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Hiring & Recruitment in China

Learn about the process of hiring employees in China and the benefits of using a dedicated recruitment team

How to hire employees in China

Once you have made the decision to expand your business and begin hiring in China, you need to carefully consider the best way of hiring employees in China. This means thinking about unique Chinese cultural considerations, how the interview process works, how to recruit the best local talent and how to ensure full compliance with China’s employment laws. 

Hire and pay talents
with Horizons in
180+ countries

Guide for hiring in China

Job interviews

While utilizing job interviews for successful hiring in China has some similarities with the process of interviewing in North America or Europe, there are a few differences worth keeping in mind: 

  • Greeting each other: It is common for both sides to introduce each other with a handshake.
  • Stating names: When each side introduces themselves, note that it is expected to state the surname first. In addition, the interviewers/employers should also state their titles (e.g., ‘Managing Director’). Note, it is perfectly acceptable to check with an applicant what the correct pronunciation of their name is
  • Questions: It is common for interviews to begin with general questions (e.g., what brings the applicant to China, if from outside the country). This ‘breaks the ice’ before moving on to questions about the role itself. Note also that it is not uncommon for personal questions to be asked in interviews
  • Conclusion: At the conclusion of the interview, interviewers should indicate when they can expect to communicate a decision and both sides should shake hands

Post-interview process

If the interview has gone well, and you wish to proceed to hiring the candidate, some matters you should take into account include: 

  • Standing offers: The candidate might be interviewing with other companies as well, and might already have some offer/-s on hand. You should be aware of that, because if you think that it is the right candidate for your company – you would be wise to have an efficient interviewing process, and offer an attractive job offer to convince the candidate to make “the right” choice in your favour.
  • The notice period of the candidate: Standard practice includes a 1-month notice period. In some companies the notice period could be longer, depending on the job position, however, it is not common. If you are urgently looking to fill the job opening at your company a candidate with a long notice period may need to be ruled out.
  • Non-competition/non-compete agreement: It often happens that candidates have a non-compete agreement with their current company, meaning a competitor cannot employ them. Where you are such a competitor, you must tread carefully if seeking to employ such a candidate.
  • Be efficient with the job-offer issuing process: Be prepared for a counteroffer. After the candidate receives the job offer – he/she will give a resignation letter to his current company, and there is a big risk that his/her current company will try to convince him/her to stay.

General workplace etiquette

Within the workplace, there are a few different aspects of Chinese workplace culture that are worth being aware of:
  • Punctuality: Workplaces in China expect punctual attendance at work and work meetings. However, at the same time, there is a general recognition that traffic and complicated addresses can mean that individuals are legitimately late. Employers need to be aware of this and should be reasonably tolerant of excusable lateness
  • Saving ‘Face’: Maintaining one’s ‘honour’, and the respect of one’s family and community is hugely important for hiring in China. This means maintaining an air of competence and remaining in control of one’s emotions at all times while in the workplace
  • Working hours: Working hours should be stated in legally compliant employment contracts and should not exceed the maximum limit of 44 hours stated under the law. Employers should be aware, however, of a tendency for some employees to stay in the office until their superiors have left for the day
  • Lunchtime:

    Lunch time is 1 hour. After lunch, it is very common for Chinese colleagues to take a short nap, which is included in the 1-hour lunch break.

How does recruitment in China work?

As with recruiting anywhere else in the world, the first step is to scope the size of the human resource needed, and set out the role requirements. Note that recruitment and hiring in China for highly-skilled staff is often quite competitive. Using a China recruitment agency, with extensive local networks can be an essential tool for recruiting the best staff.

As well as engaging a recruitment partner, all jobs should be advertised on major regional job sites: Many areas in China have their own websites for jobs and other information in their regions. 

