Job Interviews in China

Last updated: Aug 2020
The HR Regulations Guide for Foreign Companies in China

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Regulations in China change relatively frequently. For the most up-to-date regulations, please check in with us.

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    Human capital fuels corporate success. This is a well-known fact. This is also the reason successful companies invest in high-level HR and candidate recruitment. When recruitment is skillfully executed, the company benefits. Yet when hiring mistakes are made, the company suffers. This is true for companies from all over the world, including China. Speaking of China, it is important to remember that HR in China general, and especially recruitment in China, differ from western practices. Therefore, recruiters in China must adjust their expectations accordingly.

    One of PTL Group’s many areas of expertise is recruitment services in China. Our goal is to share our important knowledge with you. The following article discusses job interviews in China.

    Read more about HR management and recruitment in China.

    Job Interviews in China

    What questions can be asked in a job interview?

    The job interview is an integral part of employee recruitment in China. During the job interview, as part of becoming acquainted with the potential job candidate, it is customary and even advisable to ask personal questions, which may be considered nosy in Western countries. Questions that inquire about marital status, what the candidate’s parents do for a living, and what plans does he or she have about starting a family – all these and more are legitimate during a job interview in China, and Chinese employees will feel comfortable with them. Moreover, questions about family influence and academic achievements are important characteristics for forming a general picture of the candidate.

    Draft relevant questions in advance that are related directly to the job requirements, but make sure you ask indirect and open questions as well. The indirect questions may shed more light on the candidate. For example, the question “How have you prepared for this interview?” could shed light on the level of motivation and hard work. The question “How long have you been looking for a job?” can, on one hand, serve as indication to how desperate the candidate is, but on the other hand can also demonstrate determination and perseverance.

    In addition, we also recommend checking your candidates’ salary expectations during the early stages of the process, so as not to waste time.

    While issues such as working conditions and wages are usually kept in discretion in Western companies, this is not the case in China. It is OK to talk about money! In a Chinese company, everything is open to discussion. All employees know how much their peers earn, and job descriptions and grant packages are common conversation topics.

    Find out more about payroll services in China 

    English please

    Communication skills in English are important, but their importance is derived from the role in question. For example, a good salesperson will conduct sales in Chinese and not in English. In many cases, English is necessary for communication with the parent company’s headquarters. If a candidate’s written English is better than his or her oral English, it may be sufficient. A high-level English requirement will narrow the number of potential candidates and raise their desirable salary. Therefore, it is advisable to consider the required level of English for each position.

    Who conducts the interview?

    The Chinese recruiter is the core of the entire recruitment process, from the initial filtering stage and especially during the job interview. A Chinese interviewer should join interviews with all candidates, in order to interpret and explain what the candidate is saying, or not saying, in terms of business and discussion culture.

    A candidate who expresses insecurity or discomfort is not necessarily a bad fit. The interview process may be uncomfortable and stressful – and is mostly conducted in a foreign language. Perhaps the candidate has never worked for a foreign company before, or his or her English is not sufficiently well-spoken. He or she could be great industry experts with an extensive network of connections. Don’t be surprised if, during the interview, the Chinese interviewer asks a few questions in Chinese, and suddenly the candidate’s confidence returns and he or she begins to speak fluently.

    The candidate’s body gestures, language and overall interview sometimes lead us to make the wrong decisions, due to cultural gaps and misunderstandings. Bear in mind that certain behavior codes that are perceived in China in a certain way, will be perceived differently by “Western” eyes. Therefore, a Chinese recruiter must be present during the job interview. If possible, we recommend asking a foreign professional who has lived in China for many years and is familiar with the culture of both parties, to join the interview.

    Regulations in China change relatively frequently. For the most up-to-date regulations, please check in with us.