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Guidelines for Preparing a Resume/CV and Cover Letter/Self-Introduction Letter for Getting a Job in Korea

As Korean companies expand their operations on the world stage, they are hiring a growing number of non-Koreans for positions both in Korea and overseas. The number of non-Koreans chasing such jobs continues to outpace supply though, especially at the entry level, and so applying effectively is more important than ever.

Unless you've networked your way to an unpublished position (it happens!) or have unique talents that would give you global competitiveness just about anywhere, you will have to do your homework and prepare adequately for the process in advance.

I've previously answered some questions regarding the job search effort:

We've also got the two following free Special Business Reports posted on Korea Business Central.

Focusing on seekers of entry-level or slightly higher positions, this article discusses the specifics of preparing key documents of the application based on questions I've received many times from KBC members and others.

1. What are the key differences between applying to a Korean company in Korea and a multinational company in Korea?

If you're applying to a multinational company, your documents can generally follow international standards for job applications and you won't need to adapt your pitch to Korean procedures, formats and sensibilities as much.

Generally, multinational companies are more likely to hire through recruiters, whereas Korean companies will have on-the-ground hiring departments that primarily handle this and they will follow Korean norms.

But appearances can be deceiving since some multinational companies allow their Korean operations to run fully (or nearly fully) on Korean lines. For example, even though Homeplus is owned by Tesco of the UK, the Korean office is more Korean than international (probably more Samsung than anything else, since it is run by former Samsung executives), even though a few foreign executives are dispatched from the UK. I'm told this is how Amway Korea operates, too. Therefore, those multinational companies where the Korean office is its own operation, rather than a small extension of a supra-national organization, you are likely to find yourself going through Korean processes when applying for lower-level jobs.

Keep in mind that even if you are applying to a Korean company, as a foreigner, you're still an unusual hire. Therefore, the hiring for these positions is done in a much more ad hoc way, rather than the twice-yearly hiring that many of the large Korean conglomerates schedule out in advance for their Korean applicants. Because of this, there is a lot more scope for you to take the initiative in the job search process, such as by finding jobs through networking, by reaching out to the hiring department personally, or by being creative (in a good way!) with the formats, information and procedures Korean applicants would otherwise be expected to follow.

2. What should go into my resume or CV?

Koreans resumes typically include a small photograph. This should be a head shot similar to what you'd submit with a passport application and not a family or vacation photo. It goes right up at the top of the first page, usually in the right corner. 

Unless you're closer to 50 or 60 than 25, I'd suggest you put your birthdate at the top, too. This may be a no-no for companies to ask back home, but the Koreans you are applying to would like to know (whether they come out and say it or not). Besides, if they've asked for your foreigner registration number or a copy of your passport, they'll know your birth date anyway. As with anywhere, but perhaps to a greater degree in Korea, being young works in your favor for entry-level positions.

Include your nationality and visa status, if an advantage (see below).

Other than that, include the standard stuff, such as education, work experience, and other professional skills and interests. Be specific so that your readers can know exactly when you were working or studying and look up your university and previous companies on the Internet by name.

You may not want to include work experiences that Koreans might misinterpret. For example, you're unlikely to get many brownie points as a "go-getter" if you mention your university work experience at Burger King. Back home, having a part-time job during high school or college shows a strong work ethic; in Korea, it can lead to unhelpful questions and assessments of you.

Most positions that Westerners from English-speaking countries apply for leverage English skills and your potential employer may not care that much if you speak Korean. (see also Reflections on the Benefits of Learning Korean to One's Career in Korea) Still, it's good to show your commitment to Korea by including any Korean-language courses you've graduated from, as well as other Korea-focused language or business certificates (the KBC Professional Certification Program is a great attention-getter!) You might even include experiences you've had with Koreans back home, such as volunteering with Korean student organizations there.

If you've been in Korea for very long, be sure to mention how long; the longer the better, since this shows your commitment to staying around and not leaving the position early because you got tired of Korea. If you've been off the beaten track in Korea, mention your travels briefly. If you like Korean soju or makgeolli, you might even mention this, as it's a great talking point and tells the company you'll be willing to join and participate in functions with alcohol (usually a good thing, though not as big a deal as in years past).

If there are online materials about your professional or academic experience relevant to the role, including a link to an online portfolio or to actual certifications can be helpful. It can't hurt to include a link to your LinkedIn profile, also.

When Koreans prepare their resumes, they invariably include a few lines about hobbies and other personal interests. I would recommend you do the same, but don't overdo it, such that your company thinks you'll be so focused on the weekend that you won't be willing to put in long hours during the week or that you'll be unavailable for weekend work, as it arises. (BTW, if you're not willing to work more than the standard 40 hours per week, you might reconsider whether Korea's the right place for you!)

Your resume in Korea will not be too long even if it has a bit more information than you might ordinarily put on a resume back home, but I'd still suggest you keep it at no more than two pages.

3. What should go into my cover letter and should I translate it to Korean?

Koreans call the cover letter a "self-introduction letter" and this is where you get past the raw facts to show why you're the best person for the job. This is not the time to list out how you want the work to help you; this is where you point out how your skills will benefit the company. The self-introduction letter is also not just a regurgitation of your resume but should emphasize your fit and strengths concisely.

Korean self-introduction letters sometimes go many pages, but I wouldn't recommend this at all. If you're writing the letter in English, a Korean recruiter (even one with good, but not native, English skills) can get bogged down in a lot of words.

I recommend translating your self-introduction letter to Korean; making it short will help you to keep the translation costs down, too. One thing to keep in mind when preparing your letter in Korean is to avoid creating unreasonable expectations of your Korean skills, or to think that this is a deal maker anyway (see link above about learning Korean). The purpose for presenting a letter in Korean is to help the recruiter get quickly to the information in your background that's relevant without a language barrier and to help you show an extra level of commitment to the position through having made this effort. If your Korean skills are not fantastic, it would be reasonable to include a sentence in the letter mentioning this. The HR person will understand then that you had the document translated, which can still show your sincerity, especially if you include a few words (not a lot!) about what Korea means to you personally. It never hurts to mention that you're willing and eager to learn more about Korea and Korean ways, too.

One more selling point can be your visa status. If you're in Korea on a visa that lets you work in-country without being sponsored by your employer, this both shows your commitment to Korea and takes a burden off your employer. Not only can the HR people avoid the hassle of paperwork, but the company also isn't legally responsible for your good behavior in Korea. Therefore, if you have one of these visas, mention it both in your resume and cover letter. (see also Answers to Top Questions about Business Visas in Korea)

There's certainly more to the job application process than a good resume and cover letter, but the guidelines above will help you make the best impression at this stage of the application process.


