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Young job applicants run reference checks on employers to make better-informed decisions
Young job seekers are screening their potential employers
By Li Qing  ·  2022-06-08  ·   Source: NO.23 JUNE 9, 2022
College graduates look over a company brochure at a job fair in Hefei, Anhui Province, on May 17 (XINHUA)

Less time spent with classmates, online graduation ceremonies and no celebratory travel on the agenda... The culprit of all this, namely the COVID-19 pandemic, has become an important chapter in the life of many university students. And without any signs of mercy or guilt, the virus that has been ravaging society for two years now renders the job market even more competitive.

China will have a record 10.76 million college graduates in 2022, 1.67 million more than last year, according to the Ministry of Education. These numbers indicate just how fierce job competition might get this year.

Faced with employment pressures, these graduates, rather than being on the verge of nervous breakdowns, have a very rational attitude toward the situation. One manifestation of their sober-mindedness is how they run reference checks on potential employers before making any final decisions.

Reference checks have been a standard recruitment practice for employers to deepen their understanding of candidates and verify their information. Nowadays, students also learn about the different aspects of their potential employers by running similar checks.

"Corporate culture, work environment, promotion prospects and personal growth, almost everything I care about can be checked and verified," Qin Yue, a student in her senior year at a university in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, told Beijing Review.

The computer science major referred to it as "the basic thing for graduates to do." After matching employer information with criteria for an ideal job, the optimal choice will reveal itself, she said.

Being positive

Qin embarked on her own research in the field last August, tapping into both online and offline resources. Senior schoolmates recommended her some companies to look into. "They also gave me a few tips regarding written examinations and interviews and shared their firsthand experiences with the companies I was really interested in," she said.

Social media platforms were her second go-to. Collecting information released on official websites, graduates can check and assess their online findings by comparing them to the feedback they receive from current and former employees. What does the overall corporate structure look like? What to expect during the probationary period? How do promotion mechanisms work in practice? All these are valid questions.

Qiao Lin, a graduate in 2022, told the Beijing-based Worker's Daily he'd found a shared online document calculating the total work hours of hundreds of companies popular with young job seekers. Based on this file, he was able to check the companies where employees chronically work overtime off his list of ideal employers. "Netizens allow information to flow freely and that keeps us from wasting our time on the wrong choice."

Internships are also sought after by graduates as they can give them on-site experience. "I can only know if the corporate culture is a good fit for me after actually working in the environment," Hu Kang, a graduate majoring in law, told Worker's Daily. This approach also saved him time. While he was interning at his ideal firm, a senior employee told him that although the increasing number of projects demanded more staff, only a lucky few would eventually be recruited as regular employees. That was a hint for him to pursue other job opportunities.

The more advanced "players" turn to commercial information platforms for their checks. "There is a lot of information about big names, but small and medium-sized enterprises often go under the radar. Running a reference check on these smaller companies is both more necessary and more difficult," Qin said. On platforms such as, she found data about company registration, equity structure and investment and financial situation. These numbers imply development prospects and whether the job is part of their major business, she explained.

"Just like employers run a check on us, we need to see their records to avoid running into problems like default on wages or financial risks," Qin added.

Yu Hanyu, a guidance counselor at Hunan University, told China Youth Daily that colleges often encourage their graduates to look into companies they're interested in working for and learn about potential problems involving salaries and further career development.

"Since graduates born after 1995 have become the main workforce, reference checks have become more diverse and detailed thanks to their ability to collect information and use the Internet to their best advantage," Yu said.

A student at Central South University participates in an online interview on April 14, in Changsha, Hunan Province (XINHUA)

A better workplace

Some media have described the trend as a "reverse reference check" and applauded the "generational progress." But Yao Guozhe, a headhunter with Cornerstone Global Partners, a recruitment firm in Shanghai, thinks otherwise. "This is not an exclusive feature of the young generation," he told Southern Weekly.

But admittedly, the so-called young attitude is driving potential employers to improve their working environment.

Younger generations have new standards of what constitutes a good job, Wang Ting, a professor with the Business School at China University of Political Science and Law, told Worker's Daily. As digital natives, they advocate a relaxed and free environment and pursue more creative positions.

In response to young job seekers' demand, as reflected in the reversed reference check, many companies now invite graduates to visit workplaces. Some have also taken steps to enhance transparency by creating groups on WeChat, one of China's most popular super-apps, to communicate with applicants.

"Companies on the lookout for new talent always welcome graduates who've done their research," Zhu Yuwei, Human Resources Manager at China Construction Industrial & Energy Engineering Group Co. Ltd., said. Both employers and employees should make an informed decision based on mutual understanding, which marks a solid start to a stable employment relationship.

In the long run, this mutual choice stemming from an active understanding is mandatory in outlining a healthy and efficient job market, he told Xinhua News Agency.

At the same time, Wang reminded young applicants that filtering anonymous information shared on social media can prove tricky, and job seekers should continuously upgrade their screening abilities.

Graduates should always prioritize a company's brand and reputation, which can reveal their approach toward new talents and social responsibility. "With the reliable information at hand, they should go with employers that can meet their expectations in terms of personal growth, and that have consistent values. Don't simply evaluate a position based on wages and working hours," Wang said. One should indeed never judge a book by its cover. 

(Print Edition Title: Employment Is a Two-way Choice)

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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