Recruitment channels to be considered include, National Platforms like

  1. Zhaopin (智联招聘)
    One of the most giant job boards in China

  2. 51Job (前程无忧)
    A major national job platform

  3. Liepin (猎云网)
    A job platform that targets middle to high-end job markets

  4. Boss Zhipin (BOSS直聘)
    A direct recruitment platform, allowing job seekers to chat directly with employers

  5. WeChat
    WeChat is more than a social networking site that caters to cosmopolitan areas and often lists local job openings. It is a multifunctional super app widely used in China and increasingly in other parts of the world. Users can communicate, shop, pay bills, book transportation, read the news, and more within its ecosystem. Additionally, businesses and professionals use WeChat’s ‘Official Accounts’ for marketing, customer service, and even recruitment, which might include local job openings.

Career events and job fairs

You will often find students who have just graduated at such events. Therefore, they can be a valuable forum for hiring junior staff.

When is the right time to hire in China?

In China, certain ‘seasons’ are during which people tend to be more open to considering new job opportunities. The April-May period often shows a higher inclination for individuals to change jobs. This typically follows the distribution of annual bonuses, which usually occurs in March-April.

It can be more challenging to recruit employees from December to February, not only because it’s right before the bonus distribution period, but also due to the Spring Festival (Lunar New Year). Understandably, many employees prefer to secure bonuses and celebrate the holiday before considering new opportunities.

But there are some solutions available if you can’t wait until May. Global expansion partners such as Horizons in China are accustomed to handling these situations regularly and can provide the most appropriate solutions for each specific case.

At any time of the year, there is a big competition between companies to recruit the best talent in the market.

How should you plan your competitive pay package?

When putting together an attractive salary package, you need to understand the average market salary for the role you are hiring for, taking into consideration the city where the employee will be based. You also need to consider the current compensation package of the candidate. The average salary increase for an employee joining a new company will be 10-20% more than his current package. Note that pay needs to be benchmarked against similar roles to be competitive when hiring in China.

Benefits packages

An important part of acquiring the best employees for your firm will be ensuring that employee benefits (such as paid vacation and insurance) are as good as, if not superior, to the competition.

What are other bonuses and incentives to keep in mind?

As bonuses are commonly included in contract negotiations during the hiring process in China, consider whether or not you will make pay bonuses part of your overall remuneration package.

Career development opportunities

In China, where titles and seniority are highly valued, prospective employees are keen to understand the growth opportunities when discussing terms with a potential new employer. This includes promotion opportunities and potential future pay raises.

Brand identity

While well-known brands carry significant cultural prestige in China, serving as a strong selling point for new employees, lesser-known brands can highlight their unique values, growth opportunities, and commitment to employee development to attract talent.

When it comes to a company’s brand identity, employees in China often see it as a positive to work for internationally established enterprises.

Company reputation and culture

If the company has a tarnished reputation as an employer in China, it can hinder the hiring process; therefore, it’s crucial to address and rectify any concerns while also building and promoting a positive workplace culture to attract prospective employees.

Work/home-life balance

Just as in other parts of the world, the impact of COVID-19 has led employees in China to prioritize workplace flexibility. Companies can respond by offering adaptable work schedules and remote work options, balancing professional obligations and personal life.

Office location

The office’s location becomes vital for prospective employees in densely populated cities. They may question what transportation support you’ll provide if it’s distant. A solution could be offering shuttle services or transportation allowances to ease their commute.

What does a standard compensation package in China look like?

When working out an attractive compensation package for an employee in China, understanding how compensation is traditionally structured in China is essential. Usually, the elements of a compensation or remuneration package in China are:

Base salary

Base salary in China is a fixed monthly pay that an employee receives, excluding additional compensation such as bonuses, allowances, or other benefits. It’s the foundational or guaranteed component of an employee’s total compensation package. In China, the base salary is typically paid monthly for most full-time positions. Typically, candidates in China discuss salary in gross terms. The currency utilized is the Chinese Yuan, abbreviated as CNY or RMB.

Bonuses

Bonuses can vary, being fixed, guaranteed, or dependent on personal or company performance. For roles that don’t naturally have variable bonuses due to their job nature, it’s common in many companies to offer a 1-2 month salary bonus. It’s essential for the candidate to have clarity on this when evaluating your offer.