Considerations of Current Location When Applying for a Job in Korea

** Visit the related discussion on Korea Business Central: "Is is possible to apply for a job when a person is out of Korea? Or I should just go to Korea and start applying for jobs while I am there?"

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Many factors are involved in the process of applying for a new job, and one that comes into play for those trying to get a job in Korea is whether it's possible to apply from outside Korea, or whether one needs to be physically present in Korea in order to be competitive for a new position with a Korean company. Along these lines, I received the following inquiry from someone in my network a few days ago.

Question

Dear Steven, I am writing this email to seek some advice from you. I have been applying to Korean companies lately.... I have a good career track and I speak Korean fluently. However, whenever recruiters learn that I am currently out of Korea, all of a sudden I get rejected. Now, I am not sure whether it is because they don't trust me or they are afraid to hire a person who has been with a Korean company for such a long time. At first they all praise my educational background and language capabilities, but they seem to have difficulties trusting someone they have not met personally. Based on your opinion, do you think it is possible to apply for a job when a person is out of Korea? Or I should just go to Korea and start applying for jobs while I am there? Thanks.

Answer

The answer to this question depends on the jobs you're applying for and the qualifications you bring to the position. If the companies you are applying for are able to easily fill their positions with equally qualified applicants in Korea who they can meet in person, then why would they commit themselves to a contract with you that has to be faxed back and forth to get signed?

I know you're not looking for an ESL job, but if you were, it would not be necessary to apply from Korea since the demand for English teachers is steady and surpasses the number of foreigners in Korea available to fill them all. 

But moving one step up, there are umpteen English teachers in Korea who would like to move into a Korean corporate position of one type or another. These positions generally involve performing a language-related function in the company. Because there are more applicants than positions, someone trying to get one of these jobs from overseas does not stand a chance against those who have their feet on the ground and a network through which to hear about openings. These jobs often get filled long before they ever reach a public jobs board.

As you don't mention that you are applying through an executive recruiting firm, I assume that you're not looking for a top management or highly specialized/high-paid position. This would indicate to me you're still early in your career. I realize that you aren't applying for an English-focused position either, but you may want to ask yourself if the positions you're trying to get can be filled easily by someone already in Korea working in an ESL or other similar posiition.

It may be that you just haven't been a perfect fit for any of the positions you've applied for and the rejections have nothing to do with your current location. Perhaps it'll just take some persistence. If your qualifications are strong and match the market in Korea, then you might just have to keep trying. Have you gone back to any of the recruiters you applied to before to get their feedback on why you weren't hired? You might not get straight answers when the rejection is still fresh, but if you were to contact them them 2-3 months later once they can't misunderstand your question as an attempt to keep trying for the job, they might give you some honest and helpful insights.

A trip to Korea to look for a job isn't necessarily a bad idea, especially if you'd like to visit anyway. But if you've currently got a job back home, you'll only have a week or two of vacation time and that's probably not enough to do more than have a few initial meetings. You'll also only be able to avail yourself of opportunities available during the window of time you're in Korea and there won't be time to build and work a personal network on the ground. But if you just come to Korea to "hang out" until something happens, potential employers will not be impressed if your period of being unemployed becomes extended. And working as an English teacher to pay the bills in the meantime is not a great resume filler either.

So, what can you do to be in Korea long enough for good to things happen but without wasting time? Taking an intensive Korean language course for a semester or two is a great way to do this. You can apply for jobs in-country, improve your skills and build your network without having a hole in your resume. I know you said you're already fluent in Korean, but does that mean there aren't any Korean-language courses you could take at your level? Fine, suppose there aren't... Then why don't you enroll in the masters program at a Korean university? I'm partial to Hanyang University, since that's where I earned my masters degree, but there are plenty of other good places too. And here's the best part... Tuition in the regular grad schools of Korean universities is much cheaper than for international MBAs. Furthermore, the graduate school classes at some schools (such as Hanyang) are in Korean, rather than English, so you'll get to put your advanced Korean skills to use and improve on them.

Finally, you mentioned that you are working for a Korean company now. Is there no way to get transferred to Korea for a short- or long-term assignment? Perhaps you could get transferred to Korea into a position that may not be exactly what you're looking for. Then, once you're in Korea, you could keep applying for positions you really want elsewhere. If you succeed, the Korean company will think twice before letting another employee at an overseas office do the same thing again, but at least you'll be moving forward in your career by that time.

BTW, your situation is a good example of how Korean language skills are not an automatic ticket to career success in Korea. I wrote an article about this recently: Reflections on the Benefits of Learning Korean to One's Career in Korea

I hope it works out for you. Let me know what happens.

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** Visit the related discussion on Korea Business Central: "Is is possible to apply for a job when a person is out of Korea? Or I should just go to Korea and start applying for jobs while I am there?"


Reflections on the Benefits of Learning Korean to One's Career in Korea

** Visit the related discussion on Korea Business Central.

Learning Korean is tough; there are no two ways about it. When I first came to Korea, I planned to conquer Korean in two years and then do the same with Chinese and Japanese after that. I figured that would make me something special. However, it didn't take me long to realize that Korean was the only language of the three in which I'd manage to achieve proficiency, and that improving those skills would be a lifelong project. 

I've met other Westerners who have started along this journey but gotten discouraged. Here's a typical question and my answer to it.

Q: Will Korean skills boost my career opportunities in Korea?

A: I would like to say that the answer is a definite "yes"; however, as with many aspects of life in Korea, the answer is nuanced.

It can be a discouraging reality to accept, but your Korean abilities are not going to fast-track you in your career in Korea. In fact, though Korean skills may work in your favor if competing against someone for a job who doesn't know Korean, it is unlikely your Korean will be a crucial factor in the hiring process, no matter what job you apply for.

In general, if you're from an English-speaking country, you'll likely find your best job opportunities in positions that take advantage of your English abilities, and once that happens, your Korean is no longer an asset; in some cases, it's a disadvantage if your prospective employer is concerned you’ll be more focused on learning Korean than on helping your coworkers and/or students improve their English. Your employer is more likely to appreciate your Korean abilities if they didn't hire you for your English, but your Korean still won't be a key factor in the hiring process.

