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Frequently asked questions



Here are some questions we often hear from Yale seniors and recent alumni outside Hong Kong who are looking for permanent jobs here. (There's a separate section on summer jobs at the end.)

What's the employment scene like in Hong Kong?

At the end of 2011, the unemployment rate was around 3%. The financial, professional services and real estate sectors dominate the economy, with some major multinational companies also operating here.

What kinds of jobs are available?

A cursory look through the Saturday edition of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's largest daily English-language newspaper, is always a good way to assess the general job environment in Hong Kong. As the classified ads there show, there is always a certain need for experienced teachers, artists, paralegals, health specialists, editors, and information technology workers. But few of these jobs will pay as well as their counterparts in the U.S.

Hong Kong does not focus on investing in research and development, and there are not nearly as many hi-tech entrepreneurs in Hong Kong as in the States. If the Internet is your specialty, you may still consider staying in the U.S. or going to Mainland China, where there are many start-ups.

Do I have to speak Chinese?

All other things being equal, if two people are competing for the same job, the one who can speak Cantonese (the native language of Hong Kong) or Mandarin (the native language of mainland China) will have the advantage. And in Hong Kong's business arena, Mandarin is the more valuable of the two. In any larger multinational firm in Hong Kong, however, English is usually the language of business within the company, and there are many entry-level jobs that don't require any Asian language ability.

Avoid the assumption that you'll be able to master Mandarin or Cantonese in your spare time once you've found that first job, unless you already have a firm grounding in one of these extraordinarily challenging languages. Lessons are expensive, running HK$300 per hour and up, and your average workweek will probably exceed 50 hours. Be realistic. If learning Mandarin is your ultimate goal in coming to Asia, look at working in Beijing, Shanghai or Taipei instead.

Nevertheless, speaking some Cantonese will help you smooth out the minor day-to-day obstacles you'll encounter in Hong Kong, so a little study after you move here will pay off.

Can the Yale Club post my résumé?

The Yale Club doesn't distribute résumés directly to its alumni Hong Kong. However, it can post your résumé on this website and invite alumni to visit the website for the full résumé, and then contact you directly if they have any leads for you. However, please note that this service is available only to Yalies already in Hong Kong or who have a definite, confirmed schedule for being here. Moreover, you need to become a Member by paying dues, which is discounted for current students and recent graduates. Please visit the Membership section of the Club website. For more information, contact Alex Chan (Yale Graduate School '96) or Caroline Van (Yale College '79).

The Yale Club takes a "tough love" attitude of offering no help or encouragement to anybody whose intention is to move to Hong Kong only if and when he or she can secure a job there first. Our long-time experience with this approach is that it wastes time and is doomed to failure. No one would attempt to find a job in New York without being in New York; it's no different here. Prospective employers simply won't focus on you until you're physically present in town.

How about executive search firms and other types of recruiting agencies?

Executive search firms (aka "headhunters") in Hong Kong are generally not interested in servicing recent college graduate job-seekers. They focus on more senior positions, with candidates possessing at least 15 years of work experience.

Nevertheless, there are recruiting agencies that work with candidates who are earlier in their career. For recommendations, contact Bernice Lee (Yale College '99), who has been a human resources professional since 2005.

What other resources are available?

The Saturday edition of the South China Morning Post is a good place to look, if only to get a feel for what areas are hot and who is hiring. But six million other people in town can buy that newspaper too, and the competition for these positions will be fierce. Better to network and access the jobs that never make it into the Post.

There are several on-line job-boards that you might check out as well:

When's the best time to job-hunt?

In some businesses, like banking, many senior managers go away on home leave for 4-6 weeks during the summer, which might make it marginally more challenging to schedule interviews. But they tend to go at different times, and there's no one particular time when everybody is gone (like there is, say, in Paris during August). So schedule your move for whenever works out best for you.

One better-than-average time to look for work is right after Chinese New Year. Annual bonuses are paid between December and the Chinese New Year season, and many employees choose to switch companies right after they've received their bonuses. If you can swing a tour through Hong Kong during Yale's spring break, you might be able to line something up to start soon after graduation.

How much time should I allow?

Even when times were good in Hong Kong, allowing at least three months to find a good permanent job would have been prudent. Now, expect the search to take even longer. However, there are several things you can do to help shorten the time required: see our suggestions below on finding a job.

Do I need a visa?

Visitors from most countries can enter Hong Kong without a visa for periods varying from seven days to six months, depending on their nationalities. For U.S. and Canadian citizens, the period is three months. For other nationalities, check the Hong Kong Immigration Department website.

Anyone visiting Hong Kong as a tourist isn't allowed to take up employment, either paid or unpaid, and the Immigration Department generally doesn't allow visitors to change their status after arrival. If you are successful in your job search, your prospective company will help you initiate the paperwork required to obtain an employment visa for you, but you'll almost certainly have to exit Hong Kong and then return again to activate that visa once it's approved.

Where can I stay while I'm looking?

