CAREER EXPERT feat Chris Mead | Issue 91 of HEADHUNT

Dear Chris,

After nearly five years spent working in corporate banking in Singapore, I am looking to move to China for personal reasons. I have a broad base of experience and can speak the language. I am aware of the high competition for available roles but am unsure of the best approach to apply for them – could you please give some tips on how I can break into the market?


Dear Lillian,

China has become the second largest economy in the world and first and second tier cities present plenty of opportunities for candidates in all industries, be it in accountant jobs or in manufacturing, who are willing to make the move.

The experience you have already gained in your executive job in Singapore will help to open doors in China’s growing finance sector. Banks have become big recruiters as they increase their presence in the market following relaxed foreign banking regulations by the Chinese government. On a positive note, you are well-placed to find employment as banks expand their retail banking operations, corporate banking, trade finance and corporate loan products. Several large banking institutions have also moved their back offices from Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore to China.

As you have noted, it is highly competitive for roles in China and you will need to have a strategic approach to help you to break into the market. We suggest you meet with potential employers and recruitment agencies during a visit. A recruiter will be able to advise you on the local market, what employers are seeking your particular set of skills and help you to appropriately tailor your resume. You can also speak to your recruiter about where the opportunities exist. Faster career paths are often available in second tier cities.

It is great to see that you already speak the language as the ability to speak and understand the local language is essential. Ten or twenty years ago, an expat with strong experience or technical skill-sets could easily secure a senior position in a multinational company in China. But in today’s market more foreign candidates speak Mandarin and so, generally speaking, candidates are required to be fluent in both English and Mandarin. The ability to transfer material from Chinese to English will certainly add another string to your bow as well.  

You’ll also need to demonstrate your understanding of the culture. Often, companies prefer candidates with prior study or work experience in China as they believe they can adapt to the working environment easier and have a good understanding of culture difference, people behaviour and business tradition.

Finally, be prepared for a longer recruitment timeframe and an interview conducted in both English and Mandarin. Also expect to be asked questions about your stability and long-term plans to stay in China during the interview.

Chris Mead
General Manager
HAYS Singapore

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