Way back when I taught English, I remember trying to inject Korean into my classes. Students (understandably) hated that. Later, when working in the LG Group as an editor/writer (and later, off-and-on translator), I was given strict instructions NOT to speak Korean in the office. I recall trying to refer an American friend to a position that had opened up in the company and when I mentioned to the director that my friend was fluent in Korean, he flat out told me nobody cared about that. Even now in my Ph.D. studies at Hanyang University, the semi-frequent job offers I get from the university to teach always involve helping the university fulfill the government-mandated requirement for classes taught in English and I often sense disappointment that I'm so focused on doing my coursework in Korean.

Having said that, I can think of some situations where your Korean skills could be helpful. The first would be where you have been hired for your English skills but where your Korean abilities let you understand and participate in office communications. This may make your more effective and fulfilled in your job. But as a foreigner, you won’t be on a career path to which you can apply this effectiveness and so the main benefit is likely to be found in helping you avoid some of the feelings of isolation that you'd encounter otherwise. But plenty of non-Koreans without Korean skills have managed their way through those situations, so it's not absolutely necessary.

You may also find that your Korean skills let you discover roles that wouldn't otherwise have existed. Your ability to leverage these roles would then be the determining factor in where you go from there. For example, being good at Korean can generate a lot of curiosity and if managed strategically may lead to hidden opportunities. I’ve encountered a few of those, such as being appointed Foreign-Investment Advisor to Gyeonggi Province when the Governor was impressed with my Korean. But networking opportunities are not the same as a career path. Besides, English skills are also a point of curiosity with Koreans and this can open doors, too. Thus, being stubborn in using Korean can close some of those English-oriented doors of opportunity, as well.

One more observation.... Even though speaking Korean is not going to make your career, the longer you spend in Korea without learning the language to a certain degree of proficiency, the more of a drag it may be on you, both personally and professionally. One reason is that Koreans may question your commitment to the country and your diligence if you never move beyond English interactions, and this can affect professional perceptions, too. Thus, speaking Korean may not help much, but not speaking Korean may also not be so great. Eventually, those who don’t learn Korean (and many who do!) end up “moving on” and not sticking around.

Speaking Korean often feels like a “brownie point” earner more than a killer resume skill. It’s a career asset if used strategically, but even that's not easy. And social pressure in Korea can provide a compelling excuse NOT to learn Korean.

I would say that if career opportunities are your primary motivation to learn Korean, then it’s not worth the trouble. The Korean learning process must have deeper value for you in personal ways -- such as the satisfaction you get from communicating in a difficult language and cultural context -- and that requires a special love for Korea.

When Koreans learn English, they can travel the world and meet people from many countries; when we learn Korean, we can... well, we can travel around Korea and meet Koreans. Ultimately, learning Korean is a niche endeavor that narrows (but deepens) your options. 

** Visit the related discussion on Korea Business Central.


Reality-Based Answers to Questions about Getting a Job in Korea

** Visit the related online discussion for more information on this topic and to discuss with members of the Korea Business Central community.

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On Korea Business Central, we receive a lot of questions about getting a job in Korea. The problem is that the answers aren't so easy.

  • In a posting just a few weeks ago, one young professional from Romania asked how she could find a job. She mentioned she's tried over the Internet but with no success, and that now she getting ready to visit Korea and wants to know how long it will take to find a position.
  • In another KBC discussion, a brand manager from Indonesia asked about finding a position in the Korean creative and branding industry and what the basic requirements are to apply to a Korean company.
  • I was recently asked by an associate from India with advanced computer and analysis skills/certifications to take a look at his resume and give him some pointers on how to improve his marketability in Korea. 

This was my first question to the brand manager and to my associate:

"What sets you radically apart from any of the countless young Korean professionals currently looking for a job in your industry? In other words, what value do you bring to the job that a Korean employer couldn't hope to fill with a Korean employee who is fluent in Korean, reads/writes English at a decent level, is willing to work evening and weekend hours for a few million won per month and doesn't need a visa sponsorship?"

Frankly, the answer to this question pretty much determines one's opportunities in the Korean job market. For thousands of people from (certain) English-speaking countries, the key to a job is "English fluency". Since most Koreans don't possess native English skills but there is a huge demand for English instructors, these perennial job openings are the ticket to a position in Korea for thousands of (mainly) Westerners.

There are also many laborers from certain countries of South Asia and Southeast Asia willing to work in "difficult, dangerous and dirty" jobs at rates Koreans won't touch. They also have an easy time finding a job; but members of KBC aren't usually looking for these positions, either. 

Thus, for someone without the English-skills answer (or at least English-skills from a Western country with an accent in English that Koreans wish to emulate) or interest in working with their hands for a pittance, the solution to the job problem often becomes much harder.

Just being better than the average isn't good enough. That's because foreign applicants to positions in Korea do not have access to the "standard" job application processes. The "standard" jobs are available only to Koreans with resumes that match exactly what the hiring company has determined they want. The "standard" application process takes it for granted that the applicant is a Korean who speaks Korean, lives like a Korean and is willing to work like a Korean. There is no option here for foreigners that need a visa, don't speak Korean perfectly and expect to have their weekends and evenings available for personal time.

After asking the above questions to my associate, he sent me a rather impressive list of qualifications that make him exceptional. But I'm still not confident that's enough to get him a job easily. Here's the response I sent him:

"Thanks for the reply.

"The reason I asked you those questions is that, as I'm sure you know, Koreans aren't going to hire foreigners for a position they think they can fill adequately with a Korean. Any established hiring process in Korea is exclusively for Koreans; foreigners are hired on a case-by-case basis every time and I can't imagine a Korean company deciding on their own initiative to hire a foreign computer analyst/developer. That means you're going to have to sell yourself, which won't be easy.

"Your credentials are exceptional but probably not enough that you can job search from outside Korea. You'll likely have to do so in-country and with a lot of hustle. I would imagine you'll have to settle for a job below your desired salary for at least awhile in order to build your local network and move up.
"As for your resume, it looks fine to me. I'd think that at least a cover letter in Korean that highlights the things you mentioned in your email to me yesterday should be included, since even if the person handling the applications reads English, he/she is likely to have to sell your position to superiors in the company who may not be as comfortable in English. Even if they are, the added effort to show the attempt to communicate in Korean can't be a bad thing.
"Koreans are all about third-party recognition. If you've published papers, then those should absolutely be included in your resume. You've already done a good job of listing your certifications. I didn't see anything about your university training though and that should be there. You might even put your photo and age on the resume to match the Korean practice.
"With your background, I'm sure you can find a position if you really want one. I'm surprised how hard it is for many people to land those jobs they want though and you should be prepared for that. You might want to speak with other S. Asians working in Korea to get a perspective on the unique challenges you might face. By way of a contrasting example, Americans often get corralled into English language-related positions even when it's resisted, and Indians may face other difficulties.
"Good luck; I hope you email me with good news saying you found a better job and faster than I expected."

