Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Applying for a job in Korea - The complete application process

Although most job adverts targeting foreign professionals will be written in English their are some opportunities with medium sized companies which will scout for a Korean speaking foreigners. The best place to find these opportunities are on the Korean job website PeopleNJob (

Most job adverts in Korea will follow a standard format as follows:

1. 지원 자격
2. 모집인원 : 00 명
3. 전형 방법 : 서류전형 - 인적성 검사 - 면접 전형 - 신체검사
4. 지원서 접수
가. 접수기간 : 0000 ~ 0000
나. 접수방법 : 온라인 지원서 작성

1. Job Description
2. Positions Available: 00 indicates over 10 positions
3. Recruiting Process: Resume Submission -> Aptitude Test -> Interview -> Physical Examination
4. Resume Submission
· Submission Period :
· Submission Method : Online

So here is my explanation in detail of the typical job application process of a Korean company from start to finish!

Resume Submission -> Aptitude Test -> Interview -> Physical Examination

Resume Submission
I have already covered the Korean resume in an earlier post. As described above most companies will ask for this process to be completed online. They will often have their own systems complete with forms much of which will resemble the Resume I have explained earlier! Just on a side note: Resume submission periods are notoriously short here in Korea (Usually under 1 week!) so always be on the lookout for job notices regularly.

Aptitude Test
An aptitude test? what? why? .... is exactly what I said to myself when I had to go through this process. Currently the trend in HR departments across Korea is to employ these examinations before the interview process. Now it will obviously vary from company to company so I can only impart what I experienced. The aptitude test I undertook lasted around 2 hours and was divided into two tests. The first of which was a personality test. The personality test asked questions about my perception of myself and asked me to choose an option that best described me and an option which least described me out of a total of 4 options per question. Typically all options were very similar to each other - for example:

Would you consider yourself as a} a leader b} ambitious c} determined d} flexible

There really is no right or wrong answers in this kind of test and you can't manipulate it in any way into your favour. The reason why my company incorporated this test is to see whether the applicants personality matched the position applied and to test for other qualities such as the ability to work in a team. Now here is the interesting part, for new graduates these aptitude tests bear some weight as to which position/department they placed into. Wanted a marketing position? too bad your personality doesn't suit marketing but we'd like to put you into a HR role - Congratulations (This is what happened to me)

The second test was a math test without a calculator. If you remember at primary school there was those national maths tests with no calculator that asked about buying apples and two travelling trains? Expect the very same style in this test. To be honest I was absolutely hopeless. I was probably better at these math tests when I was 13, but don't despair - the test isn't about how many you answered correctly but rather how you managed time, percentage of correct answers and number of questions answered. Take your time, don't rush and don't stress if you don't finish it all.

The job advert will just say "interview" but what it really means is that they will have a interview process of its own which is usually broken into 3 rounds.

1st Interview
The dreaded first interview is the typical group interview, but Korean companies have taken these group interviews to all new levels often scheduling them over an entire day at a location that can handle 100+ applicants,  Some examples of things my company would do is break applicants into groups of 7-8 people and ask them to do a group presentation on a certain topic after 10 minutes of preparation (all done in front of the panel). The mock presentation is then followed by the standard question format in which you have to talk about how great you are in front of 7 other people. This was then followed by a session in which all applicants were asked to create mind-maps of their careers...... It's pretty much the worst day in your life; I still cringe thinking about it today.

Important tip - One of my roles in the HR team was to welcome the applicants and sit with them during the waiting periods between activities etc. There is never a time when people are not watching and evaluating you. Your rapport with the other candidates is just as important as your interview performance. I can recall one applicant who was quite impressive on paper and in the interview process, but during the waiting periods he was highly unsociable, arrogant and chose to pace up and down in the room reciting his prepared interview answers rather than socialize. Now that might not seem like much but it was the reason he didn't make it to the 2nd round interview. Not everyone is your competition and ultimately recruiters want you all to bond as a group.

How to apply for a job in Korea - The complete application process explained
Oh god - time to talk yourself up in front of other candidates during the first interview.

2nd Interview
Round two of the interview process is usually the standard personal interview with a HR representative, accompanied by one or two senior managers who will be your team leaders if you are successful in your application. This is the time you will be asked the typical questions about your ambitions, career plan, motivation for applying, knowledge of the company and so on. Refer to the self introduction section of the Korean resume for an overview of the typical questions. 

3rd Interview
Sometimes the 2nd round will be the last interview and you will find out then if you are successful, otherwise normally there will be a 3rd round in which you sit down with a senior director (or maybe even the CEO) for an interview which is really just a formality. It's for show and the questions will be exactly the same as your previous interview. So be cool. 

Physical Examination
So by now you have received the call from HR and told that you have been successful. The last formality is a complete physical examination. For an office job it might seem a little strange but they just want some piece of mind to know that they can work you for 80 hours a week without you keeling over and dying. Risk management 101/ 

For your interest my previous company recently opened (and now closed) applications for Malaysian graduate students in Korea. Check out the link here to get an insight into how job opportunities for foreigners are advertised on company websites.


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