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October 2012

Thrive in a Korean Company: "So, it's my first day at my new job in a Korean company that just moved into my town. What do I need to know so I don't ruin my chances the very first day?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to thrive in a Korean company. 


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"So, it's my first day at my new job in a Korean company that just moved into my town.  What do I need to know so I don't ruin my chances the very first day?"

"In many cases, managers of local Korean organizations try to adapt to the local culture. But frankly, the results of these efforts are limited and local employees often feel frustrated.

One key reason is the influence of head office, which restricts how much flexible the overseas office can be. For example, Korean companies are very top-down hierarchical, and established plans frequently change. Employees dispatched to run those overseas offices are sometimes switched out with surprisingly little advance warning. All this can be unsettling to a non-Korean employee without access to what’s really going on.

On your first day on the job, and probably for quite awhile after that, you’d be well-advised to watch and learn. You’re going to see some things you don’t understand; maybe a few aspects you don’t like and want to change. Trying to achieve change in the wrong way is likely to cause trouble; you should be looking for resources and a network to help you reach your goals within the existing structure.

Remember that help is only a few clicks away on Korea Business Central, where you can find information and reach out for support, training and advice."

Visit Korea Business Central for more information on working in a Korean company, including the full video of this interview.

 

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Learn more about the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your career in Korea.


Korean Translation Tip: A Surprising Aspect of Character Limitations in Korean Translations

I've been developing my skills in online marketing lately, which recently included earning a Google Adwords Individual Qualification.

In addition, since Korean is my gig and the Korean search engine Naver commands 70%+ of the Korean search market, I’ve done some studying there too. (If you have clients that need Korean-language online advertising, call me....)

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this (besides bragging a bit) is that a very interesting language quirk came up when I started working on Naver.

The headline of a Naver ad is allowed a grand total of 15 characters.

What?!?... Google gives you 25!

But here’s the thing... Each Korean character contains 2-4 Korean letters so this actually allows more space for including meaning than Google....

Unless....

You’re trying to advertise in English on Naver...

… and then you’re up a creek with only 15 letters!

Best Practices Tip - When you’ve got English to Korean translations with limitations on the number of characters permitted (such as video subtitling), you don’t really have to worry very much. In fact, within the same character limitations as English, we can write to our heart’s content in Korean.

(On the flip side, this causes occasional formatting issues in tables, but I’ll cover that in a later tip.)


Transcript of the Composite Audio-Interviews by Jared Muloongo for the "A Map to a Career in Korea" Report

KBC Intern Jared Muloongo interviewed various experts as part of his research in preparing the report "A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!" The following is the transcript of the podcast he created to for the project.

For links to the podcast and other interviews in the series, visit Supplementary Materials for a Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!"

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Jared: Welcome to Korea Business Central Get a Job Interview, produced by www.KoreaBusinessCentral.com. Korea Business Central – the premium information and networking site for conducting business in Korea. My name is Jared Muloongo and I’ll be hosting the first Get a Job audio report.

Today’s topic is about the job market in Korea. Finding a job in one’s home country is a difficult task. In a foreign country, the task increases. But in Korea, things become even more tricky. Unless one is educated on the market, it is near impossible to land a job in Korea.

Forget the stories you read on the Internet. Being successful in Korea requires determination, planning, and hard work. To be successful, one needs to understand and position themselves to be able to receive the benefits of good fortune.

With that in mind, I took time to interview Three individuals – two experts from different fields of focus and one administrator at a foreign-based company in Seoul. My interviewees were Jamie Lee, a global marketing consultant with human resource management and recruiting experience. Her recruiting experience came when she worked with the Korean Ministry of Education to hire over 600 educators in the English space.

Kristen Chen, an administrator for a foreign information technology firm. Like most of us, she was searching for a job in Korea over a year ago. Now that she has a job, her insights into her experience can help many of us understand what to expect in the job search.

Finally, Mr. William Sisson, a senior executive search consultant in Asia where he develops marketing strategies that solve staffing problems for multinationals. With over 16 years of experience, his insights make this report even more insightful for senior executives seeking new positions.

I began by asking them, “Does GPA or great academic results matter when applying for a job in Korea?”

Jamie:  This depends on what type of industry you’re applying to. It definitely is considered if you’re going to be applying for a teaching position, because the education boards in Korea do require a limited GPA score. They actually have a GPA limit.

It’s not anything crucial. You don’t have to be an academic person in order to apply, but there is a cutline. I don’t remember exactly what the cutline is, but I haven’t really seen anyone dropped because of the cutline. Only very seldom it happens. It is considered if you are applying for an education position.

But in general, if you’re just looking for a position in Korea or if the question is for Koreans who are applying for jobs in Korea, I wouldn’t say that GPA scores are actually used in the process of determining whether or not they’re going to have an interview with you, but there will be some HR managers who might take a look at it or might just have it to put in their file.

Kristen:  The overall job market composition in Korea is still somewhat heavily based on GPA and academic achievement, so I will say yes, it does when you’re applying to big companies – conglomerates and large Korean companies.

But of course one rule does not apply to everything, so GPA matters less if you’re applying to SME’s small-medium enterprise.

William:  GPA and academic results, in some cases, they do matter. Usually those cases are for entry-level positions. It also depends on the company’s requirements. However, even in some cases, the actual university that the candidate attended also is very important. There are many companies who seek out and will only accept candidates maybe who graduated from Ivy League schools or at least a top-tier school.

Usually those kind of candidates, they’re looking for law degrees, special MBAs, or maybe a specialty like engineering from MIT in the U.S.

However, for more senior level or a vice president or higher C-level position, then usually graduation from university is not much of a concern.

Jared:  Korea is big on Woori  so in hiring an individual, does personality matter? What kind of personality is needed to be able to work in a Korean firm? 

Jamie:  I would say yes to that question, but not so much because of the phrase or culture of Woori being important. If I were to tell you a little bit of myself first so I could give you a little bit of understanding where my answer is coming from, I grew up in America and I came to Korea at the age of 13. So I’ve had education in middle school and high school up to university in Korea, and then I got a job and had approximately 13 years of working experience in Korean firm and also an international, multinational firm in Korea.

Yes, it is important. I believe that personality is probably one of the most important factors in applying for a job. This is not so much for Korea. I would say it’s probably the same globally, but especially in Korea because of the culture.

Being a recruiter myself and working as a hiring manager, it just really doesn’t work out if you don’t have the personality that fits for the company you’re applying to. One of the things that hiring managers of firms look at is actually your first impression, and that really comes from your personality. It’s not what you say; it’s not how you say it. It really is a matter of the poise – the essence – that comes off from you as a person.

Understanding a person’s personality really does come from experience. With that understanding that personality is important, I think it’s good for you to know as an applicant applying for a job, especially in another country, it’s always good to understand the culture and try to be as polite as possible. They’re always looking for someone who has good interpersonal skills. A personality that shows you have good interpersonal skills would be someone who listens carefully and gives answers to questions that you’re being asked instead of just talking about yourself and not giving the answers that are being asked.

Listening attentively is very important, especially if you’re a non-Korean candidate who’s applying to work in Korea because there will definitely be a language barrier at some point in your life here in Korea – especially if you don’t have any understanding of the Korean language.

One important thing I’d like to mention is the communication doesn’t always begin at the time of the interview, but actually starts in the process of your e-mail correspondence – also the first impression you show when you come up to the front desk of the company that you’re applying to.

In some cases, I’ve also seen hiring managers asking for a few points for evaluation from the front desk receptionist to see if the applicant had any bad habits or treated the receptionist with bad manners as well. That might be a very different case, but I have actually seen that happen.

I would say, yes, personality is very important, but not so much because of the term Woori but just because it itself is a very important factor in communication I believe..

Kristen:  Like I mentioned earlier, career work culture is influenced by the Confucianism. The work environment is usually family-like, and in order to maintain this family-like work environment, company activities are usually arranged regularly to motivate employees. There is also the hierarchical structure where management decision process is usually highly centralized. As new hires, you usually do not get to participate in decision making. This also depends on each company’s corporate culture, and there will be slight differences in terms of actual work environment.

But of course, no matter where you’re coming from, you need to be prepared to work hard because your fellow Korean colleagues are very diligent and hardworking.

William:  Personality matters absolutely 100% of the time. In my experience, you can be extremely highly experienced, knowledgeable, and expert in your field, but once you get into the interview process, your personality can make the deal or can cause you to be dropped.

Absolutely, personality matters.

Jared:  How does one get noticed or become visible to hiring managers in Korea?