Question from KBC Member "What visa would you suggest I go for?"

Somewhere along the way (beginning 'round about the time I published this article, I guess...), I started getting questions about visas in Korea. Having sat down with the official from Korea Immigration for an hour or so earlier this year, I realize this topic isn't as complicated as it seems. But the reason it seems complicated is because of the rather passive-aggressive approach immigration takes to sharing the information. There seems to be a clear attitude that if a foreigner wants to stay in Korea, it's up to that person to figure it out.

At any rate, I got this question from a KBC member recently:

Dear Steve, Since i currently have a problem with getting an appropiate visa for an intern i hope you can help me or might know what to do. I've been an exchange student at SNU and through a professor I managed to get an internship at GS Energy starting in January. I wanted to go for the working holiday visa and the ambassador in Denmark said it should not be a problem when I applied. However as of now it seems like it is not good enough. What visa would you suggest I go for? The internship is paid. Any help is appreciated.

Here's what I replied:

There isn't an "intern visa" in Korea. To do it right, you'll need to get your employer to sponsor you on a regular employee visa, probably an E-7. Here's an article with details. Even if it's an unpaid internship, I don't believe you'd be able to legally work at it under a tourist visa. But that doesn't mean you can't do it....


Get a Job in Korea: "Now tell me: how can Korea Business Central help me find a job in Korea?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to find a job in 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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"Now tell me: how can Korea Business Central help me find a job in Korea?"

"If you’re looking for a job in Korea, then membership on Korea Business Central is really a must. It’s free, too!

We’ve dedicated an entire section of the website to resources that help you in your job search, including interviews, videos, discussions and others. We’ve also developed our own member job search database, which is free to members, and job recruiters on KBC offer their advice to members in the job market. You can even download a free template for a resume that is matched to the Korean approach for getting a job, and learn about how the visa system work and how you can take advantage of it.

You’ll also find extra resources just for internships!

I’ll also point out that networking can be a key factor in facilitating your job search (it was for me!) and on Korea Business Central, we have hosted business networking events and we link to upcoming offline events to help you get connected quickly while you’re here.

I’ll also point out that since there are more applicants for many jobs in Korea than there are positions available, it is imperative that you find a way to distinguish yourself from the crowd. One way to do that is to become a Certified Korea Business Professional through the KBC Professional Certification Program. This small investment will pay off not only in terms of your job search, but will also make you more effective in your new position."

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.


Get a Job in Korea: "How do I apply for a job in Korea? Can you break it down for me, step by step?"

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


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"How do I apply for a job in Korea?  Can you break it down for me, step by step?"

"Sure. The first thing you need to know is that Korean companies have completely different processes for hiring Koreans and non-Koreans. You’re not going to get very far by looking on Korean job boards for positions in Korean companies; those jobs are for Koreans.

Jobs for non-Koreans are far fewer and generally not posted through such traditional channels. Sites like Korea Business Central offer an outlet for these job postings and you should check here and at other sites, most of which we link to for you!

But many hirings just don’t go through a public process and this is where a strong business network like we can help you build here on KBC is crucial.

As for applying, it’s generally a good idea to translate your resume and cover letter to Korean. Even if the person reviewing applications speaks and reads English well, they will still prefer to read a Korean document, as will their boss, who is probably the final decision maker. It also shows your commitment to the position and sets you apart from many of the others who haven’t made this effort.

After submitting your resume, make sure you follow-up, especially if you don’t get a reply. A phone call is good here. Be as cordial as possible and find a way to help the person in charge remember who you are and do so in a way that communicates an extra interest in the position and in Korea, such as by making an attempt to speak Korean or pointing out any Korea-related certifications or other achievements."

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.


What's Wrong with Teaching English in Korea?

A KBC member sent me the following question last week:

Hello Steven,

Thank you for this website.  It's an extremely valuable, interactive and informative place for people like me looking for work in Korea.

I'm 38 Korean American who came to the States when I was 14 (back in 1988).  I served in the U.S. military for 4 years, completed my undergrad in business administration and have been in IT support positions for past 12 years, but mainly in desktop support, network operation center and currently helpdesk.  Not exactly the most sought-after IT positions even in the States these days.  

Based on my limited research, reading many discussions and contents on your site and along with visiting many expat blogs, I'm beginning to appreciate how tight the job market is in Korea and how difficult it can be to achieve and maintain a decent standard of living on a salary man's earning.........let alone save enough to buy home (which does not seem to be possible for most).

I've checked out a few job sites such as Indeed, Myjobs.kr and other online job boards.  I got one call back after responding to a tech support job and was told that I'm too old (in a nice way).

My reason for wanting to work in Korea is a personal one:  I met someone.  She lives and works in Seoul.  
My Korean is fluent (even though my writing and typing skill sets are rusty).  

You've been in Korea longer than me.  In your own experience and exposure to fellow expat as well as Korean Americans in ESL industry, do I have a decent chance to find a work teaching English considering my age?

I read one of the forum where [one member] talks about being careful with switching career field just for the sake of finding work in Korea.  It hit home and yet I'm seriously considering doing just that.

My head tells me that I'm about to make a huge career suicide, but honestly, I won't miss leaving my current field.  Coming to Korea isn't about making money or career.  And I doubt that I'll look for long-term work beyond a year at most.  Then again, I have no idea where I will be in another year.  I never thought I would think about working in Korea at the beginning of this year.  

My apology for long email, but I wanted to hear from someone who's been there and done that for over 20 years in Korea.  Please feel free to be as brutal and direct as you need to be.

[KBC member]

The crux of this member's question is whether teaching English in Korea can be a valid stepping stone to other opportunities in Korea. Here's what I replied:

[KBC member] - Thanks for the note.

In the case of the member referenced in your email, he already had a career track, so coming to Korea to teach English would not have moved him forward; it would have put serious question marks on his commitment to his field. But as you mentioned, you aren't particularly attached to your current occupation and so you've got less to lose.

Sure, an English teaching position isn't exactly prestigious, but it is easy to get and will pay the bills. And so if you really want to come to Korea and you haven't found a better option, then why not? 

Good luck!

Steven


Get a Job in Korea: "What do I need to watch out for during job interviews in Korea? Can you tell us maybe one or two deal-killers to avoid?"

