For blind testing to be successful…In 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra had a curtain drawn while it held auditions for new musicians in order to select them without prejudice and only based on their skills. Many other orchestras have since adopted this method. According to studies, female musicians have 25 percent higher chance of being selected in blind auditions. On the popular television show “Masked Singers,” contestants cover their faces with masks and are judged only by their performance.
The Moon Jae-in administration requires the public sector to have blind recruitment and wants to expand the method to the private sector. Since July 2017, public agencies and local public corporations have implemented the practice. In blind recruitment, information that can lead to prejudice such as physical features, family information, regional background and academic background are not asked. Instead, only the knowledge and skills needed to carry out the job are provided and focused on.
The Blue House used blind recruitment to hire staff in specialized fields such as statistical analysis, translation and interpretation and photo editing. After the initial screening was conducted based on work experience and expertise, six women were selected. The Blue House commented that through the blind recruitment, it selected highly skilled workers from various backgrounds, not only men from certain universities.
Private companies also follow the government’s initiative. Some conglomerates had applicants submit proposals related to the job functions instead of including the names of their schools, their GPAs and English test scores. Kakao recently recruited developers based only on their coding skills.
In Korean society, personal as well as regional and academic connections are important. Prejudices against gender, age and appearance are also serious. Some applicants are eliminated in the initial process because they graduated from a regional college or are a woman. The blind recruitment is a shock needed to correct the wrong practice. It can also reduce corruption in public corporation recruitment tainted by unlawful favors.
However, the cases of five-year contracted positions at the Blue House and IT companies that require specific skills cannot be applied to other public corporations or private companies directly. It is hard for diligent and talented applicants to display their capabilities without providing their academic backgrounds or GPAs.
Just like a blind date, blind recruitment can provide to meet someone without prejudice, but it can also have low success rate.
For blind recruitment to be a successful job policy of the Moon Jae-in administration, it requires reinforcement.
First of all, a system of hiring through fair evaluation needs to be established. In the globalized era with fast-developing new technologies, it is unclear what knowledge and skills a company needs. Companies and experts need to develop a system to fairly evaluate ability to work in application screening and interview process. Upon entering, employees should be offered compensation and promotions based on job performance, not seniority or favoritism. The labor market should be flexible so that a worker who works hard and develops new skills at one workplace can easily move to another company.
Even with blind recruitment, it may be unfair if those who join a company earlier have an advantage throughout their career.
Educational reform is also important. The “inherited wealth” is prevailing as the economic and social status of parents increasingly decide the education and jobs of their children. One of the purposes of blind recruitment is to break excessive private education and elitism.
However, for education to serve as a ladder for class mobility, quality higher education should be expanded and support for low-income and disadvantaged children should be increased. Through higher education reform, colleges and universities need to produce graduates and future leaders who are equipped with the skills that companies want.
Reform to create good jobs is also needed. While the youth unemployment rate is at its highest in history, the bills to create more jobs in the service and innovative industries have not passed in the National Assembly.
If government policies focus on expanding jobs in the public sector, more applicants will prepare for civil service exams, and promising small and medium-sized businesses and innovative ventures will have harder time finding talented workforce. To eliminate gender discrimination in recruitment, more workplaces should focus on creating an environment that allows for a fair work-life balance, so that women can work through pregnancy and receive childcare.
Fair recruitment is something that Korean society should pursue. However, blind recruitment alone cannot offer jobs to everyone. It should be accompanied with efforts to educate a skilled workforce and create jobs where they can use their talents.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 21, Page 35
*The author, a former chief economist at the Asian Development Bank, is a professor of economics at Korea University.