Things to Consider
Though the majority of expats have jobs secured before moving to Hong Kong (indeed many relocate here for this purpose), don’t despair if you aren’t one of them.
Although it is generally true that fewer and fewer employers are willing to sponsor work visas for non-HK work permit holders (thanks to an abundance of affordable, highly educated and highly skilled local talent), the Hong Kong government has identified eleven professions in great need of top-tier global talent (see Talent List below for more information).
If you have moved here for a partner’s job (a “trailing spouse,” to use the undeniably retro expat term), your dependent visa allows you to legally work in Hong Kong. Most entry-level office jobs in Hong Kong require a university degree at the very least, as well as Chinese-language skills. But like in any city, years of relevant work experience, multilingual skills and the right contacts will take you a lot further.
Expatriates on dependent visas who don’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin often land in midlevel jobs in multinationals and financial institutions. Teaching English (or tutoring in some other specialized area) is another popular option; the Hong Kong government’s Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) scheme offers one possible path to a teaching position, with more informal opportunities available as well. Other common paths are pursuing further schooling (for more information, see Live > Continuing Education) or setting up your own business (see Work > Starting a Business).
Expatriates on dependent visas who don’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin often land in midlevel jobs in multinationals and financial institutions. Other common paths are pursuing further schooling or setting up your own business.
When applying and interviewing for positions, it also helps to have an understanding of cultural nuances — for example, it’s considered perfectly fine to reach out and chase a prospective employer on LinkedIn, whereas in other countries that might be considered pushy. It may be worth seeking out a professional coach who can speak to the specific challenges of looking for a job or making a career transition in Hong Kong. The International Coaching Federation (ICF), the leading credentialing body for coaching professionals, has a database of ICF-certified coaches, including many based in Hong Kong.
Professionals in law, medicine, accountancy and other industries who are qualified in a different jurisdiction should consult the local governing body for that profession for information and rules about practicing in Hong Kong.
Top Tips for Job Seekers
- Join a chamber of commerce or other professional networking group, or find a professional coach to help navigate the nuances of finding work in Hong Kong.
- If you have a dependent visa, make sure to state this clearly on your resume.
- WhatsApp is often used for work-related chats in Hong Kong, so double-check that your profile photo and name are appropriate.
- Taking on pro bono work will help you to show your worth to potential employers. See Volunteering for more information on skill-based volunteer opportunities.
- Think beyond the traditional office grind. Hong Kong is an excellent place to start a new business. Over and over again, you’ll hear stories of people who moved here from other countries and reinvented themselves as entrepreneurs. For the how-to, see Starting a Business and The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.
- Don’t be afraid to let your interest in a job be known. What is sometimes construed as pushiness in other countries is seen as determination in Hong Kong — an asset in the workplace.
Job Sites and Recruiters
Start your search online, or enlist a recruiter for a more personal touch.
Enlisting the services of a recruitment firm is another option. Some agencies specialize in finding roles within a particular industry or helping women reenter the workforce after time away, while others have a more general focus. A few of these include:
Marketing, Communications and Sales
We suggest looking for networking events with English-speaking expats and joining a chamber of commerce or other work-oriented community to start building your professional network.
Volunteering is a great way to build your network and keep your resume fresh while looking for paid opportunities in Hong Kong.
Do note that in Hong Kong, a work permit is required even for volunteers taking on unpaid work. Here are some places to look for volunteer opportunities (particularly skills-based projects and positions).
Asian Charity Services (ACS)
ACS provides free management training workshops to the leadership teams of NGOs across Hong Kong. The workshops are delivered by volunteers, who are experienced business leaders.
Hands On Hong Kong
A major player in the Hong Kong charitable scene, Hands On Hong Kong (which also organizes an annual Serve-a-Thon week) maintains a list of skills-based volunteer opportunities with a variety of charitable organizations.
This online platform allows users to browse and apply for local volunteer opportunities.
Online platform Time Auction puts an unusual twist on volunteering: hours spent volunteering on affiliated projects can then be “redeemed” for dinner or drinks with corporate heavy hitters (think leaders of major companies and bodies like the SFC).
Volunteering in Hong Kong
This blog-style website keeps a list of organizations in need of volunteers. They also regularly post volunteer opportunities as they arise.
The eleven professions on the Talent List Hong Kong have been identified as the talents most needed in the immediate to medium term to develop Hong Kong into a high-value-added, diversified economy.
Those who meet the qualifications laid out on the Talent List receive extra points on their application for immigration facilitation under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, which allows highly skilled individuals to move to Hong Kong without having first secured an offer of employment. The professions are:
- waste treatment specialists
- asset management professionals
- marine insurance professionals
- fintech professionals
- data science and cyber security specialists
- innovation and technology experts
- naval architects
- marine engineers and superintendents of ships
- creative industries professionals
- dispute resolution professionals and transactional lawyers