Ciweishixi uses the Western internship model to help young people discover their true passion, online and offline
Every year, millions of recent college graduates enter the Chinese job market – more than twice as many as the US. Their job search is a daunting one. The process starts with seeking campus recruitment opportunities on one of many popular job listing and headhunting online platforms, such as zhaopin.com, ChinaHR.com and 51job.com.
After the application phase, interviews begin. Chinese students regularly have to endure multiple interview rounds before receiving an offer, if they do. In the meantime, in order to make rent, many young people accept job offers that aren’t an optimal fit. A report by MyCos, a Beijing-based education consulting and research institute, found that 33% of young people who graduated from college in 2017 left their first job within six months.
Campus recruiting has become a popular cost-effective solution to talent acquisition among Chinese companies currently facing an economic downturn and increasing labor costs. According to Zhaopin.com CEO Guo Sheng, the number of enterprises performing campus recruitment during the 2018 fall hiring season – usually from September to November – increased by 80% over 2017.
This is where Ciweishixi comes in. By connecting fresh graduates seeking jobs and companies seeking new employees, this Shenzhen-based startup helps simplify the hiring season for all involved.
Bridging students and enterprises
Having worked as a senior HR executive at Fortune 500 companies for 17 years, Ciweishixi's founder and CEO Li Yaping felt that internships were undervalued in China. Li’s philosophy is that really knowing oneself, including one’s talents and interests, is essential to effective career planning. So she founded Ciweishixi in March 2015 to help young students prepare for future jobs.
Besides organizing job fairs for recent graduates, Ciweishixi also holds on-campus internship fairs for students. Compared with many established recruitment platforms, only a few startups provide internship recruitment services in China, including Ciweishixi's main competitor, Shixiseng.
Over 3,500 students attended a 2016 Ciweishixi internship fair in Wuhan. More than 30 participating enterprises, including Walmart and the China Life Insurance Company, interviewed candidates and extended 500 summer internship offers at the event.
“The scale was not big for [a recruitment event in] China, but I could feel the organizers’ focus on details. The staff were ready to help with any questions. And the event set a visitor limit to make it less crowded,” commented participant Zhou Yanping.
As of the end of 2018, Ciweishixi had helped nearly 1m students obtain internships and full-time jobs. The company's ultimate goal is to help young job seekers make better choices. Targeting common career search problems such as unclear job objectives and weak interview skills, Li’s startup offers interview guidance and career courses in addition to internship opportunities.
“Knowing what you can do and what you want to do is important for future career development,” said Li. “We encourage college sophomores and juniors to explore the real working world by working as interns. If your dream is to open a café after graduation, why not land a café internship first to see if you really like the career plan?”
Through Ciweishixi, some college students have gotten the opportunity to work as interns at high-profile startups such as ByteDance and Didi Chuxing. These young interns attain a valuable look at the internal workings of the Chinese tech scene. The companies appear to be benefiting from the short-term help as well. Since May 2019, the tech giant ByteDance has posted around 100 internship positions on Ciweishixi, from data analyst to front-end developer.
Room for improvement
For a growing startup, a single small incident can undermine customer trust.
Ciweishixi organizes international volunteer programs and college study tours for college students to help them explore their interests before graduating. In August 2018, a student who had attended the startup’s seven-day volunteer excursion to Chiang Mai, Thailand, priced around US$380, accused Ciweishixi of false advertising.
He wrote a post on Zhihu.com, a popular Chinese Q&A platform, to complain that the trip had failed to live up to the hype. The company had said, in its ad, students would partake in cultural activities such as cooking with local chefs and Thai yoga in addition to teaching Mandarin to local children. The student claimed the activities fell far short of what had been promised.
Ciweishixi has not yet commented publicly on the incident. The startup is looking to expand by launching more events to bring in new customers. By May 2019, Ciweishixi had already hosted 85 international experience programs, and the number is expected to reach 100 by the end of this summer. Bad word-of-mouth could have a negative impact on the startup’s future prospects.
Only three years after its founding, the company broke even as of April 2018. According to Li, in 2018, Ciweishixi earned revenue of RMB 20m, with 5m users. Although its user base pales in comparison to that of competitor Shixiseng, which has over 11m users, Li has said Ciweishixi prefers steady growth.
Li has refused to work with a number of companies, including some from the pharmaceutical and real estate sectors with a reputation for using interns as low-paid salespeople, even when these less reputable companies offer to pay Ciweishixi to host recruitment ads on its platform.
“The internship positions published on our platform should improve the job prospects of young people, not just help them make some extra money,” said the CEO.
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