Social benefits and allowances

Every full-time employee receives social security benefits. This encompasses contributions to the housing fund, social insurance, and supplemental insurance. Additionally, benefits might include allowances for business expenses, phone, meals, transportation, etc. Shares and/or stock options can also be part of the compensation, but they are separate from allowances or standard social security benefits.

Annual leave entitlements in China

Annual leave entitlements in China depend on the employee’s length of service, and are provided as follows:

Completed Years of service in the PRC (accumulatively) Statutory Annual Leave Entitlement (working days)
Less than 1 Year No leave
1 > 10 Years 5
10 > 20 Years 10
> 20 Years 15

Paid public holidays in China

In addition to the annual paid leave, employees in China receive 10-11 paid public holidays each year. 

It’s important to highlight that while these are the official paid holidays, some businesses may adjust working days around major holidays, such as the Spring Festival and National Day, leading to extended breaks but requiring employees to work on adjacent weekends.

  • New Year’s Day – 1 day

  • Chinese Spring Festival (Lunar New Year) – 3 days (though the celebration can last a week, only three days are officially paid holidays)

  • Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day) – 1 day

  • Labor Day (May Day) – 1 day
  • Dragon Boat Festival – 1 day
  • Mid-Autumn Festival – 1 day
  • National Day – 3 days 

Additional Benefits in China

As indicated above, you may be expected to provide allowances for business expenses, transportation, meals, phone use and other expenses. This is largely region and industry-dependent. For the local Chinese employees, you will have to pay social insurance, but it will cover only public hospitals in China. If you would like to make the lives of your employees more comfortable and open their access to private clinics – you could offer an additional insurance plan.

Company-specific incentives depend on the role and the company. Some companies, besides an earned personal bonus, encourage their successful employees by giving an incentive. It’s up to the company how they want to encourage their “star” employees (ex. trips, gift cards, memberships, etc.).

New potential employees are usually interested in how to grow internally in the company they are about to join. For instance, they may enquire whether it will be possible to move internationally to one of your other international branches.

A good career development opportunity plays an important part when Chinese employees choose between job opportunities they might have.

There are no limits to making your job offer more attractive on the market. Above are some general examples you could consider when looking for a new employee in China.

Company-specific incentives depend on the role and the company. Some companies, besides an earned personal bonus, encourage their successful employees by giving an incentive. It’s up to the company how they want to encourage their “star” employees (ex. trips, gift cards, memberships, etc.).

New potential employees are usually interested in how to grow internally in the company they are about to join. For instance, they may enquire whether it will be possible to move even internationally to one of your other international branches.

A good career development opportunity plays an important part when Chinese employees choose between job opportunities they might have.

There are no limits to making your job offer more attractive on the market. Above are just some general examples you could consider when looking for a new employee in China.

Compliance in China

As well as making your employment offers attractive, when hiring in China you must ensure that your hiring is in full compliance with employment, tax and business laws and regulations. This includes:

  • Providing an employment contract for all employees
  • This is a legal requirement, and should set out employee compensation (in yuan renminbi), benefits and the performance management process (including, where necessary, the termination procedure).
  • Ensuring that employees are hired by an entity that is legally entitled to employ in China  This may mean setting up a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (‘WFOE). Or, alternatively, using a global Professional Employer Organization (‘global PEO’) to locally employ your workforce, while they still work under your direction. In China, global PEO solutions are usually implemented by Foreign Enterprise Service Companies (‘FESCOs’).
  • Guaranteeing staff their minimum entitlements under the law in China This includes compliance with minimum entitlements for leave, pay, benefits and working hours;
  • Withholding tax This means making sure that payroll taxes are withheld and all other tax obligations complied with.

By collaborating with an EOR like Horizons, businesses can concentrate solely on their commercial and strategic endeavours, while Horizons expertly manages the administrative and compliance aspects.

