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Applying to a Chinese bank: what to expect

If you’ve never applied for a job at a Chinese bank before, what should you watch out for? And how does the application and interview process differ from that of foreign firms?

First of all, the large state-owned Chinese banks – such as ICBC and the Bank of China – do not typically hire externally for senior roles, preferring to recruit graduates and promote them until they reach management.

However, commercial or joint-stock Chinese banks – such as China Merchants Bank, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and China Minsheng Bank – do recruit externally for junior positions, says Sarah Lu, senior consultant for banking and financial services at Adecco.

She adds that the main difference between applying to a foreign bank in China and a local one is that the latter usually asks candidates to write an introduction to their CVs of between 300 and 800 words. And resumes are of course in Chinese.

Before a job interview takes place at a local bank, candidates must often complete a form providing information about their spouse and parents, including education, occupation and contact details.

Cherol Cheuk, director of banking at Hudson, says Chinese banks tend to emphasise educational background and professional qualifications such as the CPA or CFA.

Unlike at foreign banks, which mostly only require candidates to have completed undergraduate degrees for managerial roles, a master’s degree is needed just to secure an interview for a middle-level or senior position at a Chinese institution, says Cheuk.

“There aren’t as many rounds of interviews as what you would expect from applying for a job at a top foreign bank such as Goldman Sachs, where you would easily have five or 10 rounds,” she adds.

But while Chinese banks don’t have as many stages to their recruitment, each interview usually takes longer to arrange. As a result, the overall time from first interview to final approval is also longer. The process could last up to five months at a domestic firm, compared with two or three months at an international one.

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