News & Events

28 Jul 2020


Job hunting in the age of COVID-19

By Yan Chengyi

Six guest speakers advise on employment at a recent lecture held by Fudan University. 

Securing a job has become a challenge for many overseas students this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn that ensues. 

On July 3, Fudan University and Shanghai Human Resources Service Center invited six guest speakers from different industries to provide career guidance for graduates and overseas returnee students. The event was held as a part of the lecture series designed by Fudan University for all Chinese students studying in the U.S. in the shock of coronavirus across the globe. The lecture was moderated by China Central Television (CCTV) host Lv Xiaojun and live-streamed on CCTV app.

From left to right:

Liu liu, novelist and screenwriter; Cao Neng, Chairman of Career Development Office of Fudan School of Management; Gu Jiong, Assistant to the Human Resource Director of Shanghai Pudong Development Bank; Jiang Ying, Vice Chairman of Deloitte China; Professor Lu li’an, Director of Fudan Office of Global Partnerships; Ding Feng, Chairman of Shanghai Human Resources Service Center; Li Junyi, head of Employer Brand & Campus Recruitment of Ctrip.

Here are some of the highlights from the event:

Why is Shanghai the most preferred city in China by returnees? 

“I am confident to say that according to statistics and surveys we’ve gathered over the years, Shanghai has been favored by returnee students as their first option to start a career,” said Ding Feng, Chairman of Shanghai Human Resources Service Center.

Ding Feng

Ding said, Shanghai is a megacity with strategic importance in finance, trade and technology for the country, attracting investments, talents and hundreds of multinational corporations from across the word. “The city’s annual GDP amounted to 3.8 trillion RMB (approximately $544 billion) in the year of 2019, which is comparable to that of some of the biggest cities in the world. And therefore abundant opportunities are available in Shanghai for returnee students.” 

Shanghai also champions the well-being of its residents. “It is a safe, inclusive and livable city where people can enjoy quality cultural activities, education and health care,” added Liu liu, novelist and screenwriter.

Liu liu

In response to the rising demands of returnee students for jobs or business opportunities in Shanghai, the municipal government has rolled out targeted policies, which have enhanced the city’s appeal further. For example, Shanghai has launched a one-stop imformation platform called “Gathering Global Talents in Shanghai” to provide all information needed by returnees.

What do employers look for in a job seeker?

In the digital age, many companies no longer seek candidates with expertise in a single area. Instead they are more interested in talents with a wider knowledge base. 

“We want insightful and innovative people with integrated skills,” Jiang Ying, vice chairman of Deloitte China, mentioned a unique 3Is principle she follows when interviewing a job applicant.

Jiang Ying

“First, insight is important. Now we not only want to hire people who can give correct answers to what they’re asked about, but also those who can ask the right questions—questions that are relevant.

Then it comes to innovation. Deloitte is a household name with 175 years of history. We prioritize innovation and we want people who are creative, who think out of the box and who always come up with new ideas.

Last but not least, integrated skills are essential as we are facing problems more complicated than ever. Take the automobile industry as an example. To build a perfect autopilot system, it is not enough to only recruit people with engineering degrees. They also need to understand how humans interact with machines. So they’d better know a little about psychology as well.”

What do employers expect from a returnee?

Owing to the improved living standards of people in China, more families can now afford sending their children abroad for study, and many of them choose to come back to China after their study. “However, as a result of the rising supply of returnees, they are not as favored by domestic employers as they used to be,” said Li Junyi, head of Employer Brand & Campus Recruitment of Ctrip, a Chinese travel services provider.

Li Junyi

He went on to talk about in which aspects returnee students should get prepared. “I hate to say this, but as a returnee, you need to be ready for a time-consuming job hunt and probably many ‘No’s from HRs. The silver lining, however, is that you’ll be able to do better next time by learning from your failures.” Li gave plentiful practical tips about timing, such as noting down all the application deadlines for each job and dates for every interview, spending a few weeks on preparing for interviews, and more importantly, showcasing one’s edges during interviews. 

Cao Neng

“Multilingualism, global vision, keen observation and logical reasoning are some of the key assets of returnees valued by employers,” explained Cao Neng, Chairman of Career Development Office of Fudan School of Management. “Interviewers have higher expectations of returnee students in these aspects. And if they don’t demonstrate those qualities, they will instead disappoint the interviewers.”

Cao continued, “In addition, returnee students may have their weaknesses.” According to a survey conducted by Fudan School of Management, lack of job experience, ignorance about domestic conditions as well as job-hopping are their top three weaknesses as employees.

Cao suggested that students should spend more time on extracurricular activities, such as internships and competitions. “Normally students will start to work as an intern in their junior year, but I see more and more of them kick off internships a year earlier. Surely these students will have an edge.”

“Some employers put more emphasis on candidates’ learning ability, or in other words, the ability to form a comprehensive understanding of information in a short span of time. Students can take the initiative by reading industry reports to get to know key players in the field and what kind of people they will be working with.”

What if some overseas students haven’t figured out the next step?

Many overseas Chinese students are clueless about what to do after graduation, especially in this seemingly chaotic period for job hunting. “If you don’t have a plan now, come home first. We have abundant opportunities at home as well. If you don’t know what to do, get a job first. While gaining more experience in the workplace, you will figure it out,” said Liu Liu.

Liu added, the young generation is blessed with free access to information and they can find job information almost everywhere. 

In addition to paying attention to platforms operated by the municipal government such as “Gathering Global Talents in Shanghai”, returnees can look for jobs on the websites or social media accounts owned by companies that are hiring. Many universities have also set up career counselling centers where students can seek professional guidance.

Gu Jiong

Gu Jiong, assistant to Human Resource Director of Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, however, argues that many returnees do have a clear idea about their career prospects and look beyond short-term interests. “They tend to examine their job in the long term and prefer working for companies with a promising future that they can be a part of.”

“Corporate culture is another factor. It is likely that young returnees are more eager to identify with their colleagues and work in an open, inclusive and encouraging environment so that they can truly unleash their potential.”

Editor: Deng Jianguo, Li Yijie, Wang Mengqi