Hiring & Recruitment in China

Learn about the process of hiring employees in China and the benefits of using a dedicated recruitment team

How to hire employees in China

Once you have made the decision to expand your business and begin hiring in China, you need to carefully consider the best way of hiring employees in China. This means thinking about unique Chinese cultural considerations, how the interview process works, how to recruit the best local talent and how to ensure full compliance with China’s employment laws. 

Hire and pay talents
with Horizons in
180+ countries

Guide for hiring in China

Job interviews

While utilizing job interviews for successful hiring in China has some similarities with the process of interviewing in North America or Europe, there are a few differences worth keeping in mind: 

  • Greeting each other: It is common for both sides to introduce each other with a handshake.
  • Stating names: When each side introduces themselves, note that it is expected to state the surname first. In addition, the interviewers/employers should also state their titles (e.g., ‘Managing Director’). Note, it is perfectly acceptable to check with an applicant what the correct pronunciation of their name is
  • Questions: It is common for interviews to begin with general questions (e.g., what brings the applicant to China, if from outside the country). This ‘breaks the ice’ before moving on to questions about the role itself. Note also that it is not uncommon for personal questions to be asked in interviews
  • Conclusion: At the conclusion of the interview, interviewers should indicate when they can expect to communicate a decision and both sides should shake hands

Post-interview process

If the interview has gone well, and you wish to proceed to hiring the candidate, some matters you should take into account include: 

  • Standing offers: The candidate might be interviewing with other companies as well, and might already have some offer/-s on hand. You should be aware of that, because if you think that it is the right candidate for your company – you would be wise to have an efficient interviewing process, and offer an attractive job offer to convince the candidate to make “the right” choice in your favour.
  • The notice period of the candidate: Standard practice includes a 1-month notice period. In some companies the notice period could be longer, depending on the job position, however, it is not common. If you are urgently looking to fill the job opening at your company a candidate with a long notice period may need to be ruled out.
  • Non-competition/non-compete agreement: It often happens that candidates have a non-compete agreement with their current company, meaning a competitor cannot employ them. Where you are such a competitor, you must tread carefully if seeking to employ such a candidate.
  • Be efficient with the job-offer issuing process: Be prepared for a counteroffer. After the candidate receives the job offer – he/she will give a resignation letter to his current company, and there is a big risk that his/her current company will try to convince him/her to stay.

General workplace etiquette

Within the workplace, there are a few different aspects of Chinese workplace culture that are worth being aware of:
  • Punctuality: Workplaces in China expect punctual attendance at work and work meetings. However, at the same time, there is a general recognition that traffic and complicated addresses can mean that individuals are legitimately late. Employers need to be aware of this and should be reasonably tolerant of excusable lateness
  • Saving ‘Face’: Maintaining one’s ‘honour’, and the respect of one’s family and community is hugely important for hiring in China. This means maintaining an air of competence and remaining in control of one’s emotions at all times while in the workplace
  • Working hours: Working hours should be stated in legally compliant employment contracts and should not exceed the maximum limit of 44 hours stated under the law. Employers should be aware, however, of a tendency for some employees to stay in the office until their superiors have left for the day
  • Lunchtime:

    Lunch time is 1 hour. After lunch, it is very common for Chinese colleagues to take a short nap, which is included in the 1-hour lunch break.

How does recruitment in China work?

As with recruiting anywhere else in the world, the first step is to scope the size of the human resource needed, and set out the role requirements. Note that recruitment and hiring in China for highly-skilled staff is often quite competitive. Using a China recruitment agency, with extensive local networks can be an essential tool for recruiting the best staff.

As well as engaging a recruitment partner, all jobs should be advertised on major regional job sites: Many areas in China have their own websites for jobs and other information in their regions. 

