Global Business Etiquette: Hong Kong

Hong Kong business etiquette

Hong Kong's fast pace and unique blend of East and West make it one of the world's most exciting places to do business.  However, these very same qualities make etiquette all the more confusing for those entering the market for first time, making it even more important to do your research ahead of time.  Check out our top tips below and you'll be ready in no time!

Arranging Meetings-When arranging meetings, make appointments months in advance, and be punctual. This is typical of most places, except that in Hong Kong there are few exceptions for late comers. However, offering a little grace in reverse will go a long way should your Hong Kong counterpart not make the arranged time.

Greetings-Shake hands with everyone.  it is standard protocol that higher-ranking official will be introduced to you first, but greeting each person in the room is necessary and a sign of respect.  It is not unusual for you to be asked about your health as this is not considered overly personal in Hong Kong.  Feel free to do the same yourself.

Business Cards-Be prepared to exchange business cards at greetings.  For best results, offer a card that's printed in English on one side and Cantonese on the other.  Always offer the Chinese side up to your host.

Negotiations- While few Westerners would expect food at important negotiations, in Hong Kong, discussions won't start before the tea is served. Never drink before your host, but not sipping at all is a sign that negotiations are over.  Don't like tea? Consider it the price of doing business.

Yes and No-Less direct and unwilling to offend, Hong Kong business people will rarely flat-out tell you "no." While you may want a direct response, that could be considered rude in Hong Kong.  On the flip side, a "yes" doesn't always mean an affirmation or agreement.  Rather, it's more of an "I'm listening to you," or "I hear you," not necessarily "I agree."

Opening an Office-First deal was smooth as butter and you're ready to open an office in Hong Kong? Don't even think about it without first consulting a Feng Shui expert, someone who will help you pick a location, optimal move-in dates, and even how to decorate the office. What's at work here is a belief that things in their wrong spaces won't agree with spiritual forces, bringing bad luck, poor health, and unhappiness. Find a reputable person and follow their advice where you believe in it or not.


How to Write a Resume that Screams " Hire Me"


When you are writing a resume for the first time, or if you haven't updated yours for a while, it can be hard to know where to start.  In most instances, your resume is the first thing a potential employer sees from you; they're likely to be reviewing dozens, if not hundreds, of other resumes so making yours stand out in a positive way is no easy feat. And with all of the conflicting advice on the web, the task becomes even more difficult! Feeling intimidated? Fear not and keep reading because I've compiled a list of everything you need to know to craft a winning resume to help you snag that dream job!

1. Keep it short and sweet  Your resume should never be longer than one single sided page. This is not the time to be verbose, if you can convey your point with fewer words, do it.  Employers appreciate candidates who can express themselves in a clear and concise manner because it saves them time and speaks to your ability to communicate effectively.

2. Simplicity is key You may think choosing a non traditional font, or colorful paper will make your resume standout from the crowd, but in reality it will probably just annoy the person reading it.  Your top objective is to ensure your resume looks professional and is easy to read.  Use a traditional font like Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, or Garamond; and stick to sizes between 10 and 12, leaving a healthy amount of white space on the page.  You can use a different typeface for your name, headers, and companies you've worked for but keep it simple and consistent.

3. Edit, edit, edit Your resume should only list your most impressive and relevant experiences.  Rather than listing your entire career history, use the extra space to elaborate on your accomplishments and any special projects at each job. Think of your resume as a marketing tool, telling the story of why you're the perfect person for the job. 

4. Put the best stuff at the top The top half of your resume is the first thing a hiring manager will see, list your most impressive experiences and achievements here to serve as a "hook" for someone to keep reading.  

5. Keep it (reverse) chronological List your most recent jobs first, then education.  Employers are usually more interested with what you've learned after college then where you attended.

