China’s tech job applicants seek interview tutors as competition heats up

At the age of 25, when Irene Chen resigned from a good banking job three years ago, she was one of China’s top internet companies enthusiastic about the growth potential of the industry and high salaries. I turned my attention to my position.

Chen paid more than RMB 10,000 ($ 1,500) for a three-month online course to increase his chances of being selected. In this course, I was able to teach everything from adjusting resumes to catch the attention of tech hires to negotiating high salaries. We also offer simulation and mock interviews for written exams used by internet giants.

As tech competition intensifies, candidates are looking to a semi-underground network of insiders who offer to share the secrets of a fierce recruitment process from software engineers to product or marketing managers. increase. These “job hunting coaches” (often even recently retired executives and current employees make some extra income) serve on Chinese social media sites.

Chen was a satisfied customer. Most of the program instructors she used were full-time employees, or even interviewers at well-known internet companies, and training took on the role of product manager at a well-known internet company in Beijing within a month. Helped to land. graduation.

This article is from Nikkei AsiaA global publication with a unique Asian perspective on political, economic, business and international affairs. Our own correspondents and external commentators from around the world share their views on Asia, and the Asia300 section details the 300 largest and fastest-growing listed companies from 11 countries other than Japan. increase.

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“Their tips are very helpful. Some people can help you understand where the problem lies by listening to the recorded interviews,” she told Nikkei Asia so that her new employer would not be nominated. I asked. “If I hadn’t taken this class and studied for myself, I would have been much less likely to succeed.”

According to the latest revenue report from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, employees of private internet companies again topped the chart with an average annual salary of RMB 101,281 in 2020, up 18.7% year-on-year. This was higher than the average financial industry worker’s income — in fact, Internet companies first started paying more than finance 10 years ago. According to a survey, Internet company employees now earn twice as much as real estate workers.

Among the most popular employers are e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and its small rival Pinduoduo, technology conglomerate Tencent Holdings, and ByteDance, the parent company of global short video sensation TikTok. Employees report that they must go through up to nine interviews to win a position, and as hiring slows, the selection process at top companies becomes more difficult and complex.

The popularity of job hunting coaches makes it a lucrative second career for those with experience and entrepreneurship.

Zoey, a former Baidu product manager who didn’t want to give his full name, quit his job last year and became a full-time coach. She shares her experiences with small groups through livestreaming classes and offers one-on-one tutorials.

“China’s Internet industry is developing very well and now more people want to enter the industry,” she said. But most people, especially new graduates, don’t know how to prepare for an interview and there is no relevant training in college, she said.

Zoe and its partners (former employees of internet companies) sell a wide range of programs ranging from RMB 2,000 to RMB 20,000, according to an online store opened in Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce platform. One marketing poster claims that more than 500 people (70% of students) have succeeded in finding a job at a top Internet company.

Coaches can choose who they will undertake, reflecting the preferences of the Internet companies themselves. Some say it is only suitable for applicants who have graduated from China’s “Top 100” universities or the Top 200 schools in the QS World University Rankings.

Last year, 29-year-old software engineer Cindy Chu quit his job at a retailer in Hong Kong because he thought he hadn’t learned enough.

Like many, she wanted to join one of China’s top internet companies instead. However, Chu soon earned a master’s degree from a top university in Hong Kong and realized that five years of experience was not enough to secure her desired job. For example, to become a Tencent software developer, you had to pass the testing skills of a technical exam, from the basics of program design to the ability to write code on the fly.

“It’s like a college exam. You don’t use 90% of what was tested at work, but you need knowledge to pass the interview,” she said.

Chu spent RMB 8,000 on an online course designed to prepare applicants for such tests. After a few months of study, she passed and got a job at Tencent after six interviews.

“It’s getting harder and harder to get a job at an internet company. Su Jiankuan, Product Design Manager at Zhiqun, an online vocational education startup specializing in the internet industry, said:

Chinese internet companies have passed a period of rapid growth, but “there are still many people trying to enter the industry,” he said.

Recruiters at large companies are not convinced that the program will necessarily increase the likelihood that everyone will be selected.

“Personally, I don’t like these” offer-driven “training programs,” said a recruiter from a major internet company who posted tips for job seekers on video site Bilibili under the username Tai Fenyan. Says. She said the offer-driven program focuses on attracting candidates and job openings through interviews, rather than teaching them the skills they actually need to do their jobs. “They deal with the symptoms, not the underlying problem.”

Tai said it would be more helpful for the interviewee to spend months or a year on the skills program or gain relevant experience through managing the actual project. “Top Internet companies need a company that can quickly find and solve problems,” she said. You cannot teach in days or weeks. From the elderly in the industry.

It remains to be seen how serious changes in Beijing’s tone will affect competition for jobs for major tech companies. Not only is the central government building up new regulations, but President Xi Jinping is beginning to emphasize “common prosperity” over the rich spirit prevailing in some areas of technology.

In China, working for internet and IT companies is the preferred option for new graduates, but there are signs that more and more people are looking for work for state-owned companies and governments. According to a survey conducted by recruiting company Zhaopin this year, only 19% of 2021 graduates said they would like to work in a private company, up from 25.1% last year.

But for now, Internet giants can still choose from a pool of strong candidates, and competition remains fierce. “Recently, graduates from Beijing University and Tsinghua University are very common, which is why our standards are high.”

Version of this article First published by Nikkei Asia on September 21, 2021. © 2021 Nikkei Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

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