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 watch out for during job interviews in Korea? Can you tell us maybe one or two deal-killers to avoid?"

"In a job interview, your interviewer is looking for reassurances that you will succeed in the Korean company. For that reason, you want to show the efforts you’ve made to learn Korean and get along in Korea and the commitment you’ve made to put down roots and stay through your contract.

Also, don’t get angry when the interviewer asks questions that might be unacceptable back home, such as your age or marital status. You should answer these and other questions forthrightly and cheerfully."

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

 

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Get a Job in Korea: "What are some of the landmines I need to avoid when applying for a job 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 are some of the landmines I need to avoid when applying for a job in Korea?"

"Korea’s quickly becoming one of the most advanced countries in the world, but you shouldn’t think that Korean think and act the way we do back home. Of course, learning the language is a key step in connecting with and understanding the cultural context; it’s also a great way to order a meal and connect to your co-workers in and outside the office.

If I had to point out a specific suggestion, I would emphasize that you must make the effort to understand and adapt to the local situation. While seeing areas for improvement in Korea is inevitable, finding ways to excel within the current context is both an incredible personal journey, and a good business and career strategy."

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


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


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.


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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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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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.


Answers to Questions on Becoming a RE-patriate from Korea

A KBC member posted this message recently:

Without getting into all the details, I've been thinking about repatriating back to my home country of the U.S. in the next year or so. I'd like to know about other people who have done the same. Did you have a job lined up before going back? How severely was your job search handicapped by the fact that you were in a foreign country while making applications?

If you had a Korean significant other, how did s/he handle the transition? Was s/he able to find employment or educational opportunities?

Anything you would do differently if you were going to do it again?

Did you make use of any career coaching or resume writing services?

Maybe the most important question: What would you recommend someone doing in terms of professional development to prepare for this kind of transition?

My life in Korea has had a series of setbacks recently, and I have family things happening in the U.S. that I'd like to be around for. My ideal situation would be to go back to the area of my education, Public Administration, in a way that builds upon my experience in Korea. Any and all thoughts are appreciated.

Thanks!

I answered with these thoughts:

I'm sorry to hear that things haven't been lining up for you in Korea. It is a fact that nearly all expatriates who come to Korea eventually return home, usually within 1-3 years. That was frustrating for me during my early years in Korea since it meant that it was very hard to form long-term friendships with other expats who then went home.

You certainly take some unique experiences and perspectives with you. But I've generally noticed that people who do go back to their home countries don't end up finding a position that perfectly complements their work in Korea. Perhaps it's just that positions back home don't include "Korea" in the job requirements. So, you'll likely need to think in more broad terms about how you've grown during your time in Korea and accept that your next job is unlikely to appreciate what you've done in Korea as much as it should.

That said, if you think carefully about the kind of job you take, you may find ways to bring out the Korea connection once you're in the position. For example, if you were to work for a large company, eventually you could maneuver your way over to the area related to Korean business.

One more recommendation for preparing to return would simply be to start your job search early so that you have something lined up before you get back.


eBriefing: "Answers to Top Questions about Business Visas in Korea"

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Download the Following Weblog Article in PDF eBriefing Format.

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3-8-2013 8-55-31 PMJared Muloongo--intern on KBC and job-seeker in Korea--and I are working to figure out some key information about the visa situation in Korea in order to share it with our members on KBC.

Based on the recommendation of my associate General-Secretary Yong-Moon Kim of the Gyeonggi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies, and through a couple people I worked with at InvestKorea last year to put together the KBC interview with Comissioner Hank Ahn, I was able to get in touch with the official from the Korea Immigration Service who is currently dispatched to InvestKorea to advise on visa matters for foreigners investing in Korea.

I visited his office today with a bundle of questions and the following are the answers I was able to get.

What are the visa options for foreigners who want to work in Korea in non-executive positions which are not teaching/ESL positions? (ex: E7, D8, E9, D9…)

To answer the specific visas mentioned in the question:

  • E-7: This is for foreign employees contracted with Korean companies to provide in-house services in Korea. It's the visa best-matched to most entry-level foreigners looking for a white-collar job in Korea.
  • D-8: This visa requires a large investment by a foreigner in Korea.
  • E-9: This is the visa under which laborers from certain countries come to Korea to work in factories in Korea at low wages. 
  • D-9: Foreigners who have a proven record of having achieved a certain degree of Korean exports in a trading business can be eligible for this visa.

Other visas which a foreigner might consider:

  • D-7: A foreigner who has worked for a foreign company or public agency overseas may be dispatched to Korea to work in the Korea branch or subsidiary of their employer and such person would be eligible for this visa.
  • E-1: Persons with an academic background may obtain a professorship and be sponsored by their university with the E-1 visa.
  • E-3: Foreign researchers at Korean research institutions (does not include professors) generally work under the E-3 visa.
  • E-5: Any number of foreign professionals, such as attorneys, doctors and accountants, would generally work in Korea under this visa.
What can you tell me about an E-7 visa? What are some of the requirements for this visa? 

The key point of this visa is that it's for foreigners working in positions in Korean companies which the Korean companies have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Korea Ministry of Justice cannot be filled suitably by Koreans. (This is the reason most former ESL teachers who have gone from the ESL visa (E-2) to a E-7 visa are still working in language-related tasks.)

What is a D-4 visa for? What kinds of interns get this visa? Is it only at investment companies?

The D-4 visa has a very specific purpose. It's for the foreign local employees of the overseas branches and subsidiaries of Korean companies who wish to bring the foreign workers to Korea for on-the-job training. It is not a visa that can be easily issued under the sponsorship of a Korean company or otherwise to just any foreign intern.

Can you briefly explain what the E-9 visa is for? Who can apply for this visa and what are the requirements to qualify for this visa?  

This visa is for foreign laborers (particularly those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and a few other countries) willing to work long hour in dangerous and dirty conditions for very low wages (currently about W900,000/month is average, or so I've heard). You don't want this visa.

Are these visas country-dependent? For example, are they available only to citizens of certain countries and not to citizens of other countries? (Does this include African countries?) 

As I understand, the E-9 and H-2 visas are available only to persons from countries which have signed agreements with Korea for these visas. The other visas depend on finding a company or organization willing to sponsor, and which can also persuade the Department of Justice that they need the specific foreign employee and will properly take responsibility for that person. Also, as Korean companies now have to pay into four kinds of national insurance/workers compensation plans even for foreign workers, this can also be a significant burden, both in terms of costs and paperwork hassle.

