'Spec-free' recruitment not easy in reality
By Kim Bo-eun
A growing number of corporate recruiters these days say credentials do not matter so much in recruitment, and that jobseekers should try to set themselves apart from other applicants.
In light of intense competition among jobseekers to acquire high English test scores and various licenses, some of the country’s main corporations have implemented recruiting processes that do not take these into consideration.
However, applicants cannot afford to go without such credentials, for fear of lagging behind their competitors, and so they continue to pile up a variety of certificates and licenses, which cost a significant amount of time and money.
By the time they apply for jobs, they have at least several of these credentials _ so-called “spec” in Korean. However, since most applicants have these credentials, having them makes little difference.
While companies try to lessen the burden of credentials on applicants, jobseekers say human resources managers cannot help evaluating applicants based on them. They believe these credentials give them an edge in a screening process where they compete with thousands of applicants.
As a result, despite the newly implemented employment processes, jobseekers are more intent than ever on getting better English scores and obtaining an additional license.
New recruitment methods
April is the peak of the annual corporate recruiting season, and jobseekers are busy submitting resumes, taking tests and preparing for interviews. Competition is intense, especially due to the prolonged economic slump, which has made companies cut down on the number of new recruits.
To get a better chance at landing a decent job, college students prepare English proficiency test scores as well as various licenses, which include those certifying one’s knowledge of Chinese characters and one’s ability to use computer programs.
The conventional recruiting process at major corporations involves applicants submitting a resume, taking an aptitude test and being interviewed. Additional criteria for evaluation may include giving presentations and participating in a group discussion. Despite the long, daunting process, countless applicants do not get to take part in the latter stages because they do not make the very first resume cut based on their credentials.
In 2011 Samsung Electronics initiated a new recruiting process for its software and design division that does not involve taking an aptitude test. Rather, it recruits employees solely based on their performance in interviews. The company says its aim is to recruit creative individuals through interviews that require exhibiting technical skills and producing ideas.
Hyundai Motor’s “5-minute self-promotion” is a recruiting method in which applicants introduce themselves to potential interviewers in a limited time span. Those who are selected are exempted from submitting their resumes and can proceed to the interview stage. In the recruiting process for the second half of last year, the company recruited 134 employees out of 840 applicants through this method.
The steel-making company POSCO said earlier this month that it is recruiting 850 interns, 400 of whom will be selected without having to disclose their alma mater or GPA. These select interns will have the opportunity to get a permanent position.
While these companies have created new recruitment methods, they, like other companies in general, still primarily use the conventional method.
Is it effective?
“It seems companies are taking a positive turn,” said a 26-year-old jobseeker surnamed Park, commenting on the companies’ attempts to reduce the burden of credentials for applicants. “But in reality, they still expect applicants to have them,” he said.
Recently, Park was at a final interview with corporate executives, along with five other applicants. One of the executives asked an applicant about why he didn’t have a Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) score on his resume. English proficiency scores had not been required of the applicants. The executive went further to ask what the applicant had done instead of studying for an English proficiency test, Park said.
“If I had the time, I would take the TOEIC speaking test again to obtain a level 7 score. Companies seek applicants with speaking proficiency in English, and their very first judgment of an applicant’s skill is based on English speaking test scores on resumes,” he said.
Even corporate officials say it is inevitable that companies look at applicants’ credentials. Since recruitment at conglomerates involves selecting thousands of applicants in a limited period of time, an initial process of screening is necessary, they say.
“Applicants are screened in the first stage, like going through a funnel. Honestly, it is impossible to evaluate 10,000 applicants on an individual basis,” said Rhee Choong-sub, a human resources manager at POSCO.
Rhee said companies, however, are trying to reduce the burden of credentials for applicants in various ways. “Companies these days are recognizing the importance of seeking diverse applicants, and therefore are making an effort to expand new methods of recruiting that take less of the applicants’ credentials into account,” said Rhee.
POSCO considers 730 as its cut-off TOEIC score for recruiting. In the past, applicants were given additional points in the recruiting process if their scores were 900 or above. However, POSCO has eliminated giving additional points for significantly higher scores.
“It is impossible not to consider applicants’ credentials at all, as it is a reflection of how hard they have worked. But what companies are doing is lowering the existing standard, to provide opportunities for more people,” Rhee said.