6. Know your market If you are applying for jobs internationally, you'll need to tailor your resume to that country's norms.  For example, if you're applying for a job in the U.S., a head shot should not be included as part of the resume unless it is specifically requested; however, if you're applying for jobs in Europe or Asia a head shot should definitely be included.

7. Tailor it Don't send the same resume out for every position.  Do your research on the company and position you're applying for, then tailor your resume to include the most relevant experience for that job.  By highlighting the most relevant information and eliminating everything else, you'll make it easier for the hiring manager to visualize you as the natural fit for the job.

8. Keep a Master list Tailoring your resume for every job can be time consuming so keep a master list on your computer of every job you've everything you've ever included on a resume-previous jobs, special projects, awards etc. The master list makes it easy to cut and paste the most relevant information together for each iteration of your resume.  

9. Make it "skimmable" People are lazy, make things easy for them.  Include important information like your contact details (phone number and professional email address, home address no longer necessary) in an easy to find location, like the header.

10. Show, don't tell Listing soft skills can leave your resume sounding like a pile of meaningless buzzwords; instead of saying you're a "strong leader", use bullet points under each position to illustrate your skill set.  Examples are more powerful than words.

11. Include non-traditional work Feel free to include volunteer work, part time or free lance work if it is relevant to the job you're applying for.  This is especially true for fresh graduates who usually don't have much full time work experience. 

12.  Proofread, proofread, proofread An obvious spelling or grammatical error can land your resume in the "no" pile even if you're a good fit for the job.  Take the extra effort to have a friend look over your resume to ensure this doesn't happen to you. 

Global Business Etiquette: Japan


  While etiquette may seem old fashioned to some, manners assume heightened importance on the global stage.  Learning about  a country's customs before you arrive can help to bridge cultural gaps, it can open doors to experiences other visitors may not be privy to, and help you to avoid cultural faux pas' that could cost you business opportunities or even land you in jail! 

Keep reading for our top  tips on navigating business in Japan, without causing an international incident.

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Meishi -Business cards (known as Meishi in Japan) will be exchanged at every meeting so it is important to carry more than you think you'll need. If you will be working with Japanese clients frequently, it is a good idea to invest in double sided cards where your details are printed in Japanese using the same design elements as the English side of the card.  After you've introduced yourself, offer the card with both hands as it demonstrates more respect.  Make sure the card is facing out towards the recipient so that it can be easily read.  When receiving cards, you should again hold the card with both hands, taking the time to deliberately read the information before storing it.  You should never take notes on a Japanese business card, store it in your back pocket, or forget to take it when leaving a meeting as these are all considered incredibly rude.

Attire - Men should wear dark suits with white shirts and subdued ties, facial hair and pony tails are discouraged.  Some  businessmen have difficulty relating to women with authority in business, wearing dark skirt or pant suits, keeping makeup neutral, and avoiding jewelry and high heels will help you to be treated with respect.

Body Language- If the meeting is held in English, you will shake hands before.  If it is held in Japanese, bowing is appropriate.  The Japanese value their personal space, so avoid gestures such as a pat on the back or shoulder as they can make some people uncomfortable enough to avoid ever meeting again.

Meetings- Wait to be seated in the meeting room because there is a custom as to which side of the table each party sits on.  Taking notes is appreciated as it indicates interest and engagement. If you are going to be late, call ahead to inform the other party at least one hour before, punctuality is valued.  

Dining- Learn to use chopsticks before you arrive as western utensils aren't always provided.  Do not play with your chopsticks unnecessarily, don't pick up food by stabbing at it, don't use them to pass food to another person, and never wave them at someone while talking.  Loudly slurping your food while eating shows appreciation to the chef. Tipping your waiter is seen as rude, as is pouring your own glass.

Conversation- Make polite small talk before jumping into discussions about business.  An indirect communication style that protects the other person's self esteem is preferred, blunt conversation and raised voices will be seen as overly aggressive.



