Finding a job just got more difficult
hiring season as they battle for fewer vacancies
and face a prolonged, multi-layered interview
While the country’s main hirers expect to
take on more newbies, smaller companies
suffering from a sluggish economy anticipate
fewer new employees.
The nation’s top 10 conglomerates, including
Samsung and Hyundai Motor, are
planning to increase the number of new
hires this year. While a total of 79,000 were
hired last year, they are planning to welcome
81,440 newbies this year, a 3.1 percent increase
year on year.
Although LG, Lotte and Posco have not
yet finalized the number of new hires, they
have already said they expect the numbers to
be similar to last year.
Except for Hanwha — which had an exceptional
number of recruits last year due to
its solar energy business expansion, new entry
into the duty free business and acquisition
of Samsung Total Petrochemicals — no
conglomerate within the top 10 ranking expects
to cut back on the number of new
The nation’s No.1 conglomerate Samsung
Group, is increasing the number of new
hires to 15,000 from 12,000 last year. Hyundai
Motor is recruiting 10,500 people, the
largest number ever, breaking the company’s
record set last year with 9,500 hires.
GS Group is also increasing the size of its
hires from 3,600 last year to 3,800 this year.
Apart from the top 10 giants, the CJ
Group, recognized as a multimedia content
developer, will open 4,500 positions, which
is 1.9 times greater than last year’s recruitment
size. Shinsegae Group plan to bring
However, while the major players will be
opening their doors to more new hires, the
total employment market is due to shrink
this year, dragged down by smaller firms
who are struggling with the outlook of a
According to a survey conducted by job
portal Incruit with the nation’s 822 listed
companies, 48.8 percent said that they have
plans to hire college graduates this year —
6.2 percentage points lower than last year.
By company size, 48.6 percent of the
well-established mid-size firms said they
will hire newbies, 10.1 percentage points
less than last year, while the rate also decreased
for small-and mid-size enterprises
from 49.4 percent last year to 37.7 percent
More conglomerates said they plan to recruit
following the government’s guidelines
to expand employee hiring.
Regardless of the government recommendation,
finding a job with one of the 10
conglomerates will still be difficult as recruitment
processes are getting more complex.
Each stage of selection is planned to be
more difficult starting from document screening,
personality and duty capability tests, to
The so called “onion-peeling” interview
conducted by SK Energy for last year’s recruitment
is still a hot issue. Two interviewers
in the room conducted 90 minutes of interview
with one interviewee and ask question
after question, getting more difficult by
time. The process was compared to peeling
layers of an onion.
Previous SK applicants said the interview
was only about 30 minutes in 2009,
and even 10 minutes in 2006. However, according
to 27-year-old newbie at SK Group
surnamed Hong, the interview has become
“I had three types of interview sessions
categorized as group, presentation and personality
for eight hours,” he said. “For the
last interview there were seven department
heads sitting as interviewers.”
Lim Min-wook from Saramin, a job employment
portal, said, “The nation’s conglomerates
are starting to implement employment
processes of global giants like
Google, which is said to select new hires after
more than 10 interviews.
“While maintaining the total size of annual
recruitment, companies are playing a
strategy to cut labor costs by carefully selecting
new employees who won’t quit and
leave the company.”
The open recruitments for the conglomerates
begins early next month. Entry into
Samsung is expected to get tougher, experts
say, as they tightened the employment process
by reintroducing duty compatibility
tests at the document screening stage and
creative interview, a discussion type interview
“Business, in the end, is a process of persuading
buyers and consumers,” said Jang
Se-chan former interviewer of SK Networks.
“We evaluate in detail the logic applicants
lay out during discussion and presentation
and how effectively they persuade
LG and GS Group both test personality,
duty capability and Korean history. The Korean
history test was first introduced in 2014.
LG releases a written examination to test
knowledge on Korean history while GS conducts
paper tests or interviews depending on
its affiliate companies.
LG also tests applicants on their ability to
recognize Chinese characters. There are examples
of test questions on its recruitment
web site. A total of 1,300 characters are given
as examples for applicants to study.
Posco and Hanjin Group will only recruit
employees in the latter half of the year. For
Posco, attention is on whether the company
will offer preferential credits to those with
“We are considering whether to newly
establish a recruitment plan to find talents
with knowledge on multiple fields,” the
“College graduates with double majors
may as well target Posco,” said Park Youngjin
For applicants targeting Korean Air, the
main affiliate of Hanjin Group, the discussion
interview is especially important.
At the first stage of the interview session,
applicants discuss current affairs in a group
session. On the second stage of interview,
there are individual presentations and a
question and answer session. The final interview
will be focused on figuring out individuals’
personality and characteristics.
“It is a must nowadays to be knowledgeable
on current issues and to build one’s own
point of view as an aerospace industry insider,”
said Min Kyung-mo, from Korean
Air. “Applicants’ attitude, knowledge on
current affairs, and logical abilities are all
evaluated during the interview.”
For female job seekers, Lotte may be a
good option. In the past, the proportion of
women in Lotte was low owing to a conservative
However, the retail giant is expanding
recruitment and promotion plans for female
workers with current Chairman Shin Dongbin.
Lotte plans to fill 40 percent of its new
positions with female applicants.
In terms of requirements to make it into
conglomerates, the tendency of freeing applicants
from the so called specs, will continue.
Specs, which include academic backgrounds,
various certificates or licenses,
official English proficiency test results and
more, will be less considered for many of
“I failed to make it into the internship
of Lotte Department Store or E-Land even
though I had perfect scores on language
tests such as TOEIC and TOEIC Speaking,”
said a 23-year-old student at Sogang University.
“Such ‘specs,’ like the internship experience
I had in the United States and playing
honorary ambassador for a national conglomerate
didn’t work out for me.”
According to a survey conducted by
Saramin on 208 companies, 44.8 percent of
new hires will be assessed less on specs.
Of the respondents, 61.8 percent said
they would not consider applicants’ academic
BY KOO HUI-LYUNG, LEE HYUN-TAEK AND HUR JEONG-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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