How do I prepare for a job interview in Chinese?
Home to a rapidly growing economy and a variety of burgeoning industries, China has quickly become a hub for global professionals looking to build careers across a diverse range of fields.
If you’re hoping to work in the Middle Kingdom, you might end up being invited to a Chinese-language interview. This may seem daunting at first, but don’t worry. In this article, we cover everything you need to know to prepare for a job interview in Chinese.
Table of Contents
- Are you available for an interview... in Chinese?
- A conversation in five parts
- Chinese interview etiquette
- Keep on improving
- Chinese job interview vocabulary
Are you available for an interview... in Chinese?
So, you sent off your résumé and have finally scored an interview for your dream job in China.
Whether you’re hoping to enter the workforce as an entry-level language teacher or an executive account manager, this is your chance to impress your future boss or colleagues and start or continue climbing the ladder of career success in the Middle Kingdom.
Now, all you have to do is ace the interview.
Although it’s not always necessary for foreigners to speak Chinese while working in China, a growing number of international candidates have added Mandarin language proficiency to their list of accomplishments in recent years.
Additionally, most Chinese employers seek applicants who are able to easily assimilate into their company’s organizational culture, navigate the nuances of Chinese business etiquette and plan to stay put in the country long-term.
Demonstrating your language skills will help strengthen your competitiveness as an applicant and improve your chances of hearing those magic words: “你被雇佣了 (nǐ bèi gùyōng le),” or, “you’re hired!”
A conversation in five parts
Before heading into your next job interview, thoroughly prepare yourself for whatever questions may be thrown your way by reviewing the following five common Chinese interview questions and advice for how to respond appropriately. Your future (hopefully employed) self will thank you!
Part 1: Introduce yourself
Qǐng zìwǒ jièshào yīxià.
Please introduce yourself.
This is typically the first task that most interviewees face during a conversation with prospective employers in any country or language. Although describing your background, educational accomplishments and career history may seem like a straightforward endeavor, it’s worth taking a moment to think through your response beforehand.
Rather than memorizing a lengthy speech, instead aim to maintain a conversational tone and employ the following key talking points to help guide your narrative.
Let’s start with the basics:
- 您好 。。。女士／先生。
- Nínhǎo, ... nǚshì/xiānshēng.
- Hello, Mrs. / Mr. (name of interviewer).
Note that in Chinese culture, it is especially important to name your superiors or colleagues by their correct term of address.
While placing 女士 (nǚshì; Mrs.) or 先生 (xiānshēng; Mr.) after your interviewer’s surname is acceptable if you don’t know their specific position within the company, it’s preferable to mention a job title, such as 经理 (jīnglǐ; manager) after your interviewer’s surname if possible.
- 我来自 。。。
- Wǒ láizì...
- I’m from (country).
- 我的母语是 。。。
- Wǒ de mǔyǔ shì…
- My native language is (language).
Once you’ve established your personal background, transition into your educational history next:
- Wǒ bìyè yú…
- I graduated from (university).
- Wǒ xué de zhuānyè shì…
- I majored in…
If you’ve obtained advanced degrees, you may consider jumping directly to those at this stage:
- 我 。。。年毕业于。。。 大学，获得 。。。硕士/博士学位。
- Wǒ… nián bìyè yú… dàxué, huòdé... shuòshì / bóshì xuéwèi.
- I (year of graduation) graduated from (university) and received a (field of study) masters/doctoral degree.
This is also a prime opportunity to mention any other special training or designations that you’ve gained over the years, such as an HSK (汉语水平考试; Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì) certificate:
- 我有 。。。 证书。
- Wǒ yǒu... zhèngshū.
- I have (certification) certification.
To wrap up your introduction, bring the interviewer up to speed on your work history by briefly explaining the relevant jobs you’ve held since graduation. Consider either of the following common sentence structures for this section:
- 我曾在 。。。 负责 。。。
- Wǒ céng zài… fùzé…
- Previously at (company name), I was responsible for (job duty).
- 从。。。年到。。。年在。。。 担任。。。
- Cóng… nián dào… nián, zài… dānrèn…
- From (year) to year), I (company name) held the position of (job title).