Recruitment channels to be considered include, National Platforms like

  1. Zhaopin (智联招聘)
    One of the most giant job boards in China

  2. 51Job (前程无忧)
    A major national job platform

  3. Liepin (猎云网)
    A job platform that targets middle to high-end job markets

  4. Boss Zhipin (BOSS直聘)
    A direct recruitment platform, allowing job seekers to chat directly with employers

  5. WeChat
    WeChat is more than a social networking site that caters to cosmopolitan areas and often lists local job openings. It is a multifunctional super app widely used in China and increasingly in other parts of the world. Users can communicate, shop, pay bills, book transportation, read the news, and more within its ecosystem. Additionally, businesses and professionals use WeChat’s ‘Official Accounts’ for marketing, customer service, and even recruitment, which might include local job openings.

Career events and job fairs

You will often find students who have just graduated at such events. Therefore, they can be a valuable forum for hiring junior staff.

When is the right time to hire in China?

In China, certain ‘seasons’ are during which people tend to be more open to considering new job opportunities. The April-May period often shows a higher inclination for individuals to change jobs. This typically follows the distribution of annual bonuses, which usually occurs in March-April.

It can be more challenging to recruit employees from December to February, not only because it’s right before the bonus distribution period, but also due to the Spring Festival (Lunar New Year). Understandably, many employees prefer to secure bonuses and celebrate the holiday before considering new opportunities.

But there are some solutions available if you can’t wait until May. Global expansion partners such as Horizons in China are accustomed to handling these situations regularly and can provide the most appropriate solutions for each specific case.

At any time of the year, there is a big competition between companies to recruit the best talent in the market.

How should you plan your competitive pay package?

When putting together an attractive salary package, you need to understand the average market salary for the role you are hiring for, taking into consideration the city where the employee will be based. You also need to consider the current compensation package of the candidate. The average salary increase for an employee joining a new company will be 10-20% more than his current package. Note that pay needs to be benchmarked against similar roles to be competitive when hiring in China.

Benefits packages

An important part of acquiring the best employees for your firm will be ensuring that employee benefits (such as paid vacation and insurance) are as good as, if not superior, to the competition.

What are other bonuses and incentives to keep in mind?

As bonuses are commonly included in contract negotiations during the hiring process in China, consider whether or not you will make pay bonuses part of your overall remuneration package.

Career development opportunities

In China, where titles and seniority are highly valued, prospective employees are keen to understand the growth opportunities when discussing terms with a potential new employer. This includes promotion opportunities and potential future pay raises.

Brand identity

While well-known brands carry significant cultural prestige in China, serving as a strong selling point for new employees, lesser-known brands can highlight their unique values, growth opportunities, and commitment to employee development to attract talent.

When it comes to a company’s brand identity, employees in China often see it as a positive to work for internationally established enterprises.

Company reputation and culture

If the company has a tarnished reputation as an employer in China, it can hinder the hiring process; therefore, it’s crucial to address and rectify any concerns while also building and promoting a positive workplace culture to attract prospective employees.

Work/home-life balance

Just as in other parts of the world, the impact of COVID-19 has led employees in China to prioritize workplace flexibility. Companies can respond by offering adaptable work schedules and remote work options, balancing professional obligations and personal life.

Office location

The office’s location becomes vital for prospective employees in densely populated cities. They may question what transportation support you’ll provide if it’s distant. A solution could be offering shuttle services or transportation allowances to ease their commute.

What does a standard compensation package in China look like?

When working out an attractive compensation package for an employee in China, understanding how compensation is traditionally structured in China is essential. Usually, the elements of a compensation or remuneration package in China are:

Base salary

Base salary in China is a fixed monthly pay that an employee receives, excluding additional compensation such as bonuses, allowances, or other benefits. It’s the foundational or guaranteed component of an employee’s total compensation package. In China, the base salary is typically paid monthly for most full-time positions. Typically, candidates in China discuss salary in gross terms. The currency utilized is the Chinese Yuan, abbreviated as CNY or RMB.

Bonuses

Bonuses can vary, being fixed, guaranteed, or dependent on personal or company performance. For roles that don’t naturally have variable bonuses due to their job nature, it’s common in many companies to offer a 1-2 month salary bonus. It’s essential for the candidate to have clarity on this when evaluating your offer.

