When it comes to weird job requirements, China definitely takes the cake. In the midst of a booming economy, job seekers are discovering that their diplomas from China’s most prestigious universities may not be enough.
A quick run-through of the local job ads shows quite a number of interesting “requirements”. One Beijing school’s recruitment ad for a foreign language teacher’s position listed the usual qualifications: foreign language professional, a Masters degree in foreign language from a reputable university, younger than 65 years of age, can converse in Mandarin, with relevant experience in a similar field, and… a balanced face?
The term “balanced” face sounds awkward in English, but it’s a common enough phrase in Chinese. The best way to explain this expression is to translate it as “handsome”. A face with symmetrical features is considered good-looking, after all. A “balanced” face is not marked by disfigurement and other grotesqueness.
So yes, handsome is the closest word available.
But it doesn’t end with foreign language teachers. A further review of ads showed that professors of business management and architecture are required to have “balanced” faces. One wonders whether a tape measure will be required during the actual job interview.
Some requirements aren’t so much weird as they are a little… odd. Online gaming companies prefer enthusiastic gamers, online shops prefer employees who can “type fast and respond to ten chat mates simultaneously”. The growth of these non-professional requirements has certainly thrown a wrench into most university graduates’ job plans.
But these are by far not the weirdest of requirements in China’s job market. Superstitions are becoming more and more significant in recruiters’ decisions. There is an East Asian belief that a person’s blood type determines his or her personality; as such, some companies outright specify the blood type they prefer. People with Type B blood are shunned, mainly because they supposedly lack independent and critical thinking. More importantly, they lack “team spirit”. Type O- people are preferable, since they are peaceful and loyal.
Other companies are resorting to zodiac signs to evaluate their candidates. Jewelers hire people born in the year of the Snake, believing that they are more “fortunate” for the business. Some companies opt for people born in the year of the Pig and Sheep, traditionally considered peaceful and friendly personalities, rather than hire “Tigers”.
The superstitions don’t end with personalities, though. Even last names are subject to discrimination these days. Companies refuse to hire people with the last name “Jia”, supposedly since it sounds like the Chinese character for “fake”. The surname “Pei” is also unacceptable, as it sounds like the word for “lose”, or “lose money”.
There’s more. Americans and Europeans are no strangers to the brainteasers that HR interviewers employ in job interviews. One favorite HR question is, “why are manhole covers round?” But China brings things to a whole different level. The questions are definitely mind-boggling. “In a fight between a tomato and chocolate, why would the tomato lose?” “How would you sell a $1 worth of tea for $8?” “Can you summarize ‘Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils’ (a wuxia novel by Jin Yong) in two minutes?”
Students are stumped, but recruiters find this a good way of weeding out people who can think on their feet from those who can’t. Recruitment experts believe that the saturated job market has seen too many applicants with similarly admirable achievements, and recruiters are given no choice but to resort to offbeat tactics in order to differentiate them from one another.
Although the need to find other means to weed out the best candidates for the job is understandable, one wonders whether or not the reliance on superstitious beliefs isn’t outright discrimination. Mao Zedong once warned against the pitfalls of superstitions; maybe job recruiters would do well to heed his words.
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