Updated: Jan 2
Navigating the job market in Taiwan can be extremely tricky, no matter what line of work you’re in. At All Hands’ recent “How to get Hired” event, all the important aspects of the job hunt, including resumes, job sites, and job interviews, were covered by our diverse panel of speakers, who all perform recruiting functions in very different types of companies.
Prep a Great Resume
Cameron Scott is a member of HR at Gogoro, an electric scooter manufacturer with thousands of employees. Cameron reviews resumes every day, and shared lots of tips about what makes an interesting one. “Don’t be afraid to update the format of your resume; put the best or most interesting part of your resume at the top. If it’s publications, put those at the top. If it’s your work history, put your work history at the top. Don’t think your education needs to always be at the top. Recruiters and HR often review a resume for 10 – 30 seconds before they move on to the next one, so make it easier for them to get interested in you. Include links to your LinkedIn and to your portfolio site, GitHub profile, or anything else that shows what you’re capable of. If you’ve taken some time to study Chinese, just for 6 months, make sure it shows up on your resume’s Education section – it lets employers know you’re committed to Taiwan and that you plan to stay here for a while.”
Eunice Chu, head of staffing at consulting firm 11th Fleet, brought up the age old question of whether job seekers in Taiwan should put their photo on their resume.
“While it’s traditional in Taiwan to put one’s photo on one’s resume, this is starting to fall out of favor. If you need to be customer-facing in your role, it’s still strongly recommended to put your photo on your resume. If you do put your photo, make sure it’s clear, and that you’re clearly identifiable in the photo. Please, no pictures of anime characters,” Eunice said with a grimace. Eunice also mentioned how important it is to sprinkle in keywords. “If I’m hiring a front-end programmer, I need to see the term ‘front-end development’ mentioned, as well as information on what front-end frameworks or languages you’ve used. If I don’t see that, I’m not going to be able to consider you for the role.” To meet that requirement, job seekers may want to add a skills matrix to their resume to highlight keywords.
Take Advantage of LinkedIn and Job Search Sites
Cameron also had good points about how to best make use of LinkedIn. “Companies that are willing to hire foreigners will probably be on LinkedIn, so use it, and make sure your LinkedIn looks professional. Don’t add lots of emojis to your LinkedIn descriptions.”
Other panelists mentioned that getting recommendations from others is extremely important, as it lets recruiters know that ex-coworkers are willing to go to bat for you.
James O’Claire, COO of BubbleEye, mentioned that one should get used to using LinkedIn frequently. “Install the LinkedIn app on your phone. If you’re looking to be noticed, share useful professional information on LinkedIn. However, don’t get political on LinkedIn, that will only turn off potential professional contacts.”
Navigate the Interview
The panelists also discussed how candidates can best navigate the interview process. “If a company sends you an interview form before the interview and it has a section for desired salary, leave it blank unless it’s absolutely required. You want the recruiter and the team to know you better before they assign a salary number to your worth,” Eunice suggests.
“At the interview, bring your personality,” Cameron said. “Show who you are to the employer, and bring some insightful questions to ask about company growth or strategy – focus on that instead of focusing on being nervous!”
James shared tips for first-round interviewees for startup jobs. “If we aren’t familiar with each other, or it’s the first time we’ve met, if you ask me about our investment rounds and our cap table, it’s a bit off-putting. Focus on the job role you’re interviewing for first, before asking about startup health.”
The panelists all agreed that candidates should be clear on why they want the job they are interviewing for. From Eunice: “If an interviewer asks ‘why do you want this job?’, you should have an answer prepared for why you like our company or how it fits into your career plan. If you don’t know why you want to work at this company, the interviewer won’t consider you very carefully.” Panelists also mentioned that it’s unlikely for a candidate to receive any feedback from a Taiwanese employer, so call back 2-3 days after the interview to see if they have any feedback for you. If they don’t have much to say, you can safely expect that you didn’t get the job. Finally, Eunice cautions, “Remember to be polite and maintain good manners, even if you get rejected for a role. Your interviewer may have other roles in the future they can consider you for, but if you don’t treat your interviewer politely, they definitely won’t.”
Host John Murn wrapped up the panel portion by stressing the importance of understanding that job descriptions are simply wish lists. “Sure, a company would love to see candidates tick all the boxes, but often, no one who ticks all the boxes applies. If you can hit a few of the boxes, you should consider yourself a qualified candidate, and you should apply for the position.” Cameron added: “In addition, if your personality and qualifications match some of our needs, sometimes we will adjust our positions and our hiring strategy to qualified people who come to the interview. So, show us who you are, and what you can do, and we may change the position to suit you!”
Editor’s Note: This great set of tips for nailing job interviews by All Hands member Philip Chang should be required reading as well.
The Q&A portion of the panel was also filled with great questions and insightful responses.
Consider Using Headhunters
When questioned about whether headhunters will pursue foreigners in Taiwan, the panelists mentioned that Adecco, Manpower, Robert Walters, and Bo Le Associates will headhunt foreigners who have a few years of experience in their field, and recommended that job seekers attempt to connect with headhunters from these organizations on LinkedIn. The panelists also recommended trying to connect with headhunters over a cup of coffee, and chatting with them about the potential for being headhunted in Taiwan.
How to Plan a Career Switch
When asked how hard it is to transition into different career paths in Taiwan, the panelists agreed that it was possible, but that it all depends on the company and the industry. Some companies are more willing to give neophytes a shot, but if the industry is heavily engineering related, that possibility gets much lower. James mentioned that, “To work in semiconductors, you really need to have the experience. In our company, which is advertising-related, it would be very hard for you to get a position without having some advertising experience. If you want a software engineer position but have no experience, it is going to be very hard to get those jobs without proving you can do the work – that means building a public Github profile that shows your capabilities, as well as a good amount of self-study.”
Cameron suggested that one make requests within one’s current company to transfer to other departments if possible. “Network within your current company, with the team you want to work in, and show them you’re interested in their work. You can probably go from sales to marketing relatively smoothly, however, don’t expect super drastic internal changes – if you want to go from marketing to software engineering, you need to show you can do the job at a level where you can get paid for it. In some cases, it may be best to go back to school and do a master’s if you want to make big career transitions.”
Finally, when asked about good online resources for job hunters, host John mentioned a few useful links:
How to Prepare for a Job Interview: A Checklist – Timeless tips for acing job interviews
Alan McIvor’s Job Hunting Tips for Greater China – A YouTube playlist of job-hunting strategies for foreigners who are looking for positions in Taiwan and China.
London School of Economics CV & Resume Guide – Helpful hints on CVs for those with international careers.
Adecco Greater China Salary Guide – A good starting point to determine what salary you can expect for positions in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.
Alberto Alcaniz contributed to this blog post. If you’re looking to hire an embedded software engineer, check out his LinkedIn.