Ready to put it all together? Check out this example of a complete, interview-friendly self-introduction in Chinese.
Nínhǎo, Wáng Jīnglǐ. Wǒ jiào Zhāng Xiǎoméi, jīnnián 28 suì, láizì měiguó, mǔyǔ shì yīngwén. 2016 nián bìyè yú Fùdàn Dàxué, huòdé guójì shāngyè shuòshì xuéwèi. Wǒ yǒu Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì liù jí zhèngshū, 2016 nián céng zài Jiājiālè Guójì Màoyì Gōngsī fùzé xiāoshòu gōngzuò; cóng 2017 nián dào 2021 nián zài Liàngliàng Guójì Màoyì Gōngsī dānrèn chǎnpǐn jīnglǐ.
Hello, Manager Wang. My name is Zhang Xiaomei and I’m 28 years old. I’m from the USA and my first language is English. I graduated from Fudan University with a master’s degree in International Business in 2016. I have an HSK level 6 certificate. In 2016 I worked in sales at Jiajiale Trade Company. From 2017 - 2021, I served as the product manager at Liangliang International Trade Company.
Looking to craft a more advanced personal introduction in Chinese? Check out this fun video for further instructions:
Part 2: Why do you want the job?
Nǐ wèihé xiǎng shēnqǐng zhè fèn gōngzuò？
Why would you like to apply for this job?
Hopefully, you’ve thought long and hard about this question before making it to the interview stage. Whatever your reasons are for applying, your Chinese job interviewer is sure to ask you to explain yourself. Therefore, it’s wise to first prepare a thoughtful and earnest response in order to demonstrate your seriousness as an applicant.
Try out the following opening statement to preface your reply:
- Guì gōngsī shì…
- Your company is…
贵公司 (guì gōngsī) is a polite way to say “your company” in Chinese and should be followed by a short statement praising the company where you’re interviewing.
Because of the significance of 面子 (miànzi; face, a metaphor for reputation) in Chinese social and professional settings, offering compliments, or giving face, to your prospective employer is sure to position you in a favorable light.
When explaining why you’d like the job, mention the ways that you hope to grow professionally and contribute to the company, for example:
- Wǒ xiāngxìn zài guì gōngsī kěyǐ xué dào xīn de jìnéng.
- I believe I can learn new skills at this company.
Here's another example:
- Wǒ jùbèi guì gōngsī xūyào de zhuāncháng.
- I have the skills that your company needs.
After listing a few of your reasons for applying, summarize your response with this extra-authentic phrase:
- Zhè fèn gōngzuò kěyǐ ràng wǒ jìnqísuǒcháng.
- I’ll be able to put my skills to full use at this job.
Part 3: Show your stuff
Nǐ zuì dà de yōudiǎn shì shénme?
What’s your greatest strength?
This common interview question presents a perfect opportunity to highlight the professional competencies in which you’re most confident.
Since you’ll likely be asked this at some point during your conversation, be sure to first consider which of your many talents are most relevant to the position in question so that you can use your airtime wisely. Then, utilize the sentence structures below to show off your skills.
- 我是个很 。。。和。。。的人。
- Wǒ shì gè hěn... hé... de rén.
- I’m a very (adjective) and (adjective) person.
Common characteristics likely to be well-received by Chinese employers include, but aren’t limited to, 热情 (rèqíng, enthusiasm or passion), 负责任 (fùzérèn, responsible), 积极 (jījí, energetic or positive) and 主动 (zhǔdòng, proactive).
Seize this opportunity to name any other concrete skills that haven’t yet come up during your conversation:
- Wǒ shàn cháng…
- I’m adept at…
Whether your personal expertise is in 团队管理 (tuánduì guǎnlǐ, team management), 营销 (yíngxiāo, marketing) or something in between, everyone brings their own unique talents to the table.
Identifying the strengths that you’d like to highlight during your interview and researching relevant Chinese vocabulary will help you answer this interview question with confidence.
Part 4: No one is perfect
Nǐ de ruòdiǎn shì shénme?