Jamie:  I’d say knowing someone in the firm you are applying to is, of course, the best route. If it is not possible to get yourself acquainted with international recruiters, be careful to find ones that are certified. Many of those are working in Korea. Send in your resume.

The best thing is to be able to get a face-to-face interview with your recruiter first, rather than just sending in your e-mail. If you wait and nothing happens, there’s a big possibility that nothing is going to happen.

Get yourself out there. Go out and meet people. Try to send in your resume to as many places as possible and try to use your network to help you.

Kristen:  To get noticed or become visible to managers in Korea, you need to have skill sets or experience that an average Korean does not have. For example, being trilingual – speaking Chinese, Korean and English – for a sales and marketing position will be a very big plus. Possessing a strong technical background while being fluent in English for an engineering position in an IT company will also be a very big plus, and so on.

William:  The main way for a foreigner to become visible to a hiring manager is through personal introduction directly from a Korean. How does a foreigner do that? 100% I fully believe in networking. Building, creating, and maintaining your social business network is one of the best ways to find a job in Korea.

Even if you’re not in the country now or even if you’re outside of the country, it’s a great idea to start networking, linking, and contacting people in the industry or associations that are related to what kind of industry or job market you want to get into.

Another way is for foreigners to maybe take a lower-paying job, such as teaching English, marketing, or something sales oriented and then network your way into a higher opportunity sooner or later.

The main key here is developing relationships with Koreans. This leads to building mutual trust and understanding of each other. I’d say if your network only consists of foreigners, expats, or only people that are from your country that you associate with, then your possibility of finding a job is very limited. But once you start reaching out into the Korean community itself, you never know who they know or who their father knows, where in casual conversation they may be looking for someone just like you.

Keep your mind open, keep your network open, and I think it will take you a long way.

Jared:  How does one utilize the network they gain wisely in order to gain a job? Now that you have a network and you’re maintaining it, what do you do?

Jamie:  I’d say this is more of a personal strategy. It should be led by your own instincts. But if I were to give you some examples, one might apply to an online application of an open position that you might find on the Internet or through an advertisement. It’s good to always include a recommendation letter. When I say recommendation letter, I would like to mention that it should have a signed signature – an actual handwritten signature – and be a hard copy rather than a scanned image if possible.

A recommendation letter should also contain a contact number to be eligible. Ask your Acquaintance to put in a few words for you that you submitted your resume to whichever company and whichever department you’re interested in applying for. Or if you have recommendations on LinkedIn that you’re sure the applied company will be familiar with, I think it’s a good idea to be sure to include a copy of a printed version of your LinkedIn profile and include that with your recommendation as well.

Kristen:  Through a network, you could skip the resume screening stage and usually jump directly to interviews. You should keep in touch with your network in Korea to keep yourself up to date on any insider job offer.

To maintain your network in Korea, social media is a very easy way these days. You could use that to stay in touch. Korean people like to meet up face-to-face, so catch up with the closer ones to maintain real relationships. Of course remember to help them out, because relationships, as we all know, is a two-way street. It could be you asking for career help one day.

William:  My number one suggestion is communication – and I mean communication frequently, but not on the level where you become burdensome or your e-mails start looking like spam mail.

For example, in my business network, I send out a quarterly newsletter which is a mixture of business-related topics as well as some of my personal experiences in Korea. Because I have a global network all over the world, I try to include some sort of trip I took or what’s happening in Korea that may be more of a personal interest than business related. I mix business and social networking into the same. Keep it kind of informal, if you will.

Other things I would do:

If you get noticed receives a promotion or a job change, send them a congratulatory e-mail or if you have some simple questions. I wouldn’t go begging for a job, but if you have questions about their company or maybe the industry in Korea, go ahead and send them a quick e-mail, but keep it short and keep it simple. Then maybe follow up and ask them when they have time, if you’re in the country, maybe meet for lunch or coffee and a general introduction.

Again, I say be very tactful and very professional and business-like. Even dinner or drinking or after hours, behave yourself. You never know who’s watching or who’s observing your activities. I even mean your online activities, discussions you post on KBC, LinkedIn, or other social networking sites and including the way you act in these face-to-face. Even though informal, your actions speak louder than words.

Jared:  What are some great resources to have and use in gaining a job in Korea?

Jamie:  As a hiring manager, I would definitely use KBC as a good resource. I’d probably send out direct messages to people I know who I believe might have good references or be able to connect me with anyone who might be knowledgeable of any applicants, because I do know that the people in KBC are very helpful people and really trying to help connect people with people.

The best way I would use KBC is to just contact the people I know directly and just send out messages for them that “I’m looking for this type of person if you can connect anyone or connect anyone, please let me know.” I’m sure a reply will come in no time.

I also might post more detailed information on Twitter, Facebook, and my LinkedIn and connect that to KBC either in a group or to the people I know.

Be sure to mention that you’re seeking a position. Also, don’t be afraid to write it in your bio, in your description so anyone who might come across your description will know that you’re looking for a position and it will prompt them to remember you, if they might encounter any possible position that’s looking for someone like you.

Remember to tweet about it and direct message to anyone you think may be able to help you, or even anyone you don’t think might be able to help you – you never know. Keep spreading the word. Remind yourself to keep reminding others.

Be prepared to have a finished resume and a good photo to send out to anyone that requests it. In Korea, the photo is important.

Kristen:  Great resources I recommend is definitely KBC. LinkedIn is also a good way for professional job positions. There is also SENSA Job World Korea. They hold either annual or twice a year job fairs in Korea where you can get to meet recruiters face-to-face and have on-site interviews right away. Sometimes local headhunters are useful also.

William:  There are many resources out there, and if you look on KBC, there is one discussion that lists job sites that post jobs in English or you’ll be able to search for English jobs on some other websites. If KBC members go to the job discussion, there’s a whole list of job sites.

Besides networking and finding the actual job site, if you’re from a foreign country, you can contact your embassy that’s here in Korea. Ask them if they could send you a list or you could find out what companies are in Korea and contact the company directly themselves.

It takes a lot of proactivity, a lot of research, and it takes a lot of hard homework for a candidate outside of Korea who wants to work in Korea.

Jared:  What kinds of resumes get noticed in Korea?

Jamie:  Keep it in good length. Don’t make it too long. It shouldn’t be too short. If the company you’re applying to is a multinational firm with the headquarters abroad, an English resume should be enough.

On the other hand, large Korean firms may request a Korean version, but don’t let that lead you to making a Korean version only. I recommend to prepare it only if you’re required to submit a Korean version. The English version should be enough for you.

It also will be good to include a cover letter. With regards to the cover letter, just be sure to direct the letter to the main of the firm that you’re applying to. Never make one standard for all positions. That never really works. Each time you’re applying, be sure to do some final touchups so that your resume does highlight the strengths that you feel that international firm would specifically be interested in a candidate.

Kristen:  A good resume should be two pages and reader-friendly with related experiences included and not every single experience that you’ve had. Also, a lot of candidates include some very personal information which is not necessary. Just make sure you stick to the related work experience and education, and make it short and sweet.

The people who should be reading your resume to help you get an advantage are the HR department definitely, because in the end they will be the ones hiring you and doing the hiring process, and of course the department or team that this position belongs to.

Let’s say you’re going for a marketing position. Make sure the marketing department’s manager reads your resume, because that person also has a lot to say in terms of hiring you or not.

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William:  We also pointed out about who should be reading and what things can be done to change the resume. If you’re talking about who should be reading the resume, I’m assuming that you are referring to maybe someone to help you edit it or make comments by someone other than yourself, which would be one area.

As an expat myself, one of the number one pet peeves I have, even when I read a resume that a Korean has written, is if they were too lazy to run spell check. I can overlook grammar, but if you are from an English-speaking country where it’s your first (or at least a high-level second language), then there’s absolutely no reason why spelling errors or even horrible grammar is acceptable.

The second thing is if you really, really want to make an impression on a Korean company, I would take the time and have your resume or CV translated into Korean. There’s Western style, which we use resumes in the U.S. area. CVs are more European style, and at times CVs can be a bit confusing to Korean HR.

Korean style resumes are very template form. It’s almost a fill-in-the-blank. One of the biggest things that Korean style has is basically a self-introduction. This is where you would write almost an autobiography about your life, your philosophy, your dreams, what you believe in, your goals, your desires. It’s a whole different format from a traditional Western or European style resume or CV. It definitely will help you in the process if you take that into account.

Jared:  There is no substitute for practice before an interview. What can individuals expect to be asked when applying for a job interview? Do you have five easy tips for them to remember?

