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Mainland returnees: It’s still a struggle to land a job

Your homecoming may not be as warm

Your homecoming may not be as warm

A recent Shanghai Daily article reported on the difficulties that some overseas Chinese graduates face in getting a job upon returning to the mainland. Although the report isn’t financial-sector specific, it makes this point: “A certificate from a foreign institution isn’t a gold-plated guarantee; many companies are finding local graduates with work experience are better candidates. And some overseas institutions have been found to be diploma mills, since their returning graduates have neither a good grasp of basic English or their chosen field.”

Jason Tan, director, financial services and banking, PSD Group, acknowledges that returnees can have a hard time finding a role in China’s financial sector. The job hunt can stretch out for as long as six months for some candidates. Moreover, the window of employment opportunity is especially narrow for fresh graduates from the West – they typically finish university after their local peers, who wrap up in March/April.

What’s the deal?

Employer reservations about returnees boil down to two factors: high salary expectations and adapting to a different business culture, says Tan. “Candidates generally expect to command a premium because of the time and money that they invest overseas. On average, they demand a 20 to 30 per cent premium over that of the local talent pool.”

We’re not saying no one is getting hired

Fortunately, if you are an overseas returnee in banking, all is not lost. In fact, things have actually looked up since the financial crisis hit three years ago. Tan says: “Of late a lot more local financial institutions have come into play; they have been encouraged by the government to take on these overseas graduates. Previously it was mainly the foreign banks who hired returnees.” Moreover, given that the banking sector only started to deregulate in 2006/2007, the possibility of hiring such candidates has certainly opened up, he says.

Of course the more experienced job seekers are, the more firms are willing to shell out the dough. Some employers are open to meeting the pay demands of returnees, especially if they possess specialised, technical skills, say quantitative trading, which may be hard to come by in China. However, junior overseas graduates (with two to three years’ experience) earn as much as 50 per cent less in China than if they had found work in a mature financial market, he adds.

Listen up, young returnees

“China is slowly accepting talent from all over the world and the playing field is slowly opening up, but candidates have got to be realistic and flexible, whether that’s in terms of pay scale or even job function. And remember, it takes time to land a job.”

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