How long does it take a candidate in Africa to have their visa procesed? What are some of the best places to have your visa processed quickly and efficiently?

I don't know, but the official at InvestKorea did say that the visa issuance isn't a country-based thing. No doubt, citizens of certain countries will have an easier time of it, but there aren't specific regulations that would affect this.

If a company states that an individual they are hiring must get their own visa, what recommendations would you make to the individual? How can they get a visa without sponsorship?  What visas would you recommend for people coming to do business in Korea, especially if they want to invest but are below the $200,000 dollar mark?  

Certain visas are available without a company sponsorship, don't require a ridiculously high investment or export record and allow the foreigner to work in Korea. They include the following.

  • D-10: Foreign graduates of Korean universities may be awarded this visa for 6-12 months, which allows them to stay in the country to look for work. In fact, it's called a "Get a Job" visa. This visa does not allow the individual to work though.
  • F-2: Those who are able to jump through lots of hoops and pass the points system may be awarded an F-2 residents visa. F-2 visa-holders may work in Korea.
  • F-6: Foreigners married to a Korean get this visa and they can work too.
  • F-5: This is the visa for permanent residents who have fulfilled various long-term residence and other conditions, and these persons can work, also.
  • G-1: This catch-all visa only requires the foreigner to convince the Ministry of Justice to give it to them. It appears to be intended for special situations.
  • H-2: This visa covers a very wide range of work roles and based on this document which I downloaded from the Ministry of Government Legislation's website, it appears to be similar to the E-9 visa in that it helps Korean manufactures get low cost manpower. Online articles indicate that these visa-holders are only from a few countries which have signed certain agreements with Korea.
What are the process and minimum requirements for a Korean company to sponsor a foreign employee?  What conditions must the foreign employee meet in order to get a work visa? Can an individual ever sponsor the visa of another foreigner without being family? Is there a way to work legally as an intern in Korea without having one’s visa sponsored by the interning company? Are there any loopholes that would legally allow someone to work in Korea without having a business visa?

There don't appear to be formal minimum requirements for a sponsor, but the company has to find a way to persuade the Ministry of Justice that the visa is warranted and that the company will take full responsibility for the employee. Apparently the representative of the company must take personal liability for the foreign employee.

I asked if I, as a foreigner with a non-corporation company in Korea, would be able to sponsor a foreign employee. The official said that, in theory, it's permitted, but that it would be very hard to persuade the Ministry of Justice to award one in this case. So basically, the visa sponsorship process is just a matter of persuading the government that it's necessary but there aren't formal conditions; in some cases it's easier than in others.

The only way to work legally in Korea without a sponsored work visa is to get one of the non-company-sponsored visas mentioned above.

Can you explain about the visa points system?

I found this PDF online which explains it.

What can a business visa applicant do to speed up the visa process? What professonal support services are available/helpful for getting through the visa process?

The fastest way to get through is to prepare the paperwork and submit it properly. The official told me that Korea doesn't have attorneys specializing in immigration work; I guess there's just not that much work to warrant it and the Korean system appears to be a little more approachable than the US immigration, which is a black box. Most visa information is available at Hi Korea. Foreigners should also be able to get free help from offices like the Seoul Global Center (which I believe has a free hotline for questions).

I asked if there was a document which explains all this in one place (including a comprehensive list) and in English and the official said there isn't. He did give me a Korean-language print-out listing all the visas and their summaries which he said don't exist in English, and much of the information provided in this article is based on that document, in addition to my discussions with the official.

If your visa application is rejected, can you apply for another visa type? If your visa is rejected for not having the correct documentation, can you reapply or is there a specific waiting period? 

I didn't specifically ask these questions, but based on what I learned, I would say that the Korean system is quite flexible, with discretion for the government officials, and doesn't automatically lock people out for set periods of time. However, if one is rejected once and then applies again without improving the application, the officials will notice the previous record and are unlikely to award the visa the second time, either.

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Thus, in terms of recommendations for a foreign entry-level job-seeker in Korea who doesn't have the option of ESL teaching, or other short-cuts (such as marrying a Korean), here are what I've come up with as options.

  • D-2 (Foreign Student) - I've learned that Korean universities help their students (including foreign students) get internships and jobs, and that a D-10 visa (which would be awarded after graduation) would give the graduate up to a year to find a position.
  • D-7 (Korea Dispatched Employee) - Persons working for a company or organization with operations in Korea could get transferred to Korea after a time.
  • B-2 (Tourist) - Come to Korea and look for a job through intense networking and research... and hope for the best.
Other than these, there's the E-7 visa which can, in theory, be obtained from abroad. But without coming to Korea first, it'll be hard to find a job and compete in the application process with others who are already in-country. In addition, the company still has to persuade the Korean Ministry of Justice that the prospective candidate brings skills/expertise that they can't find from the tens of thousands of Korean graduates who also can't currently find a job, and it's really not reasonable to ask a Korean company to make this case to the Department of Justice for an entry-level job applicant whom they haven't met before.

Answers to Questions About Transferring from Teaching to Business in Korea

I was recently contacted by a writer for Groove Magazine who is writing an article about people who have taught English in Korea but have moved away from this industry, both in Korea and back in their home countries. Looking for an expert opinion, he contacted me with some questions. The following are the questions and my responses.

1. How has the overall landscape for finding working outside of education in Korea changed in recent years?
No doubt, the number of jobs in Korea outside of education is on the rise. However, many of these jobs for English-speakers in Korean companies still involve language-related work, such as in-house teaching and editing. As always, to move beyond this point, job candidates need to bring additional and recognized skills that Korean companies find hard to fill. Considering though, the large labor pool of Koreans who are fresh out of Korean universities and who can't find jobs either, there really aren't a lot of non-language positions available and Westerners who land those jobs are the exception.
2. Have you witnessed many people successfully making the transition from English teacher to working professional?
If you just mean the transition from English teacher to company position, then yes, plenty are doing that. But as mentioned above, most of those are still language related.
3. Do you think English teachers encounter any major difficulties when trying to break into non-education related fields in Korea?
It's too easy to rely on one's English ability when applying for jobs in Korea. If one is trying to go beyond this, then yes, the English ability serves as an obstacle since many people settle for language-related jobs when other types of positions are not easy to find. This is particularly the case since many of these language-related jobs pay more than someone could expect if they were trying to go through the same channels as a Korean candidate. And Westerners are often not willing to make the sacrifices in the Korean workplace, in terms of long hours and other aspects, to succeed on the same terms as Koreans.
4. How open is Korea to employing foreigners, both at entry level and beyond, and what are the major challenges and advantages a person would encounter whilst seeking employment in Korea?