Jamie:  Who you are being interviewed by and what type of position you’re applying to, of course. I could go into a 2-3 page long discussion – article, actually – on this topic, but if I could give you just a few general questions that are frequently used in the Korean market, they would probably narrow down to the following questions.

“What makes you a strong candidate for the position?”

The next question probably would be “Tell me about your understanding of the position and what skills are required?” They do like to hear your knowledge about the position and the company you’re applying to. It’s a real minus if you have no information about the position you’re applying to.

Another question might be “Tell me about a problem you had in the office or with a colleague and how you overcame it.” This will give you a chance to show your leadership or problem-solving skills.

Another question might be “If you drink, how much do you drink?” I know this is a silly question, but as silly as it is, it is actually one of the most frequently asked questions in Korea. I also wonder why they ask this question. I assume that it is because of the drinking culture in Korea. There are a lot of people who don’t drink in Korea as well these days, but they do have a tendency to appreciate it if you’re able to just go with the flow and be able to enjoy at least a drink. It’s never good to say you’re a heavy drinker.

Another question is a very, very difficult question. It’s actually a very simple question. They might ask you out of the blue “Tell me about yourself.” I’d say that’s probably one of the most scariest questions, because I’ve never seen anyone who’s 100% prepared for that question. Any HR manager or recruiter who asks this question is a very smart one, because this really gets you out of the blue, but it’s a chance to check your personality and see what kind of person you really are – if you’re a prepared person or not. It could also be a trick question. On the other hand, you could really take advantage of this question and be able to promote yourself.

They also might ask you if you work well under pressure, to give an example. Practice makes perfect, so practice in advance. It will help you to make a Q&A sheet and try to think of all the questions that might be asked and how you would answer them. It’s better if you write it down on paper. You don’t have to memorize it and I wouldn’t recommend you to do that because you might sound like a robot when you’re answering the questions if one does come up from your Q&A sheet. But it is good to write them down. That will be a very good practice for you.

If you have a recruiter, if you’re working with a recruiter, you can ask them to provide you with a Q&A or dos and don’ts for the possible interview that will be held.

Also, I’d advise you to research the web. Look for as much information as you can on the company you’re applying to. These days it’s not too difficult to find related people or staff members on social media like Twitter or LinkedIn and just try to link in as many people as you can, and you might be able to ask them questions. What kind of questions were they asked when they were applying to the companies they remember?

It also helps to look at other people’s LinkedIn profiles who are working in the position you wish to work in in the future. If they’re working for that company, it also might help to see what they’ve written down in their LinkedIn profiles.

Think about what kind of achievements you want to highlight or what other people have highlighted in their profile as well.

Kristen:   A question you can always expect to be asked is “Why do you choose to work in Korea?” Sometimes you’ll be asked, “What makes you come to Korea?” Make sure you are prepared for this question and offer them your most sincere answer first.

Study the company well so you will know how to match your skills and personality to the position and the company during the interview.

Be prepared to ask your interviewer questions. I say this because this is the candidate’s chance to clarify anything that’s ambiguous, such as the company’s work culture. If it’s not something you’re looking for, then both of you could end up not very happy.

Third, do your homework for the salary so you will know how to negotiate when the time comes.

Fourth, get ready to be asked some personal questions such as, “What is your father’s occupation?” “Are you married?” and so on. Usually Korean companies do ask quite personal questions to do a little background check of who you are.

Last, be ready to persuade the interviewer that you’re not another foreigner who will just ride and jump. This is often a recruiter in Korea’s biggest fear.

The question you could ask to ensure this does not happen is, “Is there anything about my background that gives you a concern?” to go for a good conclusion.

William:  My tip on interviewing is to practice, practice, and practice. If you’re not good at interviewing, you get nervous or you’re unable to communicate, then you really need to practice with your friends, family, classmates, strangers on the street. You need to be able to think quickly and business-like to any question that the HR person might ask you.

Traditionally, Korean interviews follow the Western style interview, meaning they’re going to ask you about your experience, knowledge and skills, but they may ask you some of the strange questions like, “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?” or some of those hypothetical questions. They’re basically the same style interview as any other country.

I also want to point out that the way you act in an interview – the nonverbal communication – also says a lot about you and makes an impression on the HR person about what kind of individual you are.

When you’re practicing your interview, I would suggest you record it with a video camera or ask a friend to take notice with nonverbal cues. What I mean here is sometimes when people speak, they play with their hair, scratch their nose too much, their hand gestures are too big, or they don’t make eye contact. There’s a lot of nonverbal communication that the HR people look for, so you need to practice and take notice of these actions as well because they can also be read in a negative.

Jared:  What positions should individuals seek to apply to when they are trying to get into the Korean job market?

Jamie:  That’s a very general question. If you’re asking the trend, I’d say that there are more possibilities in jobs in the IT field, definitely in the education field in general. But you would really have to do some research on that, I’d say. This is in the case you don’t have a specific profession that you already have accumulated enough experience.

When I say education, I do mean teaching in Korea because in order to apply to be a teacher, you don’t actually have to have teaching experience so this is a good start off if you don’t have any working experience or if you’re not sure of what position you want to work in or develop your career in the future. It’s a good starting point if you don’t have experience.

I am aware that the island of Jeju  of Korea has several international schools that may hire teachers, or also administrators, from around the world. They are working on trying to make Jeju Island a very strong place for education for Korean students, but they’re also recruiting students from around the school so they will be needing a lot of English speakers there too.

If you don’t have any experience, you can apply to an ESL teaching position. If you get hired for an ESL position, the Korean government will issue you an E2 Visa which enables you to work in Korea as a teacher for one year. It’s very easy to get that visa extended.

You do not have to have a certification. You do not have to have teaching experience. However, you will be a stronger candidate if you have studies in English, education, or linguistics. The minimum requirement is to have a BA in any field.

William:  I found this question very tricky, because very little work experience for Korea can be a very big plus, or a big disadvantage. It all depends on the company and what the company is looking to hire.

The most important is the age range. Korea is very hierarchal. You may be highly qualified, but you may be too old or you may be too young. Many of the larger companies have spring and autumn hiring sprees. This is a time when they generally hire fresh graduates, because this is graduating time in Korean universities. This is when they bring on board the thousands and thousands of brand new entry-level employees who have very little experience or just graduated from university.

I think if you’re a fresh graduate, you need to keep an eye on the type of company, websites, and their staffing procedure. Some do travel hiring sprees where they may visit to the U.S. or Europe. People need to take the proactive approach and follow what these companies are doing.

If you are an experienced person, then you need to look at their website and see what kinds of positions are being offered. I would also suggest that if you’re experienced enough, you contact headhunters and search firms in Korea and send them a copy of your resume. They have usually more mid-management and senior level or contracted out to the headhunter community. You need to be in contact with the multiple headhunters who will be able to let you know when a job matches your skill set.

Don’t forget even if you’re just a fresh graduate, what will set you apart from the thousands and thousands of Koreans who are applying for the same position is possibly going to be your language skills. If you have a unique language or bilingual/trilingual language skills, this will really set you in a higher bracket than, say, a Korean who only knows Korean. Make sure this appears on your resume.

Jared:  We know work experience has an effect on getting hired. When interviewees have little to no experience, what can they include in their resumes to show they have the necessary skills to make up for a lack of work experience?

Jamie:  I think that’s a very good question and I think my answer goes for any country. Any volunteer experience such as working at the community center or a Sunday school, such as Sunday school teaching, is very helpful. Or any leadership experience such as working as a football coach in high school or university, or working as a librarian. Tutoring experience is also considered in many cases.

Just be careful to understand that working at a bar or as a DJ at a club can get you off the potential list. In Korea, there is a very negative view on bars or clubs, so I wouldn’t put that in your resume. But any type of volunteering work will definitely be a plus.

Kristen:  For those who have very little or no experience, they could include their part-time job experience, extracurricular and/or volunteering experiences on their resume because these experiences will often give the recruiters an idea of what kind of person they are and what kind of transferrable skills the candidate has. This usually makes up for the lack of employment experience.

William:  I would say almost 99% of the ones who get the job are very proactive in their job search. They’ve completed some sort of industry-related internship either in their home country or abroad. It’s very good if you can do an internship with a Korean company maybe in your home country.

Also, if you’re young enough or have the time, if you can start learning the Korean language, that only can be a huge plus for getting the job in Korea.

Jared:  What things should foreigners expect to find when they get a job in Korea? The reason behind the question is to gain an expert advantage by being able to show a unique understanding of the Korean work environment.

Jamie:  It’s a very interesting question. It’s kind of vague as well in my perspective. Maybe I can take you through a little bit of the experience I had when I went into firms in Korea.

