China’s tech companies are among the country’s most attractive employers, with graduates often naming Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei and Tencent as their top choices.
“The appeal: Good payment, great upward mobility,” says Michael Li, partner of Rupro, a Shanghai-based tech recruitment firm. “Local companies have been growing very fast these years, as they’re tapping into the huge market in China. Tencent and Alibaba are like banknote printers.”
But competition for these jobs is heating up: A record 8 million Chinese students will graduate in 2017, with most of them saying they’d like to work in the sector, according to a survey by Chinese recruitment platform Zhaopin.
So what does it take to stand out from the crowd and land a job at one of the top tech firms? CNNMoney spoke to the companies to find out.
“The most important thing is a strong sense of purpose in what you do and in your life,” says Brian Wong, vice president of global initiatives at Alibaba (BABA, Tech30). “Because if you don’t have that — and you came to a company like Alibaba simply for a good name brand or a good compensation package — you may not end up staying very long.”
Students often spend a lot of time coaching for interviews, when what hiring managers really want is authenticity, Wong notes. “What we actually want is for people to strip that all away … Don’t try to be something you’re not.”
As Alibaba has grown, humility and altruism have become important, says Wong, an American who joined as the company’s 52nd employee. (It now has 50,000.)
“Think very carefully and deeply about what’s important to you and what are your values,” says Wong. “And if you can enunciate those things clearly … I will be more likely to hire you.”
Expect two rounds of tests here: one on general knowledge and another on specific expertise. “Knowing Baidu’s background or cultural values will help a lot,” says a spokesperson, who describes the company’s ethos as “simple and reliable.”
Huawei gets more than 150,000 applications from graduates in China each year — only about 10,000 make the cut. Candidates should be able to articulate a clear career plan, a willingness to grow with the company and a dedication to the customer, says a spokesperson.
Some applicants will also be tested in competitions across departments, including software, sales marketing and app development.
Huawei operates in more than 170 countries and the lucky few could have a chance to work overseas within their first year. Within five years, graduates are expected to take on management or special expert roles.
Tencent (TCEHY), which owns messaging app WeChat, says it looks for “long-term career partners” who respect its values. Since user needs change constantly, Tencent is focused on finding quick learners who know how to adapt, it says. Working across small teams at the firm, which employs some 30,000 employees, is strongly encouraged.
Applicants face two types of questions: on their professional abilities, and expectations of the job. What the company wants to see are big aspirations in the face of rapidly advancing technologies, says a spokesperson.
The other side of the table
It’s also a tough market for recruiters competing for the best new grads. “The growth in demand for talent is currently exceeding the growth in supply,” says the Tencent spokesperson.
So companies such as Baidu are increasingly casting their nets abroad — the search giant visited top U.S. universities like Stanford and Carnegie Mellon this year in its first-ever overseas recruitment effort.
“Our goal is to draw more international people,” says Baidu’s representative. “We need more diversified staff.”
Alibaba has gone a step further with its Global Leadership Academy, a program that brings recruits with foreign experience to China for a year before they’re assigned overseas. “This is the best and most effective way for Alibaba to be a truly global company,” says Wong.