachers, or in the finance sector. There are also a number of international companies/organisations based in China that offer employment opportunities for expats. The most convenient way to search for job openings in China is by using online job portals. These enable you to filter your search according to job function, industry, salary and location, or search for keywords.

Examples of job search sites listing jobs in China include:

For jobs with international organisations based in China see: UNJobs.org.

Certain daily newspapers also feature Career sections and publish job advertisements in their print issues and online. For examples of Chinese newspapers in English see:

Another good option for jobseekers in China is to turn to recruitment agencies which can help you find suitable jobs and guide you through the entire application process. However, before choosing one make sure that it is accredited and have a look at online reviews.

Also make sure to look directly on the websites of companies/organisations that interest you. These will often include a section called Employment or Vacancies, where their present job openings are announced. In this respect, you might find it useful to look at the yearly report prepared by Chinahr, a Chinese recruitment agencies, which lists the top 50 companies to work for in China. In 2012, China Mobile Communications Corporation occupied the first place, followed by Procter & Gamble and Baidu. To view the entire list, see the English article on China.org.cn.

You might also be interested in job fairs for expats that take place yearly in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

For information on finding jobs in Hong Kong, see Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in Hong Kong.



First impressions count. Your CV (curriculum vitae) is your introduction to the employer, therefore it is essential to have a strong CV, highlighting your academic qualifications and professional experience.  Although there is no general CV template and different companies have different preferences, there are some core characteristics that all good CVs have in common.

First of all, your CV should be concise. Ideally, a standard CV in China should be around 1-2 pages long. It is recommended to submit both an English copy and a Chinese translation.

It is also essential that your CV is well-structured. This is easily achieved by dividing the CV into various sections and using subheadings to denote these sections. Typically, CVs in China include the following sections: Personal Details, Education, Work Experience, Further Qualifications, IT Skills, Language Skills and Interests. Unless otherwise specified in the job advertisement, your CV does not need to include References. You may, however, include a section on Career Objectives.  

Generally, your personal details should be listed first with your name and surname on top and your contact details (address, telephone number and email) underneath. If applying for work with a Chinese employer, make sure to also include your date of birth, nationality and immigration status. It is also common to include a photograph in the top right-hand corner. If applying for an international company based in China you can normally leave out the date of birth, nationality and photograph.  

Sections devoted to education and work experience should be arranged in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent and any gaps should be accounted for. When listing your academic qualifications, make sure to include the dates attended, the name of the educational institution and the study programme, the degree obtained and any relevant focus during your studies. In terms of work experience, remember to indicate the start and end date, job title and name of the company/organisation you worked for. It is also recommendable to include one or two lines about primary responsibilities and achievements in your recent jobs.

Last but not least, make sure that your spelling and grammar are correct, avoid using informal language and explain any abbreviations used. Furthermore, your CV should be written in a positive tone, pointing out strengths and achievements throughout, yet in a modest manner.


Cover Letters

Employers will typically request a cover letter as part of your job application. Cover letters should be one A4-page long and drawn up as a formal business letter. The purpose of a cover letter is to explain your motivation for applying for the position, how your skills and qualifications match the employer’s requirements and what you will bring to that particular role. When writing cover letters, pay attention to the requirements mentioned in the job advertisement and comment on how you fulfil these. Chinese employers will appreciate it if you present your abilities in a modest tone.

Expat jobseekers should also keep in mind that in China personal connections (guanxi) and recommendations are of paramount importance. Therefore, if you know that you have a contact in common with the recruiter or if you know someone who works for the company, include that contact in your application.

Further useful information on writing job applications in China can be found on the EuroChinaJob website or on the Hudson website for Job Seekers. For samples of Chinese curriculum vitae see for example the 51 Jobs website.



Job interview types in China vary from employer to employer. They differ in length, interviewing technique and the size of the panel. Usually they take place in person. However, in recent years, telephone and Skype interviews have also become common, in particular if interviewees are abroad at the time of interview.

Generally, interviewers will first give you the opportunity to introduce yourself, present your motivation and argue why you are a good candidate for the position. Following on from this, employers will ask questions about your previous employment and test how your skills match their requirements. Finally, you will have the opportunity to ask questions about your potential future role. All in all, it is key to show that you understand how the company/organisation operates, what its objectives are, and how you could contribute to its success.

In China, it is important to take a copy of your CV, cover letter and copies of your transcripts to the interview.

International companies based in China as well as large domestic companies often use assessment centres for recruiting purposes. Such assessment centres last a day or two and include a range of tasks, such as presentations, group activities and written tests, to test your suitability for the position.



When applying for jobs in China make sure to use formal language and polite wording throughout the application process. Avoid using slang and colloquial expressions and explain all abbreviations you use. In written applications, short versions such as don’t and isn’t should be avoided and instead spelled out as ‘do not’ and ‘is not’.

When attending a job interview, remember that punctuality is key! It is better to arrive a few minutes early than keep your employer waiting. Another important rule is to dress appropriately. Even if the company/organisation does not have a specific dress code it is still advisable to opt for business-wear in discreet colours and avoid using eye-catching jewellery, high heels or heavy make-up. However, try to avoid dressing all white as white is the colour of mourning in China. On the other hand, a hint of red might be a good idea as it is considered a lucky colour.

Throughout the interview make sure to sit straight and make appropriate eye-contact with the interviewers. Show that you are professional and do not forget that a smile can take you a long way!




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