Finding vacancies for the kinds of jobs you are qualified to do can be a daunting task, especially if reading Chinese is not your key strength. Leveraging and promoting your value to get the best deal can also be one of the hardest things to get right during any job application process. Here are some suggestions for how to get an outcome that you can happily live with.
By Stuart Hill
Head-hunters Tip: You’re a Scalp, Not a Placement
It can be extremely frustrating finding work in Taipei, especially if you are looking for something outside teaching. Yes, there are a few websites that provide job listings for non-teachers. Friending someone who works at a place that might employ foreigners is another option, but you often need to wait for the right opportunity to come along.
However, one key way to get wider exposure to job vacancies throughout Taiwan is via head-hunters. By providing your resume and getting on their books, you can also gain some insight into the current availabilities in Taiwan’s jobs market.
But be warned: head-hunters are more like brokers than an employee placement service. While yes, your agent may hope they can fit you into the right position and that you will stay employed in it, they make their money by inserting themselves between the negotiations of employer and employee, while fundamentally negotiating on behalf of the person who pays the checks; the employer. With this key caveat in mind, head-hunters can give you an entre to opportunities that aren’t otherwise advertised through other means, and expose you to positions requiring experienced people that offer pay better salaries than those jobs you might find and negotiate on your own.
What’s more, because they are playing the role of match maker, and need you to be a willing participant in the process, they will provide more info about the salary, working environment and job description than you would normally find via an ad published in a paper or website. They can also offer advice on how best to approach your interview. After all, they really do want to fill that position.
Tip: know your bottom line for all aspects of employment (job responsibilities, hours, location, salary, conditions, etc.) and stick to that. Get known by several head-hunters based on key criteria including skills, salary expectations and the job(s) you desire. If these parameters appear in the head-hunters’ job seeker database, you will be matched more accurately.
Salary Tip: You are Only Worth as Much as Someone is Prepared to Pay for You
It is almost impossible to convert overseas salaries into what Taiwanese companies are prepared to pay. The discrepancy in currency alone is enough to discourage any self-respecting employee. The situation will be marginally better at the Taiwan office of a foreign company working from a global salary system.
That said, lower taxation and relatively lower costs of living (such as health care, transport, and food) can even out this imbalance to make an after-tax Taiwan salary seem more acceptable.
But how are salaries calculated? And what can you ask for? Most likely, your prospective company will work on a formula based on a monthly unit. To complicate things more, you can negotiate (or will be offered) any number of months to be paid per year. This might mean that you are paid 13-14 months during a 12 month calendar period, which is very typical for the IT industry. Bonuses can be paid above and beyond your basic salary, and usually as a factor of your monthly salary (for example: half a month’s salary; 6 month’s salary, etc.) and is usually paid in full by Chinese New Year. The key is to focus on what you want per year, and then the company can crunch the numbers until they calculate a monthly figure and number of months you will be paid per year. AGAIN, the MONTHLY FIGURE will be used to determine your year-end bonuses, so be mindful of that when accepting your monthly amount.
There are minimum salary levels for hiring foreigners that come as a part of the conditions for issuing an ARC. Companies will also rate you against their internal salary scale based on experience and academic credentials, rating PhD graduates higher than bachelor graduates for example.
Yet on many levels supply and demand is the key mechanism in operation here. If the company you are interviewing with is in dire need of your skills and experience, they will find a way to pay for you.
The more you are paid, you can expect the company to have more expectations for their return on investment. This can mean greater responsibility and autonomy, but it usually brings with it higher pressures for accountability (often $ sales generated) and more interaction with the boss (who views you as an expense and wants to know what you are up to).
Tip: find a way to calculate your worth to the hiring company. Only then will you be able to negotiate from a position of strength. No matter what you are offered as monthly salary, work out the total non-bonus (the so-called base salary) amount that you will earn each year. Find out what other likely bonuses and incentives are paid for your position. Does the total amount compensate for all the expected unpaid work hours, small number of holidays, and other company-specific obligations?
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