Understanding the Chinese Job Market

Here you will find information on the job application process in China along with a break down of the different types of companies.

Job application timing in Chinese job market

Overseas graduates can attend Chinese universities campus recruitment for two years after graduation. There are opportunities advertised on job vacancy websites all year around. The peak recruitment season for Chinese graduates are ‘Autumn Enrolment’ (Sep-Nov) and ‘Spring Enrolment’ (Feb-May). The ‘Autumn Enrolment’ is the main recruitment season which has more and better opportunities compared to other recruitment seasons for graduates.

With increasing numbers of overseas graduates coming back to China, many Chinese companies are targeting these students by opening up opportunities in December and January. This is not the main recruiting season (not as many opportunities as the peak season) but it is getting more popular with the desire to recruit good oversea graduates.

It is always a good idea to undertake internships while doing job applications if securing a graduate job is difficult.


For PGT students in particular, university course work is very intense which can leave little time to do job applications during semester. Most Chinese companies require face-to-face interviews or assessment centres which can also be difficult.

If PGT students have time to do job research and preparation during Christmas time, it is a good idea to start applying for jobs during ‘Spring Enrolment’. This would allow the students to get into jobs by September (after finishing their dissertation). The time limitations in the second semester may make it difficult to apply for jobs and you may not be able to go back to China to attend interviews and assessment centres especially under short notice.

PGT students may have more time to do job research and preparation in the summer while working on dissertations. You can then apply for jobs during ‘Autumn Enrolment’ from September. During this time, you may have more freedom to go back to China and go through the application process if needed, and get into jobs around December. Our advice would be to start looking for jobs before graduation/going back to China.


Different types of employers in China


State-owned companies 

The recruitment process for state-owned companies are more old fashioned where the ability tests and normal interviews are done by HR. They look for people who have high loyalty to the company. Recruiters in these more traditional Chinese organisations may find the assertive/confident UK/Western approach to interviews off-putting. Surveys in China have shown such candidates projected an arrogant attitude which did not demonstrate respect for others and did not make them good team players.

The state-owned companies generally have very good welfare and job security. But the promotion route can be slow, based on relationship and length of service. All new staff will start working in the lowest level for a few years before having the opportunity to become line managers.

Private-owned companies 

Private companies can be very different between each other. But generally their recruitment procedure is somewhere between foreign companies and state-owned companies.

Private companies have more flexibility in terms of recruitment. They don’t normally have a yearly recruitment plan (especially for smaller firms), as they would recruit when the company needs specific people/skills and prefer to hire people who can start working straight away. So the recruitment process is normally shorter than the other two types of companies.

Others: Joint foreign/local ventures (JV); Wholly owned foreign companies; Multinational corporations (MNC)

Employment procedures for these are similar to western countries. Depending on which country the company is originated, it will carry characteristics of its parent company. There are a lot of American companies in the first-tier cities in China. Foreign-owned enterprises and joint ventures were more likely to value and appreciate autonomous thinkers with outgoing communication styles.

Foreign and JV companies are still valued most highly by returnees, but there are likely to be more openings in local companies and Government-owned organisations. All foreign banks together comprise less than 2% of the total banking market.