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Language is not a barrier

Question :

I am looking for advice on breaking into employment in Hong Kong. How hard is it for an international person to look for work? Is there a language barrier, since most companies prefer people who speak both English and Chinese? I have heard that there are companies in the business sector that employ staff who speak only English. Can you suggest where I should look to find such companies? 

Posted by ID23 on Saturday, 05 Jul 2014

Comments :

Thank you for your question. You didn’t mention which country you would be relocating from and what experience you have or what other languages you speak, so I can only offer you general advice. 

The main challenge in moving to Hong Kong is finding a company prepared to employ you and sponsor your work visa. It is a fantastic city to work in, but there are fairly stringent requirements involved in obtaining visas. 

The following criteria are by no means exhaustive, but if you can answer “yes” to all of them, you should have a good chance of securing a visa. 

Do you work in the professional sector, with relevant, specialised experience that is unlikely to be sourced within the Hong Kong market? 
Are you a graduate, and is your salary likely to be over HK$30,000 per month? If yes, then you should have a good chance of securing a visa. 

Essentially, the government is looking for people who can add something to the economy, with skills that cannot be sourced locally. It is unlikely, for example, that a fresh, overseas graduate, with no work experience is going to be able to secure a work visa. 

If, on the basis of the above, you feel you are likely to be successful, we can look at how you go about entering into dialogue with potential employers with a view to finding a job. 

It’s very hard to engage fully with potential employers or recruiters if you’re not in the same location. The recruitment market in Hong Kong is competitive and nothing beats personal contact. 

My advice would be to draw up a list of potential employers and quality recruiters who operate in your sector. Make sure your résumé is clear and concise and effectively highlights your experience, transferable skills and qualifications. 

Send your résumé out and look to engage in dialogue. If there is sufficient interest, come to Hong Kong to meet as many people as possible. At the end of that process you should have a good idea as to your chances of finding a job here. 

In terms of language skills, most businesses in the professional sector use English and Cantonese, although Putonghua is becoming more prevalent. 

My Cantonese is limited, but I have managed to successfully operate in Hong Kong for more than six years. 

I hope you find the above useful. Good luck! 


Fraser Douglas is managing consultant of Links International’s banking and finance team. With a strong regional presence in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau, Links International provides recruitment, payroll and HR services

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