Job success may be written in the stars

Updated: 2012-03-20 08:33

By Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)

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 Job success may be written in the stars

Li Feng / China Daily

What sign of the zodiac you are born under could sway a potential employer, reports Zhang Yuchen in Beijing.

Wang Chao was stunned when he glanced through the online graduate job vacancies at his university. One advert especially caught his eye, and he could scarcely believe what he was reading: "Designer wanted, Virgo only."

The senior student, majoring in arts design in the Journalism and Communications Department at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, Hubei province, saw the ad in early March as he was busy correcting part of his graduation project, an animated film. The advert said Virgos were the preferred candidates because the sign is associated with perfectionists, making them ideal candidates for that type of work.

"I don't understand: If I am not qualified for the job and am rejected, I sort of can accept that," he said over the phone, "but if they turn me down simply because of my star sign, then I think that's unacceptable."

China Daily was unable to garner a response from the company that posted the ad. Meanwhile, the BBS thread was deleted immediately after students posted messages complaining about the ad. "I had no influence on the positions of the stars and planets when I was born," said Wang, "but the recruitment manager at the company insisted on a Virgo."

It may be the first time that Wang Chao has encountered "horoscopeism", as the phenomenon has been dubbed by the Chinese media, but the practice of choosing employees according to their astrological sign is becoming more widely adopted.

Liu Ming has been working as a human resources executive with the Wuxi-based Guolian Securities for about five years. He said some managers have asked him to pay more attention to the astrological signs of applicants. "A manager, born under the sign of Gemini, asked us to find someone who would match him in terms of personality, according to astrology. However, we did not take his advice. In fact, it's about the very last thing we would take into consideration. Candidates' working, learning and communication abilities are way more important," said Liu.

Meanwhile, Li Qin has been working as a headhunter in Beijing for about four years. She found that multinational companies, especially European ones, will stress the subject of astrology when recruiting managerial assistants or secretaries for the executives. "This type of screening is already done when they are going through the resumes. Normally applicants have no idea they've been turned down only because their astrological sign does not match the executive in question," said Li.

However, experts in relevant fields hold different views on horoscopeism.

"It is a bit preposterous," said Chen Xin, senior career consultant for, one of China's biggest employment agencies. "The signs of the zodiac were once seen simply as part of small talk among young people, who were trying to get to know each other better. They have never been viewed as a good method of evaluating a person's professional qualifications, character or personality. Not in an important way, at least."

However, for some employers, astrological signs are becoming a yardstick by which to assess potential employees. In November, an ad was posted on the campus of China University of Geosciences in Wuhan saying, "English teacher and secretaries wanted. Preferred candidates are Capricorn, Libra and Pisces. Virgo or Scorpio need not apply."

The recruitment manager of the institution said that in her experience, Virgos tend to be fussy and frequent job-hoppers. Meanwhile, the manager, surnamed Xia, said that Scorpios are tough and bad tempered, according to reports in the local media.

Astrological signs

"I think employers are one-sided when they pin down a certain range of applicants according to astrological signs and judge them without giving it a second thought," said Fei Xiaoou who has studied astrology and the tarot for many years and now, with help of some European astrologers, offers a micro blog horoscope service. "Astrological signs are not a comprehensive guide to someone's nature, because when we speak of a horoscope, we mean an all-encompassing overview of a person, not just a single aspect. In the same way that the stars and planets change their positions within the course of a sign, two people sharing the same astrological chart can be extremely different."

However, some people believe that the stars may have an influence on one's career path. Last year, The Staffers, China's first fashion magazine for working people aged 20 to 35, and supervised by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, examined the complexities of one zodiac sign per monthly issue as its main discussion topic.

The key words for the magazine in 2011 were astrological signs and jobs. "No superstition, no fortune-telling: we will give you easy access to understanding people in the workplace. That is the horoscope, through which you can learn more about yourself and your surroundings so that your capacity to judge people and solve problems will improve," read one of the ads for the magazine. The ads also promised that the magazine would help people to embark on a voyage of self-discovery.

"Previously, horoscopes were always treated as superstition or recreation, and were never seen as important in mainstream society," said Chen Xin, the career consultant. "However, we can see that that's all changing now."

New media

The rapid development of new media, including the increasing number of people using smartphones and the proliferation of social networking sites, has resulted in easier and growing access to a vast reservoir of information about the horoscope, according to Vivian Chen Jiaying, a Taiwanese astrological columnist who started cooperating with the website, Sina, seven years ago.

"Someone told me that they couldn't start the day without checking their horoscope first thing," said Chen. "The first thing on their daily 'must-do' list is to check their smartphone to see what the astrologers are forecasting. If they don't do this, they panic the whole day. Horoscopes are regarded as being more fashionable than traditional Chinese numerology."

Although she's open to the influence of the stars, Liang Huan, who works in advertising, only takes the advice of a small number of astrologers. She downloaded a mobile app using content from Nownow, the most popular astrologer in China who has published several books, including one on each of the astrological signs.

Liang's workmates call her a "star sign zealot", or "horoscope cultist" because of her insistence on explaining every aspect of her life, whether it's good or bad luck or a romantic coincidence, through the prism of the horoscope.

However, Liang seems not to have noticed the warning on the download page in the app store that read: "Astrological signs are only a decoration for life, designed to provide encouragement during the darkest moments. Believe it or not, it is up to you."

Professional doubt

"We professional astronomers or astronomy researchers, don't believe in it," said Zhan Xiang, of Beijing Planetarium. "The 88 constellations, and not just the 12 signs of the zodiac, were imagined by people as long ago as ancient Greece. There is no relationship between human qualities and the constellations, their names are simply designed to help people recognize them with ease. Any romantic aspect has been derived from stories contrived by the human imagination."

And there is no relation between the stars and the destiny of a single human being, said Zhu Jin, the curator of Beijing Planetarium. "The sophisticated interpretation of how stars in a constellation interact sounds very reasonable, even though the basis of that explanation comes from humans."

The positive part of the astrologer's job is to emphasize the bright side, especially when someone's life is pretty gloomy, said Fei Xiaoou who has studied the zodiac for years at home and abroad but insists that she is an amateur astrologer. "Astrological signs show several possibilities, not just a single one. I always purposefully reveal the more positive aspects to those who come to me with questions."

"But the truth is there is no quick fix, because nothing is definite. It is you who navigates your own future and decides the path to go."

Guided by lights

But some still prefer to let the astrologicals be their guide. The astrologer Vivian Chen Jiaying picks her staff according to their astrological signs. For instance, she prefers a Taurus as her financial assistant, while her private assistant has to share her own constellation because Geminis are said to "move and travel a lot" and "can't stand the company of a Virgo or Scorpio". Now her personal assistant, Nemo Zhang Xiufen, "appears a perfect match for her working style."

"When value systems appear too diversified and there's a lot of uncertainty in life, people need comfort or consolation from something that seems certain," said Chen Xin. "If two people share some thoughts or characteristics in common, they are companions treading the same road."

Now, the introduction of astrological charts to the workplace means people are seeking common ground and putting aside their differences, said Chen.

But that doesn't mean that the system needs to be so "exaggerated or inhumane", Fei said. "What I can tell from these incidents is that employers are in a real hurry and place too much emphasis on astrological signs, hoping to save time in discovering the perfect employee."

Shi Jing contributed to this story.

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