One of the things you can expect is probably on your first day, you won’t have any work on your table. There is a culture to go around the entire company and say greetings to the people you’ll be working with in each department. Soon after you join the company, you will probably have a welcoming party for you. It will probably be a dinner party where there will be alcohol. You should remember to be careful that no matter how casual the atmosphere seems, there are always people who will be evaluating your behavior. Keep that in mind.

That also goes for dress code as well. Even if your colleagues and even if your company has a culture of wearing jeans to work, I would say in the Korean culture image is very important, so dress as professional as possible. Over-dressing is always better than under-dressing.

Keep in mind you’re being evaluated at all times. Just be careful what you say. Be careful not to make any mistakes and give yourself some time to get used to the company culture before you head on. Don’t push yourself to show your leadership in the first few weeks. After you’re able to mingle in with the people at your company, then it’s the time you need to start and really boost your performance.

What I’m trying to say is social life in Korea can be very difficult, but it’s also very important at the same time.

Kristen:  Like I mentioned earlier, Korea work culture is influenced by Confucianism, so the work environment is usually family-like. In order to maintain this family-like work environment, company activities are usually arranged regularly to motivate employees.

There is also the hierarchical structure where management decision processes is usually highly centralized. As new hires, you usually do not get to participate in decision making. This also depends on each company’s corporate culture, and there will be slight differences in terms of actual work environment. But of course, no matter where you’re coming from, I think you need to be prepared to work hard because your fellow Korean colleagues are very diligent and hardworking.

William:  I think this is probably the most important question out of all the ones we’ve talked about. Working in Korea can be a very rewarding and life-changing experience. For example, I came here for one year and was expecting to return home. Now I’m going into my sixth year here in Korea.

Many foreigners who have an opportunity to find out that working in Korea is not as easy as they thought it would be, but if you keep an open mind, you accept the culture and you acclimate yourself to the Korean culture (their social and business structure, which is different), I think your time, if you’re successful in getting a job, will be very, very fulfilling.

Koreans have what they call the Korean way of doing business. Over the years, many expats have tried to change them. Gradually these Korean companies are taking notice that the Korean way is not always the best way to do business, and outside of Korea, it is not acceptable in the global market.

I have seen that Korean business culture is still developing. They are growing and I think in the next few years, they will finally be considered part of the internationally accepted standards, procedures, and processes that other global companies have around the world.

Jared:  With that, we come to the conclusion of our audio report. Thank you for listening. Goodbye. 

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Q&A with Executive Recruiter William Sisson About Getting a Job in Korea

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KBC Intern Jared Muloongo interviewed executive recruiter William Sisson as part of his research in preparing the report "A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!". The following is the original Q&A for the interview.

For links to this and other interviews in the series, visit Supplementary Materials for A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!"

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Ten Keys to Master that Will Put You in Front When Finding a Job in Korea

***Please note that the comments are from my 5 years of recruiting experience and are for professional level positions/candidates only.

1. Does GPA / great academic results matter when applying for a job in Korea?

GPA and academic results do matter when applying for a job in Korea depending on the level of the position and the company. In some cases the actual university attended matters as some companies will only accept candidates who graduated from top 10 or Ivy League listed universities. This usually matters when they are looking for a speciality candidate i.e. Law School, MBA or Engineering graduate. For more senior level or C-Level candidates university records usually do not matter.

2. Korea is big on ‘Woori’ so when hiring an individual does personality matter? What kind of personality is needed to be able to work in a Korean firm?

Absolutely, 100% personality matters and can be a deal breaker and your candidacy dropped if any of the following occurs during the process;

  • The candidate seems arrogant, boisterous and over proud
  • The candidate is unwilling to produce evidence of current or past compensation and other records and documentation
  • The candidate does not show some humility during the interview process
  • The candidate is loud, overbearing and non-business like
  • The candidate seems to not “fit into the company culture” – able to get along with co-workers or does not seem able to fit into a hierarchy based company.
  • The candidate seems, is or acts to young (immature) or to old (based on direct report’s age)
  • The candidate has visual tattoos, piercings or other unique appearances
  • The candidate has no knowledge of Korea or its culture and past history i.e. Financial Crisis in 1997, Japan occupation, etc…
  • The candidate is clueless on global current affairs especially pertaining to Korea and Korean companies i.e. Samsung –vs. - Apple etc…
  • The candidate has no knowledge of the companies past or current history, products, growth, executives, markets etc…
  • The candidate is not willing to submit to health checks, work long hours and have dinner with co-workers without prior notice. (not in every case but be prepared)
  • The candidate is unwilling to be “open” about their personal lives – i.e. marital status, religion, blood type, weight, etc… at one point all of these will be asked by someone
3. How does one get noticed or become visible to Hiring managers in Korea?

The main way for a foreigner to become visible to a hiring manager is through a personal introduction which is held in higher regards if it comes from a Korean. How does this occur? Networking. Building, establishing and maintaining your social and business network is the best way to get a job in Korea even if you are currently out of the country. If you must take a lower paying or level job once you are in Korea then start developing this network and sooner or later positions will open up. Developing relationships in Korea is “key” to building mutual trust, relationships and understanding with others. If your network only consists of expats who are from your home country your chances of landing a great job is limited. Reach out and kindle relationships among the Korean community. You might be very surprised of who they or someone they know might have direct contact with.

4. How does one utilize the network they gain wisely in order to gain a Job? Now that you have a network and you are maintaining it. What do you do? 

Communicate frequently - but NOT on the same level as a stalker, beggar or a desperate soul. In my business network I send out a quarterly newsletter that is a mixture of business and personal reflections of the quarter. Because it is a global network I often include some current events or my experiences in Korea.

Other things to do would be if you hear that someone received a promotion, send them a congratulatory note, if you have some simple question ask them directly via email, invite to meet them for lunch or coffee just to introduce yourself. And again – be very tactful, professional and business like even if dinner and drinks are involved. You may know it or not but you are being sized-up, evaluated and assessed by your on-line actions including email communication, social network “comments” and your face-to-face interactions.

5. What are some great resources to have and to use in gaining a job in Korea?

a. KBC is a great resource how would you as a hiring manger look for potential candidates to hire?

KBC could be used to look for potential candidates. However, as the system is not established to target certain criteria – a general “Discussion” must be submitted. What happens then is that many unqualified people contact me and I must take time to review their resume and then respond and deny their acceptance. If I used KBC I would ask for referrals of only qualified people for specific positions.

b.  How can potential candidates use a resource like KBC in your opinion to get noticed?

Getting noticed is not the problem; being qualified is the problem.

If KBC wants to assist its members in finding jobs then KBC needs to market to HR and hiring managers the benefits of viewing the site including ways to search and contact members. Not socially as “friends” but based on their posted resumes. But please note – an HR manager is not going to take the time to sift through resumes without some sort of key word search or a system that will weed out the unqualified.

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6. What kinds of resumes/ C.V’s get noticed in Korea?

a. Which people should be reading my resumes in order to help me gain an advantage in Korea?

b. What things can one do to their Resume / CV to get noticed?

I am going to combine both of these questions as they are very closely related and dependent upon each other. A) I am not sure who you mean “should be reading my resume” but I am going to assume the following – have your resume reviewed, edited and commented on by someone other than yourself. Errors in English spelling and grammar are unacceptable if you are an English speaker. If you really want to make an impression then get your resume translated into Korean. It will double your chances if the HR person does not have strong English language skills. Keep your resume short, simple and to the point. Keep it business focused and only put business related experience on the resume itself.

Structure should be very simple;

      Dates of employment                        Title    Company       Location

  • Achievements – not your job description but what you actually achieved doing this work.
  • Keep the sentences short – on a resume they do not have to be complete
  • Uses bulleted points. Saves time for the HR person

At the top of the resume use a Qualifications and/or Summary sections where you show in total years of experience what you have achieved. For example;

Qualification Summary

            Customer Services & Relations – 7 years

            International Marketing – 5 years

            Business Development – 2 years

I have attached a presentation that describes all of the above and more.

7. There is no substitute for practice before an interview, what can individuals expect to be asked when applying for a job in Korea? Do you have 5 easy tips for them to remember? (Sorry more then 5)

My tip on interviews is to – Practice, Practice, and Practice.

If you are not a good at interviewing then get your friends, family or class mates to practice interviewing your. Record your answers and play them back. Practice in front of a mirror. Take notice of any non-verbal actions that you do i.e. play with your hair, rub your nose, use your hands to much etc… all of these are being read by the person interviewing you and can be distracting. Keep your answers short and to the point.

