Article by XIANEASE
Starting a new job can be an exciting in many ways. New jobs will hopefully provide more opportunity for growth, better pay and compensation packages, and allow you to expand your personal and professional circle a little bit wider. Sometimes, during the course of interviewing for a new position, you might overlook a few things in the eagerness to get at that new pay packet. But not asking the right questions can lead to misery down the road, as unexpected snags can cause conflict and lead to an uncomfortable work environment.
So, when you’re sitting down in that first, second, or third interview, consider asking the following questions before you sign your soul away.
“Can I talk to someone working here?”
The best way to uncover a toxic work environment is to ask this simple question. Managers who are in constant conflict with employees won’t want to let you talk to anyone, as that would shatter the illusion that they’ve built up in the interview that they are a good boss. If they are willing to let you talk to other employees, that can be a sign that there is nothing to hide. Or that they’re unaware of problems. Better if you can talk to an employee without the manager present, or at least exchange WeChat with them to gather some intel outside of work hours.
No one knows better what it’s like to work in a place than the people working there already, and they can offer some key insights into the day to day interactions that can make a job great, or absolutely terrible. But do take any complaints with a grain of salt. Some people simply enjoy whinging, and will complain about relatively small issues like they are major concerns. In the end, you can judge how much you are willing to tolerate, but it’s always nice to have a heads up.
“How much time is expected of me outside of my main duties?”
Administrative duties, like meetings, paperwork, etc., vary significantly from job to job, and it’s important to have a good handle on what types of responsibilities you are going to have outside of your expected job requirements. This also may include expected participation in company meals, outings, or other activities that are organized by your company.
These types of activities are an expected part of work life in China, and even though they may not be technically ‘mandatory’, not attending them is like to cause conflict between management and yourself. These activities are a lynchpin of corporate teambuilding in China, and a failure to attend will often be interpreted as you being a poor team player.
It’s also important to try and familiarize yourself with the required documents for sick leave, personal time off, and other similar HR forms that you might need to fill out. Often training for these types of things is overlooked at many companies, sometimes due to neglect, sometimes as a way to discourage people from taking time off.
are willing to tolerate, but it’s always nice to have a heads up.
“What will my take home pay be? How to I claim other forms of compensation?”
These two questions are rolled together, as they both deal with a topic that is harder to address – taxes. Tax rates in China vary drastically depending on your income, which is also tied to the average income in your city/province. So when you move to a new job with a better salary, you might also be subject to a higher tax rate, meaning that the pay bump that you were expecting may not be as much as you first anticipated. Many companies are opaque about how your taxes are calculated, so it’s important to get an itemized pay slip that outlines where all that money that you are paying is going. Companies that refuse or delay providing this are likely reporting your income as less than you expect, and keeping the difference. Remember as well, receipts without official stamps are just pieces of paper.
In addition to regular income tax, you should also be aware of how taxes are calculated in regards to housing allowances, yearly bonuses, and other forms of monetary compensation. Some companies will ask you to provide receipts in order to claim this money, which would then allow the company to claim them as business expenses and exempt them from taxes. However, only certain types of receipts can be used, leading to a very frustrating process of finding the appropriate amounts for everything. However, if bonuses are rolled into your monthly salary, then that might push you into a higher tax bracket, causing an increase in the taxes that you pay, meaning significantly less than you might have been expecting.
While your compensation may be enumerated in your contract, the method and fulfillment of that compensation might be very different, so it’s important to find out what will be required and when these things will be paid out to prevent any conflicts in the future. Speaking of contracts…
“Can I take this contract home and look it over?”
Contracts written in English in China are not really enforceable, as courts in China only recognize documents that are written in Chinese. That means that contracts should be either bilingual or you should have two copies of a contract, one in Chinese and one in English. And only the Chinese part will be legally binding, as any conflict between the two documents favors the Chinese-language version.
What this means is that you should have someone who is a native Chinese speaker look over your contract, preferably someone with contract experience or a lawyer. If a company doesn’t want you to take the contract with you, or claims that their contract is ‘proprietary’, be warned – it’s probably different than you expect. Also when you sign your contract, you should be given a copy of the contract with your signature, their signature, and the company seal. If they say they are going to hold on to it, walk away and don’t sign anything.