5 Things I've Learned From Being My Own Boss

We are living in an unprecedented age. The World Bank estimates that 30% of the global population (about 2 billion people) is self-employed and analysts predict this number will continue to grow-especially in North America and Asia.  Over 70% of millennials aspire to start their own businesses. But it's not just the under 35 crowd that's in on it, the majority of successful tech founders started their first company at age 39.  There's no denying it, small business ownership is hot.  I mean, who wouldn't want the freedom to do something you love, take holidays whenever you want, and make money while doing it?  It all sounds so glamorous! Until you're actually doing it, that is.  So if you're thinking of taking the plunge into the world of self employment, read this before you quit your day job.  

1. Business is like, hard

Excuse my inner valley girl but the obvious truth of this statement, and my stupidity in not recognizing it sooner, justifies it.  I come from a very entrepreneurial family and the seeds were planted young. From the time I was 10, my grandfather used to say, "If you're not going to work for yourself, work for the government".  I couldn't see myself as a gov. employee so I was always on the lookout for an opportunity to make my own.  In the meantime, I had the invaluable opportunity to witness the triumphs and trials of everyday life as a business owner.  You'd think this would prepare me for the challenges that lie ahead.  Instead, I thought to myself, "matchmaking? this is hardly building building a hotel/ fashion brand/ any of the other amazing businesses I've been lucky to witness".  I couldn't have been more wrong.  I've learned that no matter what you're working on-even if it looks fun and glamorous to onlookers-building a business bigger than yourself (even in the "love industry") is a lot  of work.

2. People Won't Get It

Try mentioning that you want to start a business to your family and friends.  I'm guessing 90% of the people you talk to will be skeptical.  If it's an established business model, they'll try to talk you out of it by saying "who needs another?", and if its a completely new business idea, they'll say things like "that's silly, no one will ever pay for that." They'll tell you that there are better uses for your time.  And you know what?  They might be right.  but if you've done your market research-and it still looks like a good idea-go for it!

But it isn't just the idea, or why you'd start a specific business, that they won't get.  Even after you've launched, and business is growing steadily, very few will understand what goes into it on a day-to-day basis.  To them, work looks like sitting at a desk or pound the keys on a blackberry.  They won't understand that whether you're at a cocktail party, reading a magazine, or staring blankly at your computer screen-the odds are high that you're thinking about your company. You and your business have become one. They may leave their work at the office, but a founder's work is never done.  Problem solving or planning the next step for your company is always on your mind.  

3. It's lonely

It's an amazing thing to have the opportunity to pursue your dreams, and watch your visions become reality, but it can also be an incredibly isolating experience.  Few people will understand the immense pressure you feel, knowing the success or failure of that dream rests on your shoulders.  On top of that, the time you have to actually spend with your friends and family can be limited.

4. Boundaries are Everything

When I first began, I was so eager to succeed that I'd bend over backwards to please my customers.  adjusting contracts to meet their specifications, placing no limits on the number of calls I'd take or time I'd spend to get the job done.  Even if it meant working beyond what the contract entailed.  Most people behaved within reason, but there will always be a few who push you to the limit just to see how far you'll go. It wasn't until a client berated me for not answering his call at 2am (for a casual inquiry) that I realized things needed to change. If you aren't getting the respect you want, it's because you've chosen to accept less.  Whatever you are willing to put up with is exactly what you will have.  Setting clear expectations up front can help you avoid  uncomfortable conversations later on.

5. Things will take you much longer than you expect

Go ahead and make that timeline but don't be too surprised when it goes out the window.  Humans are notoriously bad at predicting the amount of time any given task will take, my self included.  for example, I estimated writing this post would take one hour, yet 3 hours later I'm still writing it... Hofstadter's Law is a very real thing and, unfortunately, there's no way around it.  Even when we recognize that we have a tendency to underestimate the amount of time a task will take and attempt to account for the added difference, it will STILL take longer than you expect.  We're just too optimistic, or slightly delusional.