Log onto the internet and research interview skills, watch videos on YouTube etc. There are many common interview questions and you can find sample answers on the internet. Korean interviews usually include basically the same questions as any other interview. However, be prepared, in some cases as I mentioned before, to answer personal questions that in other countries might be deemed as inappropriate.

8. What positions should individuals seek to apply to when they are trying to get into the Korean job market? Any recommendations for individuals with very little work experience?

This question is very tricky as “very little work experience” can be a plus or a big disadvantage – it all depends on what the company is looking to hire and the age range they are looking for. Many of the large companies have spring and autumn hiring sprees when it is the time to bring aboard fresh graduates with little or no experience. Keep track of these on the company’s web page.

But don’t forget that what sets you apart from a Korean who is applying for the same position is not only possibly global experience but Language skills. Korean companies are first going to hire Koreans – makes perfect sense. However, if you can bring a useful skill, such as your native language into the company, you now have a better advantage over the competition.

9. We know work experience is a factor in getting hired, when individuals have little or no experience what can they include in their Resumes to show that they have the necessary skills to make up for the lack of work experience?

The ones who get the job? – are proactive in their job search, have completed industry related internships in their home countries or abroad – especially with a Korean company and have Korean language skills is highly desirable. Having some knowledge of Korean will take you very far in your career development in this country.

10.   What things should foreigners expect to find when they get a job in Korea? The reason behind the question is to gain an extra advantage by being able to show a unique understanding of the Korean work environment.

Working in Korea can be very rewarding and a life-changing experience. Many foreigners who have an opportunity find out that it is not as easy as they thought it would be. If you keep an open mind, accept and acclimate yourself to Korean social and business culture your time in Korea will be very fulfilling. Koreans have the “Korean way of doing things” and many expats have tried to change them. Gradually Korean companies are taking notice that the Korean way is not always the best way to do business nor is it acceptable in the global market. Korean business culture is still developing, growing and in the next few years and may finally be considered a part of internationally accepted standards. 

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Get a Job in Korea: "What Korean industries are hot right now? Where can I find the best jobs?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to find a job in Korea. 

 

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"What Korean industries are hot right now? Where can I find the best jobs?"

"I’ve already mentioned English teaching, but that’s not our focus on KBC, where many of our members are currently transitioning into business positions that will help them achieve their career goals over the long-term.

In general, Korean companies that are expanding overseas and/or doing business with foreign companies have the biggest demand for non-Korean employees to help them connect with overseas buyers and markets. Major industries in Korea include electronics, automobiles and shipbuilding, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to these.

Thanks to the recent popularity of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, Korean companies and other organizations are currently engaged in a massive effort to package and promote cultural products overseas too, including food, sports, tourism, music and entertainment.

Finally, another hot area is in professional business services, thanks in part to the free trade agreements the Korean government has signed with most of the advanced world.

Training and other professional services to the many foreign companies doing business in Korea is another avenue to pursue."

Visit Korea Business Central for more information on getting a job in Korea, including the full video of this interview.


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Q&A with Graduate Student Juan Aguilar About Getting a Job in Korea

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KBC Intern Jared Muloongo interviewed graduate student Juan Aguilar as part of his research in preparing the report "A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!". The following is the original Q&A for the interview.

For links to this and other interviews in the series, visit Supplementary Materials for A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!"

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Ten Keys to Master that Will Put You in Front When Finding a Job in Korea

1. Does GPA / great academic results matter when applying for a job in Korea?

When I was applying for some multinational companies, one of the requirements at the time of filling the application was to indicate the GPA of at least the latest degree coursed. Companies are looking for the best of international applicants, in order to fill the spot that a Korean person cannot.

2. Korea is big on ‘Woori’ so when hiring an individual does personality matter? What Kind of personality is needed to be able to work in a Korean firm?

The personality of an individual clearly has to have certain qualities in order to work in big companies. These qualities vary from person to person, but the individual has to be aware that he/she will be working there as a team, therefore the relationship within the colleagues has too run smoothly. Companies are looking for multitask or interpersonal individuals who can work alone and in-group. The individual must know how to leave outside the company his/her personal issues and to work based on the company’s working culture. Therefore a good understanding of the Korean business etiquette and the internal company’s working culture is a good start in the application process. The personality of the individual must include a positive view of any circumstance, to be proactive and eager to go one step further for the company’s success. Also keep in mind that your personality might dictate the type of job you are looking for. A marketer is expected to be talkative, innovative and to work in a fast environment. An IT Technician would not need such personality but a calm one with good insight and deep concentration.

3. How does one get noticed or become visible to Hiring managers in Korea?             

At least in the multinational companies I have applied for, each one of them has their own application system, from an online application to a downloable package. These application systems let the applicant to write a small introduction, important aspects of their experience, pros and cons of their personality, their future perspectives working at the company in question, and lastly why the applicant think they would be a good asset to the company. Basically these areas let the applicant to “sell him/herself”; therefore a well-written essay will in fact call the attention of the managers in charge. When the company do not have these application methods, the cover letter and the C.V are your tools of trade.

4. How does one utilize the network they gain wisely in order to gain a Job? a. Now that you have a network and you are maintaining it. What do you do? 

 The greatest network you have, the more opportunities you will have when looking for a job. Recommendations are very important in Korea, if we have contacts inside companies you want to apply and they are willing to write a recommendation letter or a suggestion to get one hired, you will have more chance of success.

At the time of doing networking, what it makes us excel above others is our personality. If this aspect is fulfilled, when the opportunity arises, our networking peers would not hesitate in contacting us. Is that personality and vibe that makes them remember us. First impression is always important.

5. What are some great resources to have and to use in gaining a job in Korea?

a. KBC is a great resource how would you as a hiring manger look for potential candidates to hire? 

KBC is a great tool for getting started. The selection of online recruiters and search engines has helped me to find some companies I was not aware of.

b. How can potential candidates use a resource like KBC in your opinion to get noticed?

Certifications are the way to go. The more certifications you have the more you will be noticed. Certifications help you to learn skills that can be related to your major, or not. KBC certifications are an excellent idea to start in the Korean business area because you will let the company knows you have knowledge comparable to a Korean person.

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6. What kinds of resumes/ C.V’s get noticed in Korea?

a. Which people should be reading my resumes in order to help me gain an advantage in Korea?

Korean professors can give an insight of how well the resume is written. Also some recruit companies may give you feedback if necessary. Depending on the circumstances, some comapanies will ask you to provide a resume in Korean. 

b. What things can one do to their Resume / CV to get noticed?

In my experience, applying to multinational companies, the H.R Department is flustered with all the resumes and applications received in a short lapse of time. A one-page resume I believe could make the difference, stating the best of our experience and knowledge. When the companies do not have an application package, your cover letter should sell yourself.

7. There is no substitute for practice before an interview, what can individuals expect to be asked when applying for a job in Korea? Do you have 5 easy tips for them to remember? 

If is the first of the interviews, the H.R personnel will ask you simple questions, such as why are you in Korea, what are your plans, if you know Korean, if you are married, marriage plans, your expectations, how you find out about the company, they may even ask your favourite Korean food or if you drink and how many bottles of soju can you consume.

  • Be Polite (knock the door, wait 2 seconds and enter. Bow and salute).
  • Try to not to show that you are nervous. Be sure of your answers. 
  • Do not hesitate in answering personal questions. This is not the western world.
  • Try to praise the company. They want to know if you really like the company or not. Explain how you knew about the company, or any good insight about it, so reading about the company’s history and latest news is necessary.
  • Try to mention that you really want to stay in Korea. Let them know you have knowledge in something regarding the Korean culture, food, drinking culture, Korean language, etc.

8. What positions should individuals seek to apply to when they are trying to get into the Korean job market? Any recommendations for individuals with very little work experience? 

Always speaking regarding big corporations, the job will depend of the exact position they are offering.  If the company you want to work does not have any jobs available you can always send them an e-mail to keep your C.V in their database. When a corporation is looking for an individual for a specific task, experience is very important.

Some multinationals are offering entry-level positions. A bachelor is a must and a master is more appealing. At the entry level, the company will train you, but your education, personality and virtues will be of such importance at the time of the interview. Certifications are important as well as your language skills.

9. We know work experience is a factor in getting hired, when individuals have little or no experience what can they include in their Resumes to show that they have the necessary skills to make up for the lack of work experience?

If at school you have made some type of study, market research project, or anything similar, you can add it in your experience. Be aware, you do not have to specify it was a college project. At the time of the interview, if they ask you, then you can describe it in detail.

