Monday, March 19, 2012

, ,

How to get a job in Taiwan

3/19/2012 Taiwan Explorer
Part of my working in Taiwan series

Picture is completely not related to the post.

It's now been over a year since I've moved to Taiwan and one of the things that happened very fast around that time was my first job. A month after arriving here, I was invited to an interview at an IT company and soon after I have started to work. I was lucky though - it's not so easy to get a real job, I mean a job other than English teaching. And most Europeans, who don't hold a British or Irish passport, can't legally work for an English language school. So if you're French, German, Russian, Polish, or of any other non-Anglo-Saxon origin and want to work in Taiwan, this post is intended for you, as I am about to explain how I landed my first job here, and further elaborate in future posts how it is to work for a Taiwanese IT company and eventually how to change job, something I've successfully accomplished, too.

No tips on English teaching

First of all let me tell you, that you won't find any tips on teaching English in Taiwan here - Even though I'm regularly receiving emails from people asking me about it, I have no idea how that "industry" works. For information related to that you better browse through the numerous topics on Forumosa or read a dedicated blog like this one. I can only give you one general tip: If there is one thing Taiwan doesn't need now is more English teachers. From what I hear the wages are dropping every year due too more supply than demand - so unless you're a serious, certified and highly-educated English language expert aspiring a career job at one of the top universities, don't come here and waste your youth in a cram school. And if you must do so, rather hop over to China, you will have more opportunities, the market is much larger - it's the place to be for young adventure-thirsty North Americans.

You need visa and time

Like most EU citizens, you will probably be allowed to stay in Taiwan for 90 days. If you haven't yet secured a job before your arrival, you won't have a lot of time. Of course you can fly out to Hong Kong after 89 days and come back to Taiwan few days later and get another 90 days to stay, but I would generally discourage this behavior, as you never know, if it will really work out well for you. Three months might be tight, but could be enough for you to go through the necessary stages before starting to work, which are: Sending applications, going to interviews, making a medical check and waiting for the working permit to be processed by the officials. In my case, I didn't really have a problem with time, as I held the Alien Resident Certificate (further ARC) based on my marriage and I knew I won't be chased out after three months. Of course, if you're already holding an ARC, you have a better chance to land a job, as your employer doesn't need to apply working visa for you. He only needs to register you, but he saves time and money and he will be sure, that you won't run back to your country, when things get tough. And they will get tough for sure.


Screencap taken from here.

The regulation for foreign workers

There are two main groups of foreign workers in Taiwan, most Europeans might belong to either one or the other. Here is a short overview with related links:

1. Foreign spouses: I belong to this group, because I am married to a Taiwanese girl. I am not required to apply for a permit to work in Taiwan and the types of work are not restricted. When it comes to salary and packages, I am treated same as other Taiwanese, but still get a little bit more pay than the average Taiwanese would get with the same qualification (that's just what my wife told me). You could call it a foreigner bonus.

2. Foreign professionals: Foreigners, who fall into this group, need to get a work permit from the employer. Their salary should not be below 48.000 NTD per month. People in this group are limited to following professions: A. Specialists or technicians (which includes 1. Civil engineering or practice of architecture; 2. Communications and transportation; 3. Tax and financial services; 4. Practice of real estate agency; 5. Immigration services; 6. Practice of attorneys, or of patent attorneys; 7. Practice of technicians; 8. Health care; 9. Environmental protection; 10. Culture, sports, and recreation services; 11. Academic research; 12. Practice of veterinarians; 13. Manufacturing; 14. Wholesales; or 15. Other work - detailed information here), B. Executives of enterprises set up by overseas Chinese and foreign investors, C. School teachers, D. Teachers at supplementary language schools, E. Sports coach or athlete, F. Art, or entertainment arts workers, G. Crew members of merchant ships or working ships. Information taken from here and here.

Starting from zero

Best way to start looking for a job is to have someone local helping you. In my case it was my wife - she was kind enough to translate my resume from English to Chinese and published it on 104.com.tw, the oldest and most popular employment website in Taiwan. There are other websites as well, such as www.123.com.tw and www.1111.com.tw, but they don't enjoy a reputation as high as 104.com.tw. Most Taiwanese companies simultaneously publish job offers on their websites, if you know the industry you want to work in, you can pick individual companies and send your resume to them directly. On the employment websites however it's common, that a company's HR sends you an email or calls you to invite you for an interview (that's what happened to me). Nevertheless, don't expect an invitation right the next day after you've created your profile on 104.com.tw, it might need few weeks, before you get an offer from a serious company. You might get a lot of offers from some small companies related to insurance or LED technology - I generally disregard these offers, as these businesses won't bring you far in Taiwan. Be selective, research the company's websites and ask a local Taiwanese to browse through the forums - there are some, that discuss companies and share experiences regarding how it is working in them.