Real estate prices in Hong Kong are among the highest in the world. Whether in job-search mode or on a more permanent basis, there are several ways secure accommodations at a tolerable cost. Firstly you should avoid core business districts on the Hong Kong Island, in particular Central. The further away from Central, the more affordable rental is. As long as you stay close to the subway line (called MTR here), it would not be too difficult for you to commute around. Western and eastern parts of the Hong Kong Island or several MTR stops away from the Island across the Victoria Harbor on Kowloon are worth considering. Apart from securing free lodging somewhere, you can consider sharing a flat with other people, rent an affordable one-bedroom apartment or studio, or if you cannot commit to a one-year lease, a serviced studio or one-bed room apartment. http://www.gohome.com.hk is one website you can visit to get a feel of rental options in Hong Kong and serviced apartment options. http://hongkong.asiaxpat.com is another

To locate a flatshare, check out the classified ads in the Saturday or Sunday editions of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's largest daily English-language newspaper, or HK Magazine, which is distributed weekly at trendier eating and drinking establishments.

Again, the goal in every endeavor you undertake should be the expansion of your network. Either a flatshare arrangement or staying with friends, acquaintances, or complete strangers will let you expand your circle of contacts. Staying in a hostel or hotel by yourself won't be as productive for networking purposes.

If you'd still prefer public accommodations, though, the Hong Kong Tourism Board's website provides information on the better-known hotels in the city, as well as less expensive hostels and guesthouses. Here are several relatively inexpensive ones that have been recommended by Yale Clubbers recently:

  • Anne Black YWCA Guest House, 5 Man Fuk Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong (phone 852-2713-9211, fax 852-2761-1269), which is open to both men and women. It's about a 15-minute walk from Mongkok Station. It's a bit spartan, but clean, safe and friendly. The hotel doesn't have its own website, but you can book rooms via many on-line agencies, such as AsiaTravel.

  • Noble Hostel, Flat A3, 17th Floor, Great George Building, 27 Paterson Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (phone number 852-2576-6148 or 2890-2592, fax 2577-0847). Extremely convenient, as it's right above the MTR's Causeway Bay Station. One Yale Clubber writes, "As a single woman, I felt safer there as the full-time clerk is a woman who spends the night there."

How much should I budget to live on?

Hong Kong is about as expensive as New York or Tokyo. The major expenses to budget for during your search (US$1.00 = about HK$7.8):

Approximate daily rates for each type:

Hostel HK$300 to $500 per day
Hostel (long-term) Negotiable
Hotel, 3-star HK$800 to $1500 per day
Hotel, 4-star HK$1,000 to $2,000 per day
Hotel, 5-star HK$2,000 and up (way up)
Serviced flat (1 month minimum) HK$18,000 per month and up

Don't expect Internet or e-mail access to be available in hostel or 3-star hotel rooms. If you're bringing a notebook computer, inquire with the hotel or serviced apartment if their phone system permits Internet access.

Once you've added up the numbers for your budget, you can begin to appreciate the big chunk of money that accommodation represents. If you can eliminate this expense by staying at a friend's place, do so. Alternatively, once your arrival date is firm, the Yale Club of Hong Kong can put a notice in its newsletter inviting anyone who has a spare room for rent to contact you directly.

One of the few bargains in Hong Kong. Decent Chinese and Western food can be found at reasonable prices throughout the city. Budget HK$120-$160 per day. Keep in mind, however, that your networking will inevitably take you to eating and drinking venues well above this price range. Budget for the occasional extravagance of a nice dinner or a round of drinks.

Again, a relative bargain. The subway system (MTR) is safe, fast, cheap, and covers anywhere you'd likely want to go in your search. Taxis are the other main form of transport, and are relatively inexpensive, clean, and in plentiful supply. A budget of HK$50 per day would be adequate, and would allow the occasional taxi ride.

Special events, lectures, etc.
American Chamber of Commerce functions, special lectures sponsored by alumni clubs and special-interest groups are not free, and are typically held during lunch or dinner. While attending such activities is a great way to expand your network, you need to budget for them. Expect to pay roughly HK$300 for a typical function.

A budgeting tip
Most companies in Hong Kong pay salaries on a monthly basis, instead of weekly or bimonthly as is common in the States. So, even after you've found employment, it could be as long as 30 days before you receive your first paycheck, depending on when you start working in relation to your company's payment cycle. Budget accordingly.

What are starting salaries like?

Here are some typical starting monthly salaries for entry-level jobs:

  • Commercial Banking, credit analyst: HK$20 - $30k
  • Consulting, analyst: HK$30 - $50k
  • Hotel, marketing assistant: HK$13 - $15k
  • Investment Banking, equity research analyst: HK$30 - $40k
  • Investment Banker: HK$50 - $70k
  • Public Relations, account manager: HK$9 - $15k
  • Telecommunications, analyst: HK$18 - $25k

Where else can I find information on Hong Kong?

If you're on campus, try to connect with students who are from Hong Kong - there are quite a few of them. Beyond that, you can visit the website of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, which offers an over designed but sometimes useful introduction to the city.