Most of this question is answered above. Korea is generally not open to non-language Western job seekers and most of these job seekers would not be interested in the entry-level positions on offer to Koreans anyway if they knew what the expectations were.


Q & A About Getting a Job in a Korean Company

KBC Intern Jared Muloonga is preparing a series of interviews with people "in-the-know" about getting a job in Korea as a foreigner. This will become a major feature on KBC soon in order to help our members who are looking for information about this.

In advance of that, Jared ran his questions by me and, while I'm not necessarily "the expert" on this topic, I have done my best to answer his questions so that he can have an idea of what to expect in the actual interview series.

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

A decent GPA is good, but what will really catch the eye of a Korean company would be a famous university. Since there is such a strong ranking system of universities in Korea, Koreans also apply their best understanding to rank international universities, also. Thus, rather than pointing out how great your grades were, that effort would be better spent explaining why your university was a good one.

2. Korea is big on ‘Woori’ so when hiring an individual, does personality matter?  

I wouldn’t think that Koreans are looking for a particular “personality” type; but what they do want is people who will be able to fit in to the Korean workplace. Showing that you’ve made a special effort and will “follow the rules” when you get into a Korean company is most important. Becoming a KBC Certified Business Professional is a great way to show that you’ve made a unique investment in succeeding in a Korea-based position.

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

My answers to questions #1 and #2 mention two ways to get noticed (i.e. demonstrating prestigious educational achievement and showing an extra effort to fit in to the Korean workplace).

However, foreign job seekers don’t generally go through the regular hiring process for Korean companies. Applying for a regular entry-level job would certainly be noticed, but it’s unlikely that foreign candidates would be seriously considered for these jobs. Therefore, as a foreigner, you have both the advantage of standing out no matter what job you apply for and the disadvantage of needing to do more homework to find job openings. In addition, there may be opportunities to approach Korean companies and propose the creation of a position that you're uniquely suited for; this would take an extraordinary extra effort.

I also find that Koreans are not generally as reliant on email as we are back in the West. So there's a good chance that emails sent to hiring managers will get ignored (especially if the email is sent in English and the recruiter isn't comfortable in English).

In-person efforts are surely going to be more effective. For example, how many foreigners do you think just show up at companies asking to speak to the hiring manager about openings? The answer is probably "almost none". But the unusualness of such an effort means that with persistence, you should be able to get in and talk to people.

4. How does one utilize the network they gain wisely in order to gain a Job? 

Cultivating a business network in Korea is crucial, especially for foreign job seekers, because many job openings for non-Koreans are not published and can only be found out about through personal connections. For example, I got my job at LG back in 1994 because a fellow teacher at the institute where I worked was friends with the guy at LG who had been commissioned to find a foreigner for their office and the job was never publicly posted.

On-the-ground efforts that go beyond the ordinary should be the goal of every serious job seeker, and especially through an effort to properly build one's network.

5. How would a hiring manager look for potential candidates to hire?  

For positions to be filled by Koreans, the approach would be very systematic and based on a pre-established schedule. But for foreigner positions, things are much more haphazard and depend on whatever approach the hiring person chooses to take. My example of getting the job at LG is probably typical.

6. How would potential candidates use a resource like KBC in your opinion? 

KBC is a place for buildiing one's network, learning about Korean business (both through the Topic Central pages and the discussion) and earning a recognized certification (KBC Professional Certification Program), but it is not (yet) a destination for links to easy job openings. Serious candidates will have to go much further.

7.  What kind of resumes gets noticed in Korea? 

A resume written in English is unlikely to get read unless the person doing the hiring is very comfortable in English. Therefore, it almost seems a requirement to get your resume translated to Korean. Also, Koreans want to know certain things that aren't generally shared on Western resumes, such as age.

8. What can individuals expect to be asked when applying for a job in Korea? 

It depends, of course, on the job, but at an entry-level for a foreign candidate, the questions are likely to be a little silly. I think my questions at LG centered around whether I liked Korea and Korean food. Peppering one's answers with a few memorized Korean greetings and phrases will elicit a laugh, and impress your interviewers that you have made some effort. Be sure to explain that you're really serious about Korean business, as evidenced by your KBC Korean Business Professional Certification certificate.

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

This one's tough.

It will be difficult to get a job based just on skills that Koreans are already strong in, such as IT, business and engineering. With the difficulty Korean entry-level job seekers are having getting jobs in their own country, there's little chance that a Korean company will hire a foreigner into a position unless they think that foreigner can bring them something that nobody in the Korean job pool can otherwise.

For individuals from English-speaking countries, positions that help Koreans improve their English and understanding of leading markets will be the most natural fit. For those without this advantage, the options become more limited. I would think that demonstrating your understanding of a market that Koreans are interested in and persuading them that you can help them break into that market (in your case, the area of southern Africa) would be a good starting point.

10. 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? 

Koreans are very big on internships these days, particularly internships in overseas markets. Your internship on KBC isn't exactly what Koreans will be looking for, but it will raise an eyebrow and add to your overall image as someone committed to Korean business. On the other hand, they will be more interested in work-experience in a market in which they are interested. For example, if you can demonstrate connections or internship experience in a southern African country that a particular Korean company is looking to do business in, then that would be an attention-getter.

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What Are the Real Benefits to Learning Korean in Korea?

A member on Korea Business Central seems to be losing enthusiasm for studying Korean and posted a discussion question this week asking what he's really going to get out of the effort if he just wants to work in Korea. Seeing as how Koreans in business generally want to learn English and often don't place value on the efforts of foreigners to learn Korean, it's not hard to understand this KBC member's doubts. I think it takes a deeper perspective to fully appreciate the situation; here's how I replied to him:

"This is a very interesting question because it seems like the answer should be obvious, but as you pointed out, it's not.

Nobody is going to hire you in Korea simply because you speak Korean well. Why would they? And having mediocre Korean in the workplace is no better than no Korean at all, in most situations. In general, I've found that Koreans trying to learn English are less than thrilled to meet Korean-speaking foreigners, unless the foreigner's Korean is significantly better than their own English. And I definitely agree that getting from intermediate to advanced is going to take a whole lot longer than it took to get from beginner to intermediate.

But I don't think this is the whole story. If you speak Korean, then you're not left getting only the information Koreans choose to share with you; you've got direct access to the "primary sources". This is extremely important in countless subtle ways. And as David Yeo shared above, you can build stronger bonds with those around you both through the language and through cultural understanding (though I don't necessarily agree that Korean is better suited to emotional expression than English; both languages seem equally robust in this regard).