10.   What things should foreigners expect to find when they get a job in Korea? The reason behind the question is to gain an extra advantage by being able to show a unique understanding of the Korean work environment. 

Learning the internal company’s culture is expected, as well as the continuous learning of the Korean language. For example you are expected to arrive at work at least half an hour before and to leave at least half an hour after the stipulated time. In some other cases, you will need to stay until your team leader or vice president leaves. The KBC Professional certification will teach you all the things you need to know regarding the Korean business culture. 

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Juan also got an internship at a major company in Korea. Here is his story about how that came about.

I truly believe in networking, and now more than ever. Thanks to the people I have known for the past two years while living in Korea, I could help myself economically and socially. Networking is of such importance for me because thanks to it I got informed about an internship opportunity at Posco Steel. Big corporations need to fill a quota of new employees every year, usually using the best of the Korean universities to look for their candidates. Luckily I have friends at Korea University, and I applied few days after the announcement was released.

In this case, Posco Steel was looking for international students from certain countries, to work in the Marketing and International Affairs departments. The Korean language was not necessary but knowledge was a plus. The only requirement was to be able to assist to a 2 weeks internship. In order to apply, the company has its own job package, in which the applicant must fill their education, experience, talk about them, including pros, cons, future plans and why the company should hire them.  You have to take consideration in the essay-type-questions because those are the ones the HR Dept. will review carefully. The process of choosing a candidate was very fast. In two weeks I knew I had passed the screening process, and the next step was an interview. The interview went smoothly, the interviewers wanted to know more about me, therefore they asked me only personal questions, from why I came to Korea to how many soju bottles can I drink.  A week later I received the interview results and the internship was already at the step of my door.

When I got accepted, the company provided me with a document that I needed to fill up with the help of my college advisor and the student affairs division from my university. This is needed by the company and the Korean immigration office to know the internship will not affect my studies and schedule. I had to bring the document to the immigration office, and they notified within a week. With this I was already set.  The first thing I had learned when I arrived at my internship was the internal business culture. I had to learn all the names of my colleagues, taking extra care in knowing and understanding the position of each one of them. I had to be careful in the way I talked and express myself, it was the first time working in a Korean corporate environment so I had to study my way in. My teammates were very easy going all of them speak English fluently, although they spoke  Korean with themselves, that’s why knowledge in Korean is very important. In my case my team was very small (only 5 people) and all of them lived abroad, therefore we did not have any problems culturally. 

I understood you have to be very careful in what you do and what you say, mostly in front of the team leader or the highest rank person. Also they expected me to arrive at work half an hour before time and to leave half an hour after. When the Vice President visited our office we had to stand up, but when he was coming back and forward it was no need. At the time of lunch, the vice president asked me personal questions that may be hard to answer if you are not accustomed to it, I just went with the flow.  Working for two weeks in one of the largest companies in Korea was a great experience, at the end of the internship I bought a cake in gratitude to my team for being so nice and tolerant with me. We exchanged contact information and I left. I felt like I had worked there for several years. A great experience indeed.


An Interview About Issues Faced by Foreigners Working in Korea

I was recently contacted by a reporter from the Korea Herald with questions for a future article about the issues foreigners face working in Korea. Here's our Q&A:

1. What you would be the most serious work issue you have encountered personally, or has been highlighted by someone else that has come to you, in connection with working in Korea?

The most common issue is probably non-payment of wages by institutes to their teachers. It's likely not a frequent occurence, but it does happen and I get contacted from time-to-time by folks needing interpreting or translation for such issues.

I've been lucky in that I've faced very few serious work issues myself. The hardest time for me was when I first got started in my position at LG International many years ago; it was a challenge to figure out what the company was expecting of me. This is probably a common problem in positions filled by foreigners since those positions are generally ad hoc hirings done outside of an established system and processes, so sometimes the Korean company doesn't even know what they want from their foreign staff.

We've interviewed some executives working in Korean companies on Korea Business Central and it's interesting to see that even those in C-level positions faced similar confusion over expectations, as well as cultural and language differences. Here are links to the interviews:

2. Have you found that Korean hierarchy is a big challenge for foreigners working here? Is there room for give and take, or is assimilation (as far as possible) the only real option?

Foreigners exist outside the traditional Korean hierarchy so I'm not sure the hierarchy is all that challenging for us per se. Perhaps the most challenging part is just coming to terms with the fact that one is not going to move up the hierarchy in whatever Korean company one is in. Even if it were possible, how many non-Koreans would want to put in the effort and time (not to mention low salaries) to succeed long-term in a Korean company?

3. Are there services you feel are lacking for foreigners with work issues in Korea?

Not really. The Korean government seems to be making big efforts to help foreign job holders. I'm sure plenty of things happen anyway, but those are probably related to language, cultural and personal challenges, rather than a lack of services.

4. What would be the biggest mistake foreigners make when coming to work here and in their everyday work life?

Foreigners who want to work or are working in a Korean workplace must understand Korean business culture and without that background, they are sure to cause offense, look silly and get frustrated. On Korea Business Central we offer a Korea Business Culture Fundamentals Specialization in our KBC Professional Certification Program which is helping many foreigners get the skills to avoid mistakes and be successful both in the workplace and in their everyday work lives. Here's a link to the overview page for that - http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/certification. Here is our current list of graduates too - http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/kbc-professional-certification-program-graduates. I'd be glad to put you in touch with any of these graduates (as well a couple we've added in the last week that I haven't updated to the site yet).

5. Are there aspects of the visa system that need looking at so as not to put foreigners who are mistreated at work in a position where they have no choice but to put up with it or quit (and leave the country)?

I suppose it's not an accident that the government offers limited visa options. We get members on KBC asking about this all the time (for example:  http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/running-an-online-business-from-korea-what-are-my-visa-options).

What is means is that those who make the investment by passing the points system (or put down roots by marrying a local) get many work advantages.

I'm sure if you look for them, you can find plenty of foreigners who think they've been mistreated in their workplaces, and some probably have. That's unfortunate, but I'm sure it's not on the government's agenda to change the visa situation just for them since doing so would encourage other behaviors they don't want (such as working on the side without a formal job).

6. What meaningful steps would improve the work environment for foreigners here and see Korean companies gain?

It's frustrating to see the failures of foreigners working in Korea. Now that companies like LG have gotten rid of all of their expat executives and with high-profile overseas investors leaving Songdo under a cloud of suspicion, it's certainly not portraying for Korea the image they'd like others to see.

This discussion on just how hard it is for Koreans to work and live in Korea got quite a bit of commentary from the Korea Business Central membership a couple years ago:

 


Build a Business in Korea: "Why do you think non-Koreans have challenges doing business in Korea with Koreans?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to build a business in a Korean company. 


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"Why do you think non-Koreans have challenges doing business in Korea with Koreans?"

"There are a lot of reasons for that, and as you’ve mentioned, language and culture are the most obvious. But other factors also conspire to make things difficult.

For example, not all Korean computer systems are set up for non-Korean ID numbers, which can be a problem when handling paperwork.

Also, finding affordable accounting and tax prep resources, legal advice and other professional and consulting services in Korea that are knowledgeable about international business matters and speak English often requires a little extra effort.

Pre-established business networks among Koreans can be difficult to penetrate, which leads to both marketing and supply challenges.

Even things like foreign-investment friendly regulations may be tricky to sort through, not to mention the regulations that aren’t foreigner-friendly and are only accessible in Korean. I recently interviewed a government official about business visas for non-Koreans in Korea and amazingly, he explained to me that the business visa laws are not readily available in English, nor is there an English-language document anywhere that explains them in easy terms in one place. This makes the information I put together for KBC members after that interview all the more valuable."

Visit Korea Business Central for more information on doing business in Korea, including the full video of this interview.

 

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Thrive in a Korean Company: "What are some of the biggest Korean companies that are hiring non-Koreans, and for what?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to thrive in a Korean company. 


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"What are some of the biggest Korean companies that are hiring non-Koreans, and for what?"

"The Korean economy is dominated by a relatively small number of large business groups, commonly referred to as the chaebol. These include household names like Samsung, Hyundai and LG, as well as smaller business groups and independent companies.

I recently read that nearly a hundred Korean retailers have set up franchise networks overseas, and that is another way in which the Korean business presence is growing throughout the world.

When hiring local talent for overseas branch offices and subsidiaries, Korean companies are looking for people who can help them understand and be effective in the local markets.

On the other hand, there are opportunities to work in Korea for those same and other Korean companies and organizations if you have skills and resources that Korean companies can’t easily source in Korea."

Visit Korea Business Central for more information on working in a Korean company, including the full video of this interview. 