What are your weaknesses?
This final interview question is notorious for making job applicants of all backgrounds clam up. Fear not, however — interviewers aren’t trying to torment you with this question, but are instead looking to gauge your level of self-awareness and potential for improvement.
Take note of the below responses, generally considered appropriate during a Chinese interview:
- Wǒ shìgè wánměizhǔyìzhě.
- I’m a perfectionist.
- Wǒ gāng cóng xuéxiào bìyè, méiyǒu hěnduō shèhuì jīngyàn.
- I graduated recently and don’t have much (social/life) experience.
- Wǒ zhòngshì péi jiārén de shíjiān, suǒyǐ kǒngpà zhōumò bù fāngbiàn jiābān.
- I value spending time with my family, so I’m afraid that I can’t work overtime on the weekends.
Note that being expected to work overtime is very common in China. Overtime is particularly common in the tech industry, where workers must contend with the prevalence of “996 work culture,” which refers to working 12 hour days, from 9am to 9pm, 6 days per week.
Before using the response above in an interview, therefore, make sure you thoroughly research the company you hope to work for to get a feel for their requirements. If it’s clear that they expect you to work overtime on weekends, saying you’re unavailable to do so might lose you the job.
- Wǒ de Zhōngwén bùgòu hǎo!
- My Chinese isn’t good enough!
Remember, a tactful response that balances an honest approach and disguises your strengths as weaknesses will help improve your credibility and prove your tenacity for growth to future employers.
Part 5: Wrapping things up
After the question-and-answer portion has wrapped up, you may sense that your interview is coming to a close. At this stage, you’ll probably hear the following sentence (or a similar closing remark) from your interviewer:
- Wǒmen huì zài yīgè xīngqí zhī nèi dǎ diànhuà tōngzhī nín miànshì de jiéguǒ!
- We’ll notify you of your interview results within a week.
Before shaking hands and bolting for the door, remember to graciously thank your interviewer for their time and for the opportunity to audition for the gig by concluding with a polite statement like the one below:
- Gǎnxiè gěi wǒ zhè cì miànshì jīhuì.
- I appreciate this interview opportunity.
Chinese interview etiquette
Dazzling your interviewer with articulate and mindful replies is an essential part of acing your interview and moving on to the next stage of the application process.
If you’re preparing for an upcoming job interview in Chinese, keep in mind these social guidelines to leave your interviewer feeling confident that you’re the right person for the job.
As you’re likely aware (or are soon to find out), Chinese workplace etiquette is often more formal and ceremonious than that of the western world. Be sure to dress formally, use official job titles when addressing your counterparts, and hand over documents, like résumés and business cards, with two hands as a sign of respect.
It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that in China, it is often socially acceptable for new acquaintances to ask questions that are deemed personal in western countries.
Don’t be surprised if your interviewer asks about your age, marital status, number of children, family plans and so on. Since it is perfectly normal to ask applicants for photos, save time by including the above information, as well as a professional headshot, when sending off your résumé.
While it’s not recommended to proactively ask about salary during the first interview, be prepared for your interviewer to inquire about the salary you earned in your previous job.
Lastly, it’s important to mention that modesty (谦虚, qiānxū) is a cherished quality in traditional Chinese culture, and this virtue carries over into the Chinese workspace. Rather than proudly boasting about their accomplishments, many Chinese prefer to keep a low profile and maintain a sense of humility when discussing their educational and professional achievements.
Since your interviewer may also be covertly evaluating your cultural finesse as a foreign applicant, keep your tone modest and polite throughout the interview to help make a proper impression.
Keep on improving
Of course, the best way to excel during your Chinese job interview is to first make headway in your language and cultural skills.
Not only will your ability to speak Chinese and navigate Chinese society shine through during your interview, these achievements will also help you stand out against less China-savvy competitors vying for your dream job.
Remember, honing your expertise in all things related to Chinese language and society is the key to a rewarding career in the Middle Kingdom.
Chinese job interview vocabulary
|apply for; submit an application
|face (a metaphor for reputation in Chinese culture)