Excerpted from the China Career Guide
It is difficult to give specific information regarding interviewing in China since the employer may be any one of a number of nationalities. Most foreign companies who want to do business in China do so in the form of a joint or tri-venture with a Chinese organization, resulting in the possibility of representatives from three different cultures being present during the interview process.
Because referrals are so important in China, it is advantageous to be based within the country before one begins the job search and application process. Jobseekers should attempt to network in order to gain employment and should seek employment recommendations through friends, colleagues, professional associates and industry contacts. China is rich in customs and traditions, and it is almost as important for the applicant to be familiar with Chinese social and business culture as it is to have the skills needed for the job itself. It is to the applicant’s advantage to gain as much information as possible about the city (e.g., hospital/medical care, school facilities and housing) and the employer prior to considering a move. A pre-assignment visit should be arranged, and there also should be an opportunity to meet with other expatriates who work for the same employer. Spouses should be included in the pre-assignment visit.
Punctuality is crucial in China, both for business and social occasions. Being on time for an interview is of the utmost importance, as it is considered a serious insult to be late or to cancel an appointment. Formal dress, such as a dark, well-tailored suit for both men and women, is required at the interview. A light handshake in greeting is to be expected, although it is best to follow the lead of the interviewer. Good posture, a quiet voice and respect for silence are all desirable and will be respected by the interviewer.
The interviewing process can be lengthy and may involve a number of interviews before the applicant meets the person who has the authority to make a decision. At both the application and interview stages, respect, modesty and politeness are important qualities to demonstrate. If dealing with a joint or tri-venture, one should know which entity comprises the management. However, hierarchies in business organizations can be quite complex and confusing, making it difficult for the applicant to know who makes the decisions. Thus, it is important to treat each person present with equal respect.
The decision-making process in China can be lengthy, and the candidate should remain patient in waiting for a response after submitting an application. It is, however, appropriate to follow up on the status of the recruitment process after an interview, provided that it is done in a reasonable manner, and if possible, following guidelines from the company’s human resources department. Thank you notes are often helpful and appreciated by the recruiters. Candidates may not be informed if they have not been selected.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete China Guide.