Finding a Job as a foreigner in Taiwan

We cannot help but find jobs in Taiwan while building our startup, without registering it as a business. As Taiwan allows more foreigners to live and work in the country, they could learn a few tricks from old-timers to improve their chances of landing their dream job, according to Taipei-based Scottish headhunter Alan McIvor.

McIvor said Taipei and New Taipei cities are where most foreigners work for companies. Foreigners who work outside these cities are mostly within English education industry.

“The only exception that I can think of is technology companies… Taiwanese technology companies that target the global market like Asus, Mediatek, Acer, Adata, and Moshi will hire foreigners to do their European or American sales marketing [for example],” McIvor said.

“I do know quite a lot about the foreigner job market just because I’ve come into contact with a lot of foreigners who are job seeking and I’ve spoken on the topic and I’ve written articles about it,” he said.

Tip 1 – leverage your language ability
“Chinese level is always something that they mention [as a trait of] almost every successful foreigner who has built themselves up on the career ladder… and the obvious exception to that is the expats… somebody who has been sent here by their company… they don’t speak Chinese, often their salaries are much higher [and] they’re usually only here for two years to five years.”

He said Taiwanese companies look for talents who speak native-level English while those who are targeting to expand in foreign markets look for those who speak the language of that foreign market.

Tip 2 – improve your personality
McIvor said many Taiwanese companies look for someone who could stand out in a startup work environment. “They want somebody who is a good fit for a start-up – they’re kind of young and passionate, quick moving, and westernized,” McIvor said.

“If a company in Taiwan is looking for a foreigner to join their company [they] would almost always be looking for somebody who’s already in Taiwan. It’s not easy to bring people to Taiwan; there’s too much risk involved from the HR point of view,” McIvor noted.

Tip 3 – start searching from companies who already hire foreigners
McIvor said look for companies that already hire foreigners right because it’s going to be much easier to work for those companies… “Just go on LinkedIn and directly message companies that you want to work for,” he said.

“I think the foreigners that do well here have this kind of hustle mentality, they’re not afraid to figure out solutions to their own problems right they’re like they’ll make it work… I did the same thing, I started the very bottom and then worked hard to prove myself,” he said.

Tip 4 – be realistic
McIvor said that currently, there is not much demand for foreign workers in Taiwan and there is still a gap between the number of gold card issuance.

“You should only stay in Taiwan if you really want to be in Taiwan. If you’re looking to build your career up or you’re looking to make lots of money then there are better places to live – Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Sydney, New York, Paris, London, all of these places are going to be much better for your career,” he said.

While McIvor is well-connected to foreign talents, he specializes in hiring very senior level Taiwanese. He began his headhunter career in Shanghai back in 2013 and came to Taiwan in 2015 to join Robert Walters before joining Bo Le Associates, Asia’s largest executive search firm, and in 2019, joined Paul Wright Group as Practice Leader in Taipei.

“Usually in sales marketing e-commerce, these types of commercial functions… mostly big companies like Nike, L’Oréal, Ferrari, Johnson & Johnson, GSK, these types, Shopee, Uber. I’m looking for quite westernized senior level Taiwanese candidates,” he said.