Social benefits and allowances

Every full-time employee receives social security benefits. This encompasses contributions to the housing fund, social insurance, and supplemental insurance. Additionally, benefits might include allowances for business expenses, phone, meals, transportation, etc. Shares and/or stock options can also be part of the compensation, but they are separate from allowances or standard social security benefits.

Annual leave entitlements in China

Annual leave entitlements in China depend on the employee’s length of service, and are provided as follows:

Completed Years of service in the PRC (accumulatively) Statutory Annual Leave Entitlement (working days)
Less than 1 Year No leave
1 > 10 Years 5
10 > 20 Years 10
> 20 Years 15

Paid public holidays in China

In addition to the annual paid leave, employees in China receive 10-11 paid public holidays each year. 

It’s important to highlight that while these are the official paid holidays, some businesses may adjust working days around major holidays, such as the Spring Festival and National Day, leading to extended breaks but requiring employees to work on adjacent weekends.

  • New Year’s Day – 1 day

  • Chinese Spring Festival (Lunar New Year) – 3 days (though the celebration can last a week, only three days are officially paid holidays)

  • Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day) – 1 day

  • Labor Day (May Day) – 1 day
  • Dragon Boat Festival – 1 day
  • Mid-Autumn Festival – 1 day
  • National Day – 3 days 

Additional Benefits in China

As indicated above, you may be expected to provide allowances for business expenses, transportation, meals, phone use and other expenses. This is largely region and industry-dependent. For the local Chinese employees, you will have to pay social insurance, but it will cover only public hospitals in China. If you would like to make the lives of your employees more comfortable and open their access to private clinics – you could offer an additional insurance plan.

Company-specific incentives depend on the role and the company. Some companies, besides an earned personal bonus, encourage their successful employees by giving an incentive. It’s up to the company how they want to encourage their “star” employees (ex. trips, gift cards, memberships, etc.).

New potential employees are usually interested in how to grow internally in the company they are about to join. For instance, they may enquire whether it will be possible to move internationally to one of your other international branches.

A good career development opportunity plays an important part when Chinese employees choose between job opportunities they might have.

There are no limits to making your job offer more attractive on the market. Above are some general examples you could consider when looking for a new employee in China.

Company-specific incentives depend on the role and the company. Some companies, besides an earned personal bonus, encourage their successful employees by giving an incentive. It’s up to the company how they want to encourage their “star” employees (ex. trips, gift cards, memberships, etc.).

New potential employees are usually interested in how to grow internally in the company they are about to join. For instance, they may enquire whether it will be possible to move even internationally to one of your other international branches.

A good career development opportunity plays an important part when Chinese employees choose between job opportunities they might have.

There are no limits to making your job offer more attractive on the market. Above are just some general examples you could consider when looking for a new employee in China.

Compliance in China

As well as making your employment offers attractive, when hiring in China you must ensure that your hiring is in full compliance with employment, tax and business laws and regulations. This includes:

  • Providing an employment contract for all employees
  • This is a legal requirement, and should set out employee compensation (in yuan renminbi), benefits and the performance management process (including, where necessary, the termination procedure).
  • Ensuring that employees are hired by an entity that is legally entitled to employ in China  This may mean setting up a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (‘WFOE). Or, alternatively, using a global Professional Employer Organization (‘global PEO’) to locally employ your workforce, while they still work under your direction. In China, global PEO solutions are usually implemented by Foreign Enterprise Service Companies (‘FESCOs’).
  • Guaranteeing staff their minimum entitlements under the law in China This includes compliance with minimum entitlements for leave, pay, benefits and working hours;
  • Withholding tax This means making sure that payroll taxes are withheld and all other tax obligations complied with.

By collaborating with an EOR like Horizons, businesses can concentrate solely on their commercial and strategic endeavours, while Horizons expertly manages the administrative and compliance aspects.