Happily, as of March 2016, the job market in Hong Kong remains buoyant. And it remains, as ever, a popular destination for expats from around the world to live and work.
Moving to Hong Kong from the USA to work is not only a great life experience, but can prove to be a lucrative opportunity, and one that can see your family also benefiting from the Asian expat lifestyle. There’s great healthcare (both public and private), luxury accommodation, excellent educational opportunities in the many international schools, plus the experience of living in one of the most vibrant and exciting cities of the 21st century.
So with that in mind, lets take a look at the best ways to find employment in Hong Kong for American citizens.
The right to live and work in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is what is known as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of The Peoples’ Republic of China. In simple terms, what this means is that although it is part of China, it has its own government, currency and laws – and therefore different visa requirements for foreign nationals who wish to reside here.
There are various types of Hong Kong working visas, such as those for entrepreneurs and the capital investment scheme. However, the vast majority of Americans who come to work here do so through a company they’re already employed with, who then relocates them to their offices in Hong Kong. In such cases, the arrangements of the specific type of visa you require will be part and parcel of your relocation.
But what if I want to move to Hong Kong and my current company doesn’t have any vacancies (or even a presence) there?
OK, never fear, because there are plenty of other avenues to explore if your current employment position doesn’t offer such opportunities. According to the Hudson Hong Kong Hiring Report of last year, over 50 percent of employers were actively looking to increase their permanent staffing numbers. And when you’re talking figures as large as these, then the only way is for companies to recruit externally.
So what job fields are in high demand?
Hong Kong has historically been the place to work in the financial sector. And this still holds true to some extent today. Companies such as HSBC and Citibank are two such organisations. But in our technologically advanced world, there are now many other skill sets that are needed. These include:
- The legal field
- Human resourcing
- Digital marketing
- Sales and business development
So where’s the best place to begin my job search?
It’s not impossible to move to Hong Kong and then find work. However, it’s most common for companies to employ expat workers from overseas and relocate them. As mentioned above, the first place to look is the company you already work for. If they’re a large, global organisation, then check out the recruitment pages of their website.
There are also many employment agencies that specialise in advertising jobs in Hong Kong. These include Monster and DB Jobs. Register with these sites and upload your CV (resume). Not only will this mean you’ll get email notification of any potential openings as soon as they become available, but companies will also be able to seek you out.
Teaching is also a needed skill in Hong Kong. There are many international schools that are in need of staff. You can contact such schools directly, or check out available teaching posts at Asia Teaching Jobs and Indeed.
Do I need to speak Chinese?
In Hong Kong, the two main languages are Chinese (Cantonese) and English. Chinese (Mandarin) is also accepted and widely used. Because of the high use of English, even if you don’t speak even a word of Chinese then you will be able to get by; all signs, for example, are in both Chinese and English. In the legal, banking and finance industries, most business is conducted in English.
However, fluency or some knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin will certainly improve your chances of employment in Hong Kong.
What can I do to increase my chances of finding employment in Hong Kong?
There are many things you can do. The first is to ensure that you’re as highly qualified in your field as possible. Take courses that will improve your desirability, sign up for a course in Cantonese, network, update your LinkedIn profile…
One very important aspect is to ensure that your CV (resume) is up to date and in as good shape as possible. If you’ve not much experience in this, consider using a professional resume service to give yours a revamp – it’ll be worth the money.
What about headhunters?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to wait for a headhunting firm to contact you (although any good head hunter worth his or her salt will be networking, scouring Linked In and doing their utmost to find the best people in various industries). But you too can contact such firms. Even better, if you know someone who’s already in contact with a headhunter in your industry, get them to make you an introduction.
So how competitive is the job market in Hong Kong?
No one is going to lie and say that it’s easy to find a job in Hong Kong. Since moving under the sovereign flag of China, it has become tougher for expats to secure employment here. But by no means impossible, as the high number of foreign workers still there and moving there proves.
Top-level positions still tend to be filled by expats (and generally, but not always, internally within a company). There is high competition from Chinese nationals, as well as others from around the world. Hong Kong remains a popular place for those from English speaking countries, thanks to the use of the English language.
To hook up with other Americans already living and working in Hong Kong, check out online groups such as Meet Up and Internations, both of which put like minded people in contact with each other – both for business and social reasons. Not only does this give you the chance to communicate with others who are already living there, but it’s a valuable networking tool as well.
Good luck, and happy job-hunting.