Do ‘Face Jobs’ Still Exist in China?

Do ‘Face Jobs’ Still Exist in China?
Feb 14, 2024 By Louise Levicky ,

Foreign faces became a valuable commodity for Chinese businesses after the country’s reform and opening policy began to gather pace in the 1980s. Where outsiders were previously reviled as “foreign ghosts,” suddenly, a foreign face could give a Chinese company status and prestige. This gave rise to so-called “face jobs,” where foreigners were hired as little more than window dressing to impress potential clients. But do face jobs still exist in China?

face jobs china

What are face jobs?

So what exactly is a face job and why was/is such value attached to foreign faces? To put it simply, a face job is when a foreigner is hired on looks alone in order to give a local company a certain international je ne sais quoi. Some Chinese companies believe having a foreign employee around gives them status and prestige in the eyes of other local companies as it gives the impression that they have lots of lucrative ties to foreign businesses.

While foreigners are often hired to help conduct international deals for Chinese companies, this is not strictly a face job as your skills are being used. In a real face job, you are essentially a prop, to be wheeled out at meetings, dinners and public events simply to look the part.

Do they still exist?

While the height of the face jobs fad is definitely over, there are still plenty of Chinese companies looking to hire foreigners for little more than their features. For most expats, the idea of being hired for a longterm position on their looks alone is not an attractive one, but these kinds of jobs can serve as a handy stopgap if you find yourself between jobs or strapped for cash. Some companies will offer thousands of RMB a day for foreigners willing to pose as part of their team or even a prospective buyer.

Whether you want a face job or want to avoid them, here are some tips on how to spot them:

Vaguely worded job ads

Some face jobs are easier to spot than others. Many China expats have turned up for what they think will be an exciting and fulfilling role, only to find their boss just wants them to shake hands and pose for photographs. Use your common sense and avoid applying for jobs that sound too good to be true and/or fail to specify job requirements and responsibilities. Phrases like “assist boss,” “attend meetings” and “entertain clients” without further elaboration may be warning signs.

Focus on appearance

Watch out for job ads that focus on appearance rather than professional experience or skills. Ads that call for “attractive” or “good-looking” candidates are probably face jobs unless they are for industries such as TV presenting and modeling.

Advertisements that specify a desired ethnicity, especially if that ethnicity is Caucasian, are also almost certain to be face jobs. A company backwards enough to think a foreigner is good for business is almost always backwards enough to have a preference for white foreigners.

Similarly, classifieds indicating a desired nationality should also be scrutinized as this can be a thinly-veiled attempt at weeding out non-Caucasian candidates. Last but not least, in some cases, the job ad will specify “male” or “female” where there is no good reason for there to be a preference.

Be aware, however, that it is common practice for employers in China to request a headshot on job applications. Sometimes face jobs will weed out undesirables this way rather than specifically stating their aesthetic requirements on their ads. But just because an employer asks for a headshot it doesn’t necessary mean it’s a face job. Confusing, right?

Job titles/sectors

Assistant roles, jobs providing “English-language training for the boss” or job titles such as  “company representative” are all categories that a face job could neatly fit into. Even some short-term ESL teaching jobs can turn out to be little more than “White guy in a tie” gigs. A friend of mine, a qualified teacher from the UK, was hired to teach kids English while they visited tourist sites in Beijing one summer. However, by day two, it was glaringly obvious that he was only there to fill out workbooks for the students and pose in the group photographs holding banners at different attractions.

What to do if you find yourself in an unwanted face job

Burning bridges is never a good idea in China, a place where guanxi is everything. If you realize you’ve been unwittingly duped into taking a face job, therefore, don’t throw all your toys out of the pram right away. There are a couple of paths of action to consider:

Try talking to your employer to see if you can take on additional responsibilities to expand your skillset and experience. You might find that although initially hired for your looks, you can prove your worth in other areas and actually improve outcomes for both sides.

If you decide to resign, be sure to respect the notice stated in your contract, which will likely be very little anyway if you’re still in the probation period. Even if you feel you’ve been wronged, you’ll want to remain on relatively good terms with your soon-to-be-former employer as you’ll need them to provide the documents necessary to transfer your visa to a new company.

With this in mind, always try to stay respectful and allow your boss to “save face,” even if you’re hopping mad. Unfortunately, legal recourse is not really a viable option, so just get out as quickly and gracefully as you can and mark it up as a lesson learned.

Related links:


What to Expect When Job Hunting in China

5 Red Flags to Look Out For When Starting a New Job in China

7 Rules About Part-Time Jobs in China

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Keywords: face jobs china


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Really good article and very rewarding! Thank you for sharing them with me and everyone. Have a good time with online.

Mar 12, 2024 14:45 Report Abuse


I guess it still exists

Mar 10, 2024 21:59 Report Abuse


I want job in your country

Mar 07, 2024 02:51 Report Abuse


This article is so important that it broke the space time continuum. Published 2/14/2024, but sent back in time to 2/04/2024.

Feb 04, 2024 23:40 Report Abuse