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4 things you should know before applying to a Chinese firm
With China's increasing prominence in the global economy, there is now an influx of Chinese firms setting up offices in Hong Kong to tap into the international market. This move has driven hiring activity, creating a strong demand for local candidates especially in the corporate finance and compliance fields.
If you are planning to explore the “red-chip world”, here are some points to take note.
1. Working Style
The hierarchy in multi-national firms is generally quite different from Chinese firms. For example, Chinese companies (non-state owned enterprises) tend to have leaner structures. As a result of having fewer layers, workflow and approval processes are usually more flexible in Chinese firms. Job scopes become broader as well, and it is not uncommon to see corporate finance managers looking after mergers and acquisitions, fundraising and investor relations at the same time.
2. Importance of Guanxi
Having the right “Guanxi”, or social connections, is one of the key important factors for success and career progression within a Chinese firm. Thus, questions like “What are the connections (i.e. local banking networks) that you can bring in?” are commonly asked during an interview with a Chinese firm. To equip yourself well for the interview, do thorough research on the company, identify their business needs and challenges, and brainstorm a few business contacts which might be useful for them.
3. Beauty of Language
When joining a Chinese firm, the ability to speak fluent Mandarin and write in Chinese is essential. In particular, the style of business writing and tone of delivery can be quite distinct in red-chip firms. Multi-national companies tend to keep e-mails short and concise. However, polished phrases and being “less direct” are actually valued when it comes to communications in a Chinese firm, especially when delivering negative news.
4. Interview Process
In most aspects, multi-national companies and Chinese firms have similar criteria when it comes to hiring, expecting candidates to have the appropriate academic background, qualifications, and industry experience.
However, one slight difference is that red-chip firms typically focus more on a candidate’s long-term commitment, culture fit, and most importantly “chemistry” with the boss. Thus, it is important to prepare solid reasons for switching jobs and know your long term career goals for the interview.
Last but not least, putting in an extra KYC (know-your-customer) effort to better understand your interviewers’ background — either through a quick study of their LinkedIn profile or a chat with your recruiter — will bring you one step further during the interview process.