 

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Q&A with Global Recruiter Sal Michal About How to Land a Job in Korea

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KBC Intern Jared Muloongo interviewed global recruiter Sal Michal as part of his research in preparing the report "A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!". The following is the original Q&A for the interview.

For links to this and other interviews in the series, visit Supplementary Materials for A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!"

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Ten Keys to Master that Will Put You in Front When Finding a Job in Korea

1. Does GPA / great academic results matter when applying for a job in Korea?

I wouldn’t say that GPA is the key factor in candidate selection in Korea. The fact that you one got the degree from well reputed school would be certainly given far more weight than the academic results.

2. Korea is big on ‘Woori’ so when hiring an individual does personality matter? What Kind of personality is needed to be able to work in a Korean firm?

Yes. Personality does matter a lot. Even though Korean corporations like to call themselves “global” the truth is that they are and will remain very Korean in their core. That means personality traits like loyalty, humbleness, respect, obedience, and understanding of Korean culture etc. often tend to be valued more than professionalism. Even though as a foreigner working in Korean company there will be some tolerance towards your “uniqueness” in most cases you will still be expected to adjust to Korean corporate culture and possess the above traits.

I would say that majority of Korean managers would certainly avoid working with foreigner who exhibits too much self-confidence, individuality, etc. as they would see it as an incompatible element that could only endanger their team harmony.

3. How does one get noticed or become visible to Hiring managers in Korea?

People who have verifiable record of some professional relation to Korea would be given priority in most cases. If one graduated Korean university or worked with Koreans before s/he will definitely have great advantage over someone who doesn’t have this experience.

4. How does one utilize the network they gain wisely in order to gain a Job? Now that you have a network and you are maintaining it. What do you do? 

In Korea, probably more than in the West, significant portion of job vacancies are filled through personal connections, recommendations, etc. rather than through the regular job-advertising and fair candidate evaluation and selection. In other words, it will often be more important who knows you than how talented and well prepared you are.

Keeping the connections alive and expending the network is important especially for a job seeker. Even though it might seem time consuming it’s very useful to attend professional gatherings, etc. as well as keeping in touch with your other connections. As a job seeker who doesn’t speak Korean you may want to start with attending gatherings of foreign professionals working in Korea.

5. What are some great resources to have and to use in gaining a job in Korea? KBC is a Great resource how would you as a hiring manger look for potential candidates to hire? How can potential candidates use a resource like KBC in your opinion to get noticed? 

 KBC is indeed great resource, but I have not tried to utilize it for candidate search yet..

KBC has lots of valuable resources for job seekers all available at one place as well as links to other useful websites (I wish I could have used it back in 2008 when I was getting ready to come to Korea!), but rather than a mean to get noticed I would say that it’s a great place to learn about Korea and its’ business culture and reality.

Additionally, I would suggest including more resources about studying in Korea as this may be the first step to succeed here for many foreigners (for example information about available scholarships, foreign student statistics, etc. would be nice)

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6. What kinds of resumes/ C.V’s get noticed in Korea?

a. Which people should be reading my resumes in order to help me gain an advantage in Korea? 

Hiring managers, team leaders (not necessarily from the company you intend to apply for), professors and other “influencers” from your network who can recommend you

b. What things can one do to their Resume / CV to get noticed?

In Korea it is a common practice that the company will ask you to fill their own resume form and include your photo with it (yes, your look is very important so you should include a nice photo)

Let them know you have some relation to Korea. Writing cover letter / email in Korean to let them know your Korean is good enough can be helpful (however don’t lie about your Korean skills as they will certainly find out when you come to the interview)

7. There is no substitute for practice before an interview, what can individuals expect to be asked when applying for a job in Korea? Do you have 5 easy tips for them to remember? 

  1. Korean job interview is very different from what we are used to in the west. You can expect that they will ask you pretty much anything, including very personal questions and questions that are prohibited by law in other countries. (for example questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “How many shots of soju can you handle?” “What is your religion?” are very common)
  2. Remember that you are applying for job in Korean company. Letting them know you have some knowledge about Korean culture can help a lot. For example little bow when entering the interview room would be appreciated.
  3. Make sure the interviewer understands your English. The fact that interviewer asks you question in English doesn’t mean s/he is able to understand more complex sentence or professional vocabulary.
  4. No matter how inappropriate is the question, do not show your anger or arrogance. Remember that most Koreans do not have much knowledge about foreign culture or experience dealing with foreigners.
  5. If you are aiming for one of the big corporations you should be aware that recruiting process for foreigners takes extremely long (it may take as long as 3 months from the first document screening until the day you will officially get hired).

8. What positions should individuals seek to apply to when they are trying to get into the Korean job market? Any recommendations for individuals with very little work experience? 

  • Engineering majors are in great demand
  • Overseas sales / purchases / marketing targeted to your home country
  • Of course there are always lots of teaching opportunities for native English speakers
  • For people with doctorate degree teaching at the university can be very good option to consider

9. We know work experience is a factor in getting hired, when individuals have little or no experience what can they include in their Resumes to show that they have the necessary skills to make up for the lack of work experience?

  • Show them your motivation to work for specific company and to work in Korea
  • Prove that you have the personality traits discussed above

10.   What things should foreigners expect to find when they get a job in Korea? The reason behind the question is to gain an extra advantage by being able to show a unique understanding of the Korean work environment.

Korean corporate culture is quite different than the western one where you would expect to be free after working hours. Few examples of differences would be:

  • Company dinners and drinking parties (hwesig) in which you are expected to participate
  • So called “noonchi”, which basically means you should sense what is appropriate (for example: you are expected not to leave the workplace immediately even though the working time has finished; you are expected to eat lunch with your team members, etc)
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Answers to Questions about Social Gift-Giving and Chit-Chat with Koreans

I received the following questions from a visitor to my website recently. 

"My husband works for a Korean company. We will be accompanying the CEO and his wife (both Korean) to a weekend event; they are relatively new to the USA and this is my first time meeting either of them.

"Would it be "politically correct" for me to give either of them a small gift? Just the wife? Neither?

"In this situation, what would be considered an appropriate gift? Since I think the number seven is considered lucky, perhaps seven small candles or a box of seven nice chocolate?

"And what topics of conversation (should be interesting since I speak no Korean and they speak minimal English) are especially safe? Children/family? Should I bring pictures?"

Here's how I ended up replying to the person who sent the above inquiry:

"Yes, it would be  appropriate for you to give the wife a gift in this situation. You don’t need to get hung up on the number; but chocolates are fine. Something along the lines of clothing and fashion is likely to be better. I'd stay away from any food items that aren't universally enjoyed (such as chocolates) since you'd be surprised what kinds of American foods some Koreans don't care for. (BTW, it isn't exactly a perfect match with your situation but here's a link to my Top Ten Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression.)

"In one of the modules, the KBC Business Professional Certification mentions a number of topics you could bring up. Photos are fine, but perhaps don’t overdo it. Children and family are always a good topic and I’m sure they’d like opportunities to tell you about life in Korea and how they're faring in the US, particularly if they’re feeling homesick. Finding out what kinds of challenges the wife is facing in her adjustment to life in the US would be a great opportunity to share suggestions and answer some of her nagging questions."


Q&A with Reporter Jamie Lee About How to Find a Job in Korea

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KBC Intern Jared Muloongo interviewed reporter Jamie Lee as part of his research in preparing the report "A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!". The following is the original Q&A for the interview.

For links to this and other interviews in the series, visit Supplementary Materials for A Map to a Career in Korea: What You Need to Know!"

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Ten Keys to Master that Will Put You in Front When Finding a Job in Korea

1. Does GPA / great academic results matter when applying for a job in Korea?

It may depend on what type of industry you are applying to. Education boards have a limitation called a GPS cut line. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has a very strict cutline and will not proceed with an interview if your GPS score does not meet a certain score. But for other industry GPS is not considered seriously.

2. Korea is big on ‘Woori’ so when hiring an individual does personality matter? What Kind of personality is needed to be able to work in a Korean firm?

Yes, personality is important. This factor however I believe applies to most countries. Every recruiter and hiring manager do not care to waste their time interviewing someone who demonstrated bad manners during an email correspondance.  First impression begins at the communication stage not necessarily the face to face interview. In some cases, the hiring manager will also give a few points for evaluation to the front desk receptionist to see if the applicant has any bad habits or treats the receptionist down.

You will succeed if you are a positive person, if you can focus on the solution instead of complaining about the problems, if you are friendly and good with interpersonal communications that will be a plus since there will definitely be language barriers.

