The sweeping regulations recently introduced to China’s once booming private tutoring sector have pushed the industry near to its end. But there is an exemption. Internet career coaching consultancies, which offer tutoring services for those who want to land a job at renowned Internet companies in China, are prospering against the headwind.
In recent years, the younger generation has set their sights on the rapidly expanding internet industry. According to the latest income report of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, employees at private-sector internet companies again topped the charts with an average annual income of 101,281 yuan ($15,662) in 2020, up 18.7% from the previous year. That was higher than the income of the average finance industry worker – in fact, internet companies first started paying more than finance a decade ago. Furthermore, internet company employees now earn twice as much as workers in the property sector, the survey showed. Despite the central government’s far-reaching clampdown, the generous pay and promising potential growth have turned the internet industry into a mecca for the ambitious younger generation seeking to make a fortune.
Although Chinese internet companies have already passed their fastest growth period and face piling regulations, there are still many people trying to enter the industry. The sudden swarm of new workers has intensified the already fierce competition for tech jobs. Among the most sought-after employers are e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and its smaller rival Pinduoduo, the tech conglomerate Tencent Holdings and TikTok’s parent company ByteDance. Employees report that some of them have to go through up to nine rounds of interviews to land a position, and the selection process at top companies is getting more arduous and complicated as the number of candidates soars and the pace of hiring slows.
Considering the difficult employment situation, job seekers are turning to the semi-underground network of insiders who offer to pass on the secrets of the intense recruitment process for jobs ranging from software engineers to product or marketing managers. Driven by strong demand, the market is now flooded with dazzling offline or online courses that offer to teach everything from basic knowledge to pass the written tests to tweaking the resume to act the eye of tech recruiters. Some premium courses even offer the simulations of the written test used by the internet giants, mock interviews and tips for negotiating a good salary.
Job hunting coaches of these courses are often seasoned recruiters, current employees, or recently departed executives of the tech giants who hawk their services on social media sites. They provide a wide range of programs with costs ranging from 1,000 to 20,000 yuan on their online store. The instructor shared their experience with small groups of people through live-streamed classes and provided one-on-one tutorials.
The attitude toward career tutoring courses was mixed. Satisfied customers believed that the training provides them with an internal message such as the company’s preferences on employees, which help them gain the edge in an increasingly competitive job market.
“Their tips are very beneficial. The chances of my success would have been lower if I didn’t take this class,” said Chen Meiyu, a former student of one online career tutoring class who found a job as a product manager at the top internet company in Beijing. One marketing poster of the career tutoring program claimed that nearly 600 people – 70% of its students – have successfully landed jobs at top internet firms.
The fast-growing industry has become a hotbed for complaints and controversies, as many employers and customers express skepticism about whether the program really adds the value it claims. Recruiters from tech giants seem to hold a consensus that such courses cannot cultivate the natural talents of the companies.
“I don’t like offer-driven training programs which only focus on teaching candidates how to get through the interview, without honing their practical skills that are actually needed for the job,” said Wu Xue, a recruiter from one of the top IT companies in Beijing. “It deals with the symptoms, not the underlying problems. Some people find themselves incompetent for the job after they are admitted by the company.”
“Receiving good advice from senior people in the industry can help the candidate perform better during the interview. However, what we need are those who can quickly spot and solve the problems, not the interview master,” said Wu.
The quality required by the hiring companies cannot be coached in days or weeks. Most employers suggest that inexperienced employees or recent graduates spend a few months to a year on skills programs or gain relevant experience by managing a real-life project if they find they cannot meet the job requirement or pass the interview by their dream companies.