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Tips for an interview in China

Without good preparation it is difficult to successfully complete an interview in China. You should not only be familiar with the rules concerning behavior and politeness, but also be informed of the questions common in a Chinese interview.

Oftentimes, success in interviews depends on the details. The competition is great and whosoever sticks out from the crowd because of fundamental preparation improves their chances.

Interviews in China are not unlike those in Europe

Information about the company

  • To show your interest in the company it is important to extensively educate yourself. Simple research online may help. You will often find information about the industry, activities and structure of the company on the corporate website.
  • It is even better to make contact with an employee, thereby allowing you to figure out additional information about the corporate philosophy (work regulations, dress code, etc.) and requirements of the position.
  • Questions about potential salary should be avoided during the first conversation. However, if you have any other questions about the company or the position then you can have these at the ready.
  • Also be prepared for questions on the individual aspects of your cover letter.

Linguistic preparation

  • You should already have taken note in advance of which language the interview will be conducted in. If this position requires no knowledge of Chinese then the interview will most likely be conducted in English, German or through an interpreter. In the event that knowledge of Chinese will play a role in the position then you must be prepared for at least a portion of the interview to be conducted in Chinese.
  • In the event that your Chinese skills are not yet hones, it is sensible to prepare relevant question-and-answer scenarios and enhance your knowledge with regular exercises.
  • There is a multitude of courses online for improving and reviewing your language abilities. Attending a course is also recommended (in Germany or in China).

What is unique to an interview in China

Required documents

  • While business cards are optional in many situations in Germany, they are a fixed part of professional life in China. Print out your business cards in English and Chinese and do not forget to bring them to your interview.
  • Copies of your cover letter and CV are required, as well as duplicates of your certifications.
  • You should have the address of the personnel manager on hand so you always know who to report to.
  • It is always good to have a pen and notepad available.


A conservative dress code is regularly prevalent in Chinese companies. Women may dress in a dress with a blazer or a suit with skirt or pants. Shoes with high heels should be avoided. Men would do best to wear a suit with a shirt and an inconspicuous tie. Well-polished shoes are also important.

Tips for an interview in China

Body language and mimicry

Germans are often surprised at the differences in body language in a Chinese interview. Do not be confused if the personnel manager gives an especially long handshake or stands unusually close to you.

It is also crucial to sit up / stand straight and also adhere to small pauses when speaking. If you turn to face your interview partner you should slightly lower your head to show respect.

Expression and language

During the conversation your answers should neither be too short nor too long-winded. As the interviewer would like to learn something about you, you should avoid one-syllable answers at all costs.
Particularly modest answers are welcomes in Chinese interviews. If you display yourself too positively and boast of potential achievements and successes, this will plant seeds of mistrust. Furthermore, be aware that all of your stated skills and abilities will be assessed. Under no circumstances should you speak ill of your former employer.
While it is viewed positively when you ask questions about the position's required tasks, the structure of the company or other aspects of the work, questions about salary or other services are best avoided.

The interview format

As in the rest of the world, in China there are two possibilities for conducting an interview.

  • In person:This conversation occurs on site with one or more members of the personnel department.
  • Over the phone:If the distance between the company and applicant is too great, a phone interview is also possible. Video calls have become more popular for interviews in the meantime, because not only does this lower costs, but the participants are also in their accustomed environment. Furthermore, the routine technical skills of the applicant are tested in this way.

Important rules of etiquette

  • Being punctual: Whosoever is not punctual gives off a poor impression from the start. The general rule is: better to be 15 minutes early than 1 minute late.
  • A successful greeting: If you would like to avoid embarrassing situations should ideally conform to the interviewer's method of greeting. In many large cities people normally greet one another with a handshake, but other types of greeting are common: a simple movement of the head or a brief bow to each other are not unusual.
  • Stating the correct name: It is not dishonorable to affirm the proper pronunciation of the personnel manager's name. The surname is generally stated before the given name. The title of the interviewer should be stated afterward.
  • Exchanging business cards: Business cards are exchanged at the beginning of the discussion. A crucial detail: they are always accepted with both hands.

What questions are commonly asked during an interview in China?

  • General:The beginning of the interview is usually kept general. Questions about your accommodations, interests, motivation for working in China or experiences with Chinese cuisine are commonly asked. This is the perfect opportunity to present any readily available knowledge of China and its culture, thereby scoring points with the employer.
  • Personal: Personal questions are also asked, concerning such things as marital status and age. This is completely normal in China. However, should you be uncomfortable with these questions, you may explain that such topics are considered too personal for an interview where you come from.
  • Professional: Of course, during an interview questions are also asked that deal with the future position and previous career path. This questions are not especially different from those also asked in European countries. However, it may be prudent to search online for experience reports or application videos and research common questions from this field.

How an interview will end
Now and then the applicant is offered the job immediately at the end of the interview. You should be well prepared so you can communicate your immediate refusal or acceptance. Extensive research before the interview is thus essential. If you are neither offered an acceptance or refusal, you can ask when a decision is expected to be made.

Saying thank you

It is important to hold out your hand to the interviewer at the end of the interview and express gratitude. A thank-you letter should also be sent to the respective superior after the interview, too. This is also an opportunity to confirm your interest and impart a positive impression.