Applying for Hong Kong jobs

Applying for Permanent Hong Kong Jobs

applying-for-job-in-hong-kongFor those residing overseas and applying for Hong Kong jobs there will be a lot of employer reservations that you need to overcome. If you are being transferred and are a known and trusted quantity, you will probably find that more is taken on trust and you may get offered better contract terms than an external hire.

If you are the external hire being brought in from outside of Hong Kong you will find that employers will want to be fully assured of your commitment and will want to mitigate risk and up-front employment costs.

Employers offering Hong Kong jobs are usually concerned with:

  • Will you be committed to Hong Kong and why?
  • What do you offer over someone they could hire locally?
  • How long do you want to live in Hong Kong (overseas) and/or stay with the company?
  • What is the cost premium, if any, and how does that (i) align with internal scales and protocols (ii) demonstrate a return-on-investment to the business and (iii) allow the employer to mitigate their risk?

As a result, HR and senior management will want to be assured that you:

  • Are committed to Hong Kong specifically.
  • Have skills unavailable locally.

hong-kong-jobFactors that will give an employer assurance, or not are:

  • Want to be here long enough to provide them with a return on their investment and that they can meet your expectations over that period, so you don’t leave your Hong Kong job prematurely.
  • Bring quantifiable benefits to the business and that the risk factors are identified, so they can be mitigated.
  • Have you lived, worked in or visited Hong Kong? If you come from a Sales or Executive Management background, an employer will want see that you have an extensive local network that you can tap into so the burden of local knowlede/experience will be a lot higher than if you are, say coming to HK to deliver IT projects.
  • Do you have family ties to Hong Kong (experience and support network), or local language capability (Cantonese or regional languages)?
  • Particularly if you don’t have the local experience, have you done your research and made yourself prepared for the relocation? What are the downsides and risks for your family and how will you mitigate and deal with them?

Top Tips: When applying to Work in Hong Kong

  • Apply to people, not just to jobs or to organizations – recruiters regularly advertising relevant to jobs and leaders running areas of organisations that would be of interest.
  • If a Recruiter has a relationship, leverage that rather applying online or connecting via LinkedIn, otherwise you will have no differentiation from other candidates. You can’t apply directly and then go through a recruiter if you don’t get a response.
  • Apply to people through referral, using LinkedIn as a last resort. Ask them for referrals. Expect to have to follow up for a response and be open to arranging a meeting.
  • If you have enough people to meet, take a trip to Hong Kong to show you are serious.

Top Tips: When introducing yourself by email identify:

  • What you want to do, not just what you have done.
  • How you are most likely to stand out from job candidates already here and pitch yourself accordingly.
  • Why you are interested in HK, a role or an organisation specifically.
  • That you have done your research by reflecting market rate in your expectations and confirm that you are looking for a hire on local terms.
  • Is the motivation behind the job/relocation about the challenge, the opportunity, lifestyle or ‘just money’?
  • Are the family informed of the adjustments and compromises necessary? What are the risks associated with a spouse who can’t settle, kids who can’t easily get school places or aged relatives at home that may require you to return?
  • Are you a cultural fit to the organization and to Hong Kong? Do you ‘know what you don’t know’ and what is your process for figuring that out? Will you seek counsel before you hit problems or deal with problems as you create or encounter them?
  • Can the employer meet you (and sometimes your spouse too), before they make the hire? Can you be available in Hong Kong at your expense, or is the cost/risk all on the employer? These might be the questions that get you into an interview process – they aren’t the questions that will get you through the final stage of interviews. The hiring manager will be reluctant to sponsor you through a series of interviews, not really knowing the person who will turn up at the final stage. Also, making yourself personally available reflects on how committed you are and how seriously you take your own career due diligence and risk mitigation.
  • What are your financial expectations and do you show market awareness and self awareness around them? Do you have empathy around compromise, or is it all on your terms?
  • Do you fully understand  expectations around Hong Kong jobs? For example, long hours and lot’s of traveling means a LOT more than elsewhere in the world.

If you want to know why is it this hard to get Hong Kong jobs, read about the Hong Kong workplace.

Applying for Contract Hong Kong Jobs

There is virtually no ‘premium rate’ freelance-contract market here. Most contract Hong Kong jobs offer packages with statutory minimum benefits, the same pay as an equivalent permanent Hong Kong job over a fixed term duration.

The burden of proof over your commitment therefore tends to be impossibly high, because the company isn’t offering any sugar coating to justify that. Therefore, risk mitigation comes into play and you may find that some of your pay is put into an end-of-contract bonus to ensure you stay and complete the work.

Getting your application and your resume right


How to avoid rejection

When your employer asks HK Immigration to grant a work visa, they need to justify hiring you and taking the position out of the local labour market. You will need to:

  • Be reasonably senior/well paid.
  • Provide evidence of relevant work experience. Don’t bother trying to reinvent yourself unless it’s due to a change in job nature after you have been employed. Many recruiters and hiring managers are looking for a hire that is moving relatively laterally, so they can be assured that you have a track history of managing similar responsibilities. Refer to my blog.
  • Show a sufficiently strong education and evidence of previous employment to support your case.

In practice, fresh graduates would struggle to make a case and senior, experienced hires rarely struggle even if they aren’t graduates.

Assuming that you are targeting roles for which you are qualified and that allow your employer to make the appropriate case, the points to bear in mind are that your resume must:

  • Reflect the experience required in the job description and be honest.
  • Address some of the issues raised above so you can differentiate yourself from the dreamers who apply from overseas.
  • Be sufficiently detailed for the reader to form an opinion as to whether you are worth considering. A US-style resume leaves too many unanswered questions, so you just won’t get a call.
  • Know what the reader is likely to be looking for and emphasize accordingly. If you are a technical Project Manager, it is the Project Management that will possibly justify hiring an expat in Asia.

Finally, it’s about perseverance which shows commitment to coming to Hong Kong. Decision and interview timelines are long. Hong Kong jobs get closed and requirements change. Concentrate on building rapport with the hiring manager or recruiter, not on specific Hong Kong jobs.

This page outlining ‘Applying for Hong Kong jobs’ was contributed by our Guest Editor, Peter Udall.

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