The interview

The interview is probably the most important step on the way to employment, as Taiwanese companies don't only value your educational background and experience, they will judge your character and give you a set of standard questions, such as: What have you achieved so far? Where do you see yourself in the future? Name 5 of your strengths and 5 of your weaknesses. Can you speak Chinese? How did you come to Taiwan? It's very likely, that you'll first be asked to solve an IQ or personality test, but based on my understanding, these tests are rarely checked and mostly don't matter - nevertheless, if you get one, finish it seriously and take them as if they are very important. What matters is a key competence such as your previous job, university degree, language skills, product knowledge, understanding of the market and of course your expected salary. If you come to an interview, no matter how run down the company headquarters look like, wear a suit, smile and be polite. That also includes taking the interviewers business card with two hands, briefly studying it and then placing it in front of you on the table during the whole interview. Treat a person's business card as his face, because that's what it is in a sense. Women generally don't shake hands, while men shake them firmly. Speaking Chinese is a plus, but not a must to get a job - at least say that you are learning. If you get a tour around the company, you most likely have got the offer already, however, they will still make you wait for few days before they tell you. You might also get an invitation for a second interview with a person of higher rank such as vice president or CEO - this also indicates, that your chances are looking good. He will speak about the company background and general strategy and if you want the job, you better agree with what he says.

The salary

Currently for a foreigner, who wants to be junior sales in an IT company, which is growing and expanding, you can get between 40.000 to 50.000 NTD (something like 1000-1200 Eur). If the company is stingy, you might get an offer lower than 40.000, if they are generous, you might get over 50.000. Keep in mind, that a Taiwanese junior sales will only get 30.000 something. Lucky for you and unfortunately for your Taiwanese colleagues, you can get a better pay than them with less experience - it's not fair, but that's how it is. If you have experience for the position you aim, you can demand 50.000, 60.000 or even more, but depends on the rank and the responsibility you'll have. Best is to research the web and ask some friends about how much a certain position should be paid - the differences can be very big. At almost every interview they will ask you how much pay you expect, if not on the first one, then on the second. General rule is to demand few thousand more than you expect and then go down. For example, if you expect 45.000 NTD, say 48.000, because the HR will most likely send you an offer letter with a couple of thousand NTD below your expected salary. That's part of their job, to save the company's cost (part of their KPI). Of course it's also possible that it doesn't happen, but in my cases it did. Also be sure to ask, how many salaries per year do you get. 13 is very common for a junior (only includes Chinese new year bonus), 14 is might be more common, if you're experienced and the company is good, while some of the best companies might offer you a package of 16 or even over 20 salaries per year (so I heard). There might also be incentives related to your performance, the so called quarterly bonuses - HRs love to mention them, but in some companies these bonuses are very meager. Nevertheless, it's better if they have them than not. Once you work in Taiwan's IT a little longer, you will care more about how much you earn per year, not per month and all these extras will influence your decision.

Why IT?

Taiwan is home to one of the biggest manufacturers of IT products in the world, especially huge in semiconductor field. In the past, the focus was strong on ODM/OEM business and most of the companies are still satisfied with this role (most prominent example is Apple's supplier Foxconn), but a lot of Taiwanese IT companies have established themselves as worldwide known brands in the past decade, among them Acer, ASUS, AVerMedia, Gigabyte (all computer and peripheral equipment), A-Data (storage, RAM, memory cards), AG Neovo, BenQ (LCD monitors), D-Link, ZyXel (communications and internet) and recently coming to fame - HTC Corporation (communications, internet, cellphones). There are literally thousands of small and medium-sized IT companies popping up every year in Taiwan, trying to be the next Asus or HTC, usually in three key parts of Taiwan: Taipei, Taoyuan and Hsinchu. You don't need to join one of the big ones to have a good career in Taiwan's IT, nevertheless, they are a safer choice, as they tend to be more organized. The industry is fast-paced, constantly changing and very challenging. But if you work in Taiwan's IT, you can say that you were right there in the front seat, when mankind migrated to the digital society of tomorrow. A lot of things are developed in Taiwan way before they land on the shelves of Western consumer electronics chain stores, usually under different brands. And that's what was so interesting to me to join an IT company in the first place, despite having no IT experience at all.

In conclusion

This is just a general overview of how it might happen to you based on how it happened to me. I can't go too deep, as I don't want to share too much details from my personal life, but I still hope that it's enough to give you a little insight on the procedure. Maybe you got a job in IT as well and your story is completely different. If so, please share your experience in the comments below, so that others can use it as a reference.

Next post in the series: Working in a Taiwanese IT company>>