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How to Recruit for Your Startup in China

Echo Hu on

HR Recruitment for Startups in China

With a population of 24 million, you’d think recruiting in Shanghai would be easy. Unfortunatley, that’s not always the case, especially for startups. Wiredcraft has been recruiting for more than seven years in Shanghai. This past year we’ve seen our biggest growth, yet - with over 15 awesome marketers, developers, designers, operations expers joining our staff - essentially doubling our team. Now, we want to share our best practices for recruiting in China. The tips below can provide some insightful viewpoints and ideas for you to customize your own recruiting methods to fit your team and your needs.

Why does recruiting suck?

When it comes to recruiting for startups, the difficulty might be even more acute, due to the fact that compared to large companies, startups usually have less publicity and operate on tighter budgets. Especially because, in my experience, many Chinese still hold an unconscious bias that bigger companies bring better well-being whilst working at startups means an uncertain future which can be very stressful and scary at some point. Sad, but true.

On top of that, startups might not have built a dedicated or trained HR department. Most of the time, founders are in charge of HR functions at the early stage. No set policies. No set practices.

So how should you set your company apart…

turn your team into a strong magnet.

“Recruiting at startups is about putting yourself in a position to attract the best.” It is hard to find the profiles you want when your team is mostly unknown to the public or to the community your business is focusing on.

What does not work well in China?

###Traditional job boards

51jobs

Traditional job boards might work well when you recruit for big companies because people know them and want to work for them, but this is not the case for startups. Most of the time, people send their resumes to startups with no clear motives in mind. They don’t know much, if anything, about the company and they usually don’t have a strong interest in joining the team.

Linkedin

Only 13 million people are registered on LinkedIn in China. How many among them are active users? How many use Linkedin as one of their job search engines? I can’t find a solid number to answer these question, but based on Wiredcraft’s experiences so far, LinkedIn doesn’t offer much return on investment (ROI) in the Chinese job market. The job groups here aren’t very active and placing ads is too expensive for such an uncertain return in China.

What’s worth giving a shot?

Recruiting for Startups in China Tips

Not your typical job description

Skim through our job ads, you will notice we like talking like real people. Instead of merely listing frosty requirements that you usually see in the most of the job descriptions, we constantly use catchy slang like sht, boring, duh!, jack-of-all-trades, a-holes*, to name just a few. We’re human and we want to sound like it.

We empathize with the applicant. This can make a difference.

The goal of recruiting is to find profiles that not only have great skillsets and qualifications, but to also find ones that fit well with the team’s culture. We use videos to try to connect with applicants, in both English and Chinese.

As mentioned above, the reason some people are averse to working at startups is that they have no faith in their futures.These people are probably not ideal candidates as they fail to share the same cultural values and cannot appreciate the benefits and rewards of working in a startup environment.

Meetups are King

At Wiredcraft, we host monthly meetups in Shanghai - JavaScript, Hacker News, UI/UX Design. Each time we have different speakers who come and share their thoughts in their areas of expertise. The attendees at meetups are coming from different work experience levels. Hosting meetups can “facilitate relationship-building within communities” and are targeted towards specific technical profiles we are looking for.

We host a job opportunity section at every meetup, so attendees can share their open positions. These meetups provide the opportunity for the community to learn more about each other’s companies and connect people interested in the opportunities available.

Generally speaking, hosting such networking events is an efficient way to gain more attention and traction and helps recruit the right people (especially for long-term recruiting). You might need to invest in more time and money than simply posting job ads online, but you will find that it is totally worth the investment because the benefits are more than just jobs.

Have your employees speak at events

Your staff is your best recruiting tool. They love working for you and they aren’t afraid to say it. So, you should encourage your staff to share their projects and their work experiences at local events and to share with the folks they meet that you’re hiring.

Attending campus recruitment

We have participated in an NYU Shanghai internship fair last October. We will be doing more campus events, and we list our job ads straight on the school’s career websites (eg. Jiaotong University). The advantage of doing this is obvious - recruitment pitches in the universities is essential to attract promising entry-level technical talents at a relatively low cost.

Where should you post?

In terms of posting channels, they can be broken down into two categories - social media and job boards. When we post our job ads we make sure to have translations available.

Social media

  • Weibo (miniblog) Recruiting is all about gaining attention, so we use the hashtag “We are hiring” when posting job ads. As the word limit for a Weibo (like Twitter) is 140 characters, we always extract and refine the highlights from the job descriptions first. An additional booster - add a team photo before posting the ads.
  • Wechat We do not want to bombard our followers with bits and pieces of information everyday. That is why we chose to set up a subscription official Wechat account, which allows us to bundle Wiredcraft job openings with other useful information like links to our blog and meetups into a weekly message.
  • Douban was once widely considered as a community for people to share their book/movie reviews years ago, but it has gradually evolved into a more comprehensive platform. It should be noted that chances are that you might end up disappointed if you’re looking for technical skills here, but give it a try for other roles, such as marketing or operations.

Job boards

  • Hacker News is a good community to be part of for entrepreneurs and startups. We use “Who’s hiring” thread every month. Bonus: Hacker News is a good way to drive traffic to your website, in general. Details on how to post on HN can be found in this blog post.
  • 100offer is a developer-oriented platform. They release talent pools every Monday for recruiters to peruse. Most of the candidates there have at least a few years’ work experience. Recruiters can pick their top profiles and send interview invitations on the platform. 100offer does charge commission fees if the chosen candidate joins the company successfully.
  • V2EX is another developer-oriented forum. Free of charge. People gather here to share their thoughts on the latest technology, give advice, and look for potential job opportunitie

In addition to the job boards mentioned above, we also use Lagou, Nashangban, jobtong and neitui, which are either targeted to developers or designers. We keep posting job ads on them to recruit more actively and, again, raise awareness.

Recruiting in China can be tricky but don’t give up and keep evaluating and monitoring your strategy to see what works best for you.

Before you close this tab, why not taking a minute to check out our cool job ads on our About page? Feel free to reach out to us if you are interested in any of them, or if you want some advice for recruiting in China.