3. How does one get noticed or become visible to Hiring managers in Korea?

Knowing someone in the firm you are applying to is of course the best route.  If this is not possible, get yourself acquainted with international recruiters (certified) working in Korea.

4. How does one utilize the network they gain wisely in order to gain a Job? Now that you have a network and you are maintaining it. What do you do? 

This is more like a personal strategy so it should be led my your own instincts. But to share some examples :

One might apply to an online application of an open position, but include a recommendation letter signed with handwriting and that contains a contact number.

Ask your acquaintant to put in a few words for you that you submitted your resume to the ____whichever___ department for ___ position.

Or if you have recommendations on Linkedin that you are sure the applied company will be familiar with be sure to include a copy of a printed version of your Linkedin Profile including the recommendations.

Tell people that you are seeking a position. And directly ask for help. They may have heard of someone looking for someone or may later hear the news and remember that you were available.

5. What are some great resources to have and to use in gaining a job in Korea?

Use of international head hunters (recruiters). It only works best when you’ve had a face to face interview with the recruiter. Otherwise your resume will just be floating in a file full of competitors.

a. KBC is a Great resource how would you as a hiring manger look for potential candidates to hire? 

I would send direct messages to people who I believe might know anyone in the field I am hiring for. I will also post them to twitter, facebook, linkedin and anything I can get a hold of. Not to mention recruiting websites.

b. How can potential candidates use a resource like KBC in your opinion to get noticed?

Mention that you are seeking a position, Write it in your bio. Tweet about it and direct message to anyone you think may help you. Keep spreading the word. And be prepared with a finished resume and good photo. The photo is important in Korea.

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6. What kinds of resumes/ C.V’s get noticed in Korea?

Not too long, not too short. If the company you are applying to is a multinational firm with headquarters abroad, an English resume should be enough. Large Korean firms may request for a Korean version. But they won’t expect one from you if you are not Korean. Thus I recommend to prepare one only if you are required to submit. Never send in a Korean translated version only

a. Which people should be reading my resumes in order to help me gain an advantage in Korea?

Recruiters, HR Directors, Department Managers if they will be your supervisor.

b. What things can one do to their Resume / CV to get noticed?

I receive a lot of resumes from candidates from abroad. What I look for in a resume is to see if it’s relevant. Does your objective (if you’ve written one) match the position? Are you saying the write things in your initial email and cover letter. Are you checking your grammar and writing as professional as possible. Or are you trying too hard to sound like you’re not desperate or writing to casually. Be sure to make your achievements outstand in your application. If you have a preferred certification, be sure to highlight this in the beginning and even include an attachment of  scanned copy. You’re going to be asked for a copy anyways, why not save the administrator time. And help rid any possible suspicions.

7. There is no substitute for practice before an interview, what can individuals expect to be asked when applying for a job in Korea?

This really depends on who you are being interviewed by and what type of position you are applying to. I could probably write a 2-3 pages long article just on this topic. If I were to generalise the Korean market and narrow it down to what type of questions are normally asked to Koreans applying to Korean firms..the questions are probably universal but may include Q to check your leadership, communication skills, adaptability, and understanding of the role:

  • What makes you a strong candidate for this position?
  • Tell me about your understanding of the position and what skills are required.
  • Tell me about a problem you had in the office and how you overcame it.
  • Do you drink? How much do you drink? (I wonder if they still ask this question). It was one of the most popular yet most controversial)
  • Tell me about yourself (what is your personality like, what do other say about you?
  • Do you work well under pressure? Give us an example?

Five tips to remember: Practice in advance. Make a Q&A sheet. Ask your recruiter to provide you Q&A and do’s and don’ts for interviews. Research the web. Look at other peoples Linkedin profiles who are working in position you wish to work in the future and get a peek at what they actualy do. What kind of achievements do they highlight?

8. What positions should individuals seek to apply to when they are trying to get into the Korean job market? Any recommendations for individuals with very little work experience?

This question is too general. If you’re asking the trend, I’d say that there is more possibility to get jobs in IT or Education. Jeju island has several international schools that may hire teachers or administrators from around the world.

You can apply to ESL teaching jobs as your first position if you do not have experience. You may apply as long as you have a BA in any field.

9. We know work experience is a factor in getting hired, when individuals have little or no experience what can they include in their Resumes to show that they have the necessary skills to make up for the lack of work experience?

This goes for any country. Any volunteer experience at a community center or sunday school teaching or leadership experience such as working as a football coach in high school, as a librarian or tutoring are also considered in many cases. But be careful to understand that working at a bar or as a dj at a club can get you off the potential list of resumes by managers in Korea. Koreans are also keen on certifications if you don’t have experience.

10.   What things should foreigners expect to find when they get a job in Korea? The reason behind the question is to gain an extra advantage by being able to show a unique understanding of the Korean work environment. 

I could also write a book on this section. There is a saying in Korean for salarymen, that you have to leave your gallbladder at home when you go to work. I can’t really translate this into English, but just by what they’re saying you kind of get the idea that social life in Korea is difficult.

This doesn’t really go for International Firms, but for Korean firms...you can often see..(and this also does not apply to ESL teachers in Korea)

Staff not being able to leave the office because their supervisor is still working.

They are careful to ask for their holiday. And think that not using all your leave is being loyal to the company. So if you do use your holiday you should consider yourself lucky. 

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Korean Translation Tip: Translating Greetings to Koreans Can Be Particularly Tricky

Let’s suppose you work at an elite prep school in the US with some Koreans in the student body. When the parents of one of the kids, Young-Hee, filled out the application form for their child, they entered their own names as Dong-Hyuk Kim and Eun-Hee Huh.

And now, let’s suppose you want to send the parents a letter for some reason.

You’ve got a problem...

First, Korean women don’t take their husband’s last name. So, you can’t properly write something like “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Kim”.

Second, Koreans don’t start their letters out with the Korean version of “Dear” unless they are feeling very friendly.

Third, Koreans generally address other adults formally by their job titles in addition to or in lieu of names.

There are actually quite a few additional considerations which could come into play in formal correspondence, but I’ll first offer you a one-size-fits-all solution to this particular problem...

Best Practices Tip - If unsure how to address the parents of a Korean child, address them as parents.

Thus, if you would have written “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Kim,” in English, then in Korean, write the Korean translation of "To the parents of Young-Hee," as follows:

“영희 부모님께,”

You could even add “안녕하세요?” after it (remember that lesson?)

Anyway, if you don’t have the easy solution of addressing the recipients as the parents of their child, then it might be necessary for your translation team to come up with a workaround if you don’t have the information necessary to do it completely Korean style.

The most straightforward way would simply be to address each parent individually as follows:

“Dear Mr. Dong-Hyuk Kim and Mrs. Eun-Hee Huh,”
“김동혁 님, 그리고 허은희 님께,"

But that won’t work in every case either...

On a recent job, a couple of the parents were holders of a doctorate degree. But the way to address them differs if they’re a professor, a medical doctor or just Ph.D.-holder without being a professor (all information we didn’t have available).

Our solution was to transliterate the word “doctor” into Korean as follows:

“Dear Dr. Dong-Hyuk Kim and Dr. Eun-Hee Huh,”
“닥터 김동혁 님, 그리고 닥터 허은희 님께,”

This is not the way it would be done in Korean, but the Korean recipients will understand why this approach was taken, will perfectly understand the meaning of the English word “doctor” transliterated to Korean and will appreciate the effort.

There’s actually a quiz here about Korean job titles taken from a lecture in my KBC Professional Certification Program.


Get a Job in Korea: "What do I need to start doing right now to have a great job waiting for me the moment I arrive in Korea?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to find a job in Korea.


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"What do I need to start doing right now to have a great job waiting for me the moment I arrive in Korea?"

"It depends what you want to do. Those from English-speaking countries can often transition quickly and easily into English teaching. But over the long-term, this decision can also hamstring your efforts for getting into corporate work and, for those without that native English-speaking background, other options have to be pursued from the get-go.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that being a foreigner can be both an advantage and a disadvantage for getting a job in Korea. Just having a technical skill, or expertise, isn’t enough; tens of thousands of Korean college graduates have those skills too. But what they don’t have is your unique understanding of your home country, and perspective on the world.

Therefore, to find a job quickly, you’ve got to do your research (such as utilizing the many resources we have on KBC) and find ways to connect your uniqueness to niche positions that can be found or created in Korea.

Of course, this conceptual approach needs to be connected to practical steps that include job market research, resume updating and business networking; all of which Korea Business Central can help you do even before you get to Korea!"

Visit Korea Business Central for more information on getting a job in Korea, including the full video of this interview.

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Learn more about the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your career in Korea.