Blog 30 | How to get jobs in Hong Kong

I've been working in recruitment for about a month now. I can't say that I'm an expert, but I want to share my observations on what a good CV looks like, and how interviews are like in the Hong Kong job market. These tips are more tailored towards junior candidates looking for a job in Hong Kong.

1. What qualifications, skills, and personalities are more attractive
  • Languages: Fluent English, Business Mandarin
Fluent and unaccented English is definitely more attractive. If plays heavily on the initial phone screening process. If you sound too local, you might not even be granted a chance to meet face to face. So it's really important if you do study abroad in the US, UK, or Australia, don't just hangout with Chinese speaking people, try to get a foreign roommate so you can practice your English.

Business level Mandarin is on very very high demand right now. To be able to speak and write are both important, but more so the speaking part. Most companies are trying to take a step into the Mainland China market, so they need people who can deal with Mandarin speaking clients. Anyone who speaks solid business Mandarin is automatically on the top of the job search food chain. And don't try to lie about your fluency level, you will be tested on the spot.

  • Degree: Bachelors or above in an English speaking country
This plays into the part for fluent English and also international exposure. A degree from an English speaking country also tends to be more credible, and it shows that you are an independent individual that's not scared of stepping out of your comfort zone (except for those who only hangout with Chinese speaking friends)

  • Field: Solid experience in one field (don't be jumpy)
Pick a field you like, and try to stick with it (unless two fields have transferrable skills). If you want to go into the banking industry, you will need a finance degree almost 100% of the time. So make sure you pick carefully. And don't jump around too much, like FMCG for 5 months, then Insurance for 8 months, then IT for 3 months. If you want to get into a certain industry, they would prefer you to have a solid track of experience in the same or related industry.

  • International or MNC (multi-national corporation) exposure, regional role
I don't think this one needs much explanation, the more global you are, the more adaptable you are.

2. How to perform well in interviews
  • Job duties & Achievements: give specific examples
When the interviewer asks you what you've done at your last job, don't just give a job description. Give specific examples of what you did. For instance if you are interviewing for a sales role, you can talk about how you approach new clients, where you find new clients, if you had a sales target and if you achieved it, and so on. If you're interviewing for an events marketing role, you can describe the planning process of the event, how many people attended, what did you actually handle throughout the process. If you can't give specific examples, it will just look like you actually didn't do much and you are just bluffing on your CV.

  • Skills: read the job description and tailor your skills to that specific role, or explain why skills are highly transferrable.
You MUST read the job description before you go into an interview. Find out what they're looking for, and then think about what you've done in the past that can prove you match the requirements. If you don't have experience in exactly what you're looking for, you can elaborate on your strengths or skills that might help. If you've done sales before, even if it's just front line sales in a retail store there are still transferrable skills. It shows you are hard working, don't mind working long hours, you have a positive attitude and are patient (customer service), you don't mind sales goals (even if it's a team or store sales goal you still contributed to it), you can think on your feet.... there's a lot you can say about it.

  • Presentation: pay attention to what you wear (suit up!), your hair, your makeup, and your face
Although people always say you can't judge someone by how they look, but in reality, the first impression of a person determines quite a lot if a hiring manager is interested or not. If you are dressed well, it shows that you care about this job a lot and that you are detailed oriented. I've seen candidates who have chipped nails or overly long nails and that just doesn't look good. Cover your dark circles and acnes with concealer and at least do your eyebrows. It will make you look a lot more awake with energy. And for guys, make sure your suit fits, don't wear an oversize suit or a skinny tie. Obviously certain companies are more flexible or have a more laid-back environment, but it is always better to be overdressed than too casual.

  • Personality: outspoken, communicative, proactive, positive attitude
In an interview you are trying to sell yourself and your skills, so you have to engage the interviewer and stand out. Smile a lot, and elaborate on your experiences. Don't just give short answers with a few words. Showing that you are proactive and keen to learn will also help you a lot.

  • Ask good questions: shows that you care about the role, and you're prepared
Avoid asking questions with answers you can easily find on the company website or Google. Good questions to ask are usually company specific, team specific, and role specific. Examples

1) What a day in the life of the role?
2) Describe an idea candidate for this position
3) What has made you successful in the job and why have you stayed in the company for so long?
4) What do people find most difficult when they initially join?
5) What is the most rewarding aspect about this job?
6) What is the career growth path like?

3. Things to watch out
  • Motive for switching jobs
Usually employers will dig about this. They want to make sure once they hire you, you won't want to quit easily. You can't lie about this, but you can't be too blunt about this either (if the reason is negative). Shady reasons for leaving a job include: you don't like your boss or the pay is too low. Good reasons: you want something more challenging or want more opportunity for growth. And if you're only looking for a new job for the sole reason of an increased pay, don't, that's a very wrong decision and is a big warning sign to hiring managers.

  • Jumpy CVs / Gaps in CVs
Employers tend to not like candidates with jumpy CVs, meaning if you keep switching jobs every 5 months, or you jump between 3 industries and can't make up your mind. That shows that you can't commit, you don't know what you want, or you give up easily. 

Gaps in your CV means an unreasonable time frame in between jobs. If you were unemployed and not in the job market for too long, that doesn't look good. You have to be able to come up with a legit reason on why you were not working for 6 months.

  • Lying on CV (most common: incomplete degree)
Don't lie on your CVs. Companies will do background check, especially the finance and banking industry. If it's a study abroad or exchange program, you have to state it. If you excluded a part-time job in your CV, and the employer finds out, be prepared to explain. If you every lie about having a degree but actually it's incomplete, you will get fired. I've heard of many cases where people were fired on the spot.

Fluffy a CV is kind of different. You can use big words to describe your job or you can just copy the entire job description, but a hiring manager will be able to see right through you on whether you have solid skills or  you were just an admin supporting newbie that didn't learn much or achieve much in your last role. Be prepared to elaborate on what you did.

Some of these might sound harsh, but I'm just trying to represent everything as accurate as possible. Again, these points might not all apply to everyone. Depending on seniority or industry, certain interview process and things that hiring managers look for will be different. But I hope you will find at least one of these points to be helpful for your job hunting process.

Good Luck on your job search!

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