I think you also earn respect from Koreans you work with if you prove your mettle through Korean skills, and this can be a huge asset in business. Don't underestimate the value here. Foreigners who've been in Korean for decades but haven't learned Korean properly are kidding themselves if they think the Koreans around them don't look down on them, at least in limited ways, and this is in spite of what Koreans will tell them. Ironically, I find that foreigners who've learned Korean tend to be more understanding of Korean shortcomings (especially lack of English skills) than those who haven't learned Korean.

If you've got language skills in a business setting, it means you're closer to functioning as an equal and not as someone who's there as an English chat buddy and/or who continuously needs to be explained to. If you see yourself staying and working in Korea over the long-term, I encourage you to redouble your language learning efforts and to never be satisfied with your current ability level."
 

Click here to read the rest of the discussion, including insightful comments by other Korea Business Central members.


A Recap of Steve McKinney's Exclusive Interview on Korea Business Central

Author_sm Steve McKinney is president of McKinney Consulting, a leading executive search firm in Seoul, and the seventh interviewee in our Korea Business Interview Series hosted at KoreaBusinessCentral.com.

To listen to the interview or download the .mp3, read the transcript and discuss his interview with members of Korea Business Central, visit the following discussion link: http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/korea-business-central-5.

(The full list of interviews in the Korea Business Interview Series is kept here:http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/interviews-2)

Main points of the Interview:

Topic #1 – Overview of the Executive Recruiting Environment

 

  • The international population in Seoul has increased by about 18% over the past five years but foreigners still make up only about 2.4% of the total population. 69% of that increase is made up of migrant workers and spouses. Only about 4% of the total international population is made up of business professionals.
  • The number of foreigners executives in Korea is relatively small due, in part, to the trend toward localization within multinationals, where the number of Korean staff is maximized while minimizing the number of foreign executives.
  • Hiring of foreign staff in the financial and technology sectors is growing strongly in Korea. Other prominent areas include life sciences, healthcare and consumer goods.
  • Senior-level executive positions that executive search firms are active in filling include country managers, as well as financial and marketing roles.
  • Korean talent is gradually finding positions in international positions, especially in the financial, business services, management consulting and automotive sectors. Top destinations include Singapore and China.

Topic #2 - Myths and Realities of Working in Korea

  • Most C-level positions are filled by the respective MNC's home office.
  • Very few who start in Korea by filling English-level/editing positions end up moving beyond that into other professional positions in the Korean business world.
  • Non-Koreans don't get great jobs just because they are foreigners. Koreans are also very well-educated and companies hiring foreigners have to prove to the Korean government why a particular position can be best filled by a non-Korean.
  • It can be very risky to come to Korea to teach English hoping to return to one's original career track once established in Korea. Future prospective employers may not understand how the English position fits into an overall career strategy.
  • It is not impossible to break out of the English profession and into a business position; some achieve it.

Topic #3 - Personal Branding and Getting a Job in Korea

  • Networking is a key part of getting a mid-level non-C level position in Korea.
  • Working on one's resume and making sure one presents oneself attractively to a prospective employer is a key success factor. A surprising number of applicants don't bother with this.
  • A positive outlook to finding a good job is a very important first step in branding oneself.
  • An effective professional brand involves coming up with five to ten of the most important accomplishments in one's life, creating a three-sentence narrative about each and then identifying one's success patterns. These are described in a report by Steve on his website. Click here to view.
  • Promoting oneself requires one to have a "60-second commercial" about oneself that includes facts and figures. For example, "I helped increase sales by 20% in my company" can be greatly improved by rewriting as "I was able to increase sales by 20% in the company by adding three more clients and expanding the business that I had with five others. The results were that we had an increase of $1 million in profit." It's not bragging; it's stating facts.
  • It's not just candidates that are in a pressure position. Employers also need the hiring process to work well. Sometimes the same person doing the same job in a particular industry could be an absolute success and a superstar in one company and a total failure in the other. Candidates must convince the employer that they will deliver results.
  • The most common mistakes job candidates make on their resumes include making typographical errors, making them too long, not putting enough numbers, not describing enough of one's success factors and achievements, leaving too many things up for guessing or leaving gaps in employment history.
  • It's best to apply for a job using the title that one is interviewing for and not choose something that sounds better to the candidate.
  • Taking too much information to an interview can be risky, also. Just showing up at an interview with one's resume is best, unless asked in advance to bring a presentation.
  • The object of a resume should be to give a true picture, not to overstate or understate. Koreans tend to understate; Westerners often overstate.
  • Psychometric tests can be helpful in determining what one would be good for. Also, talking with a professional in the field is a suitable way to assess oneself.
  • Recommended books: What Color is Your Parachute, Hire With Your Head and Deciding Who Leads.

Message #2 to an Associate: On Being Successful in Korea

Following the message I sent my associate in the last post, I followed up with one more email related to my general understanding of the approach a non-Korean must take to be successful in Korea. I think this one is worth sharing too:P1000657  

Hi <Associate>,

I am reminded of one other very important point in your Asia job hunt, that, with enough time, will get you past the challenges I described in my previous email.

It’s simply that you “get it”. I mean, you understand that to get, you’ve got to give; and that nowhere is this more true than in Asia. There are lots of non-Koreans in Korea just waiting for an opportunity; complaining that the Korean business world is biased against outsiders. That is true of course and it’s not going to change. And I’m not saying here that any specific effort you make is going to get you to your goal; Korea Business Central and I may turn out to be a complete dud for you. But you’re not just narrowly focused on your job search; you’re sharing (and sharing a lot!) with others along the way. If you have the patience to see it through, this approach is (almost) guaranteed to pay off.

P1000680

It also mirrors the approach I’m taking with Korea Business Central and GyeongGi Province; in both cases, I’m trying to create enough value first in a strategic area so that in the future, it will come back to me one way or another. I’m not thinking at all about the short-term earnings; it could be years before I get my investments back. Not everyone has the patience for such a long-term approach, and I see that working in my favor. 

I should point out that I’m not a naturally altruistic person; I simply see a kindred spirit in you that I want in my network. I appreciate very much your efforts on KBC and know that if you don’t get to Korea, I’m going to lose that. 

Steven

The principles I shared in the email above must be followed carefully by anyone wishing to have any success in Korean business.

Note: The photos in this post were taken at Nojeok Hill on March 10 after last week's snowfall.