English interviews at Daewoo Construction

I finished a job at Daewoo Construction last week.

Over three days, three other teachers and I level tested more than 540 young Koreans at the start of their working careers. Sometimes I have to pinch myself for the learning experiences I’ve been able to have here in Korea.

Interviewing is done quite differently here in Korea vs. the States.
For starters, you’re not even considered for a job unless you submit a resume with your picture and DOB. However, resume pictures here are all Photoshopped and enhanced, until every applicant has the same skin tone and face shape, rendering the picture pointless, not to mention unjust to start. Maybe that’s the point, that everyone looks alike.




the one fella who smiled in his resume pic

The applicants were much more handsome and interesting in person—some with wide faces, some with skinny noses, some with darker skin, some with dimples at the corner of their eyes when they smiled, somewhere I’ve never seen dimples on a white person. Some had the largest heads I’ve ever seen in person. I know what Merv Griffin said, but that only works on TV.

Candidates interview together.
While waiting in my interview room, I saw groups of 8-10 applicants escorted by a Daewoo employee. They’d enter a room and be interviewed together by a panel. The English interview was the only interview the young men and women would complete individually all day. The interview was a three-step, all-day process.

This is so different from what I’ve experienced in North Carolina. There’s no comparing F4K to Daewoo Construction. Still, I think the process is typically to select the applicants you want to interview and interview a small group of people individually at designated times, for example, three people for one opening.

Daewoo didn’t seem to give a d@mn about the applicants’ time. Many of the young people I interviewed said they’d been waiting for 2-3 hours past their appointment time for their panel interviews.

After interviewing more than one hundred 24-27-year-olds, I made some generalizations.

Dark navy suits are the uniform de rigeur for men. Save three men who wore dark charcoal, light grey and black, every other man wore navy suits with a white dress shirt, conservative tie and polished timepiece.

The women wore black skirt suits with a navy or ivory blouse buttoned to the top, minimal makeup and jewelry.

Architectural engineers had the highest level of English proficiency among the disciplines of engineers I interviewed. My co-interviewers said Architectural Engineering is a more prestigious and competitive field here in Korea.

The women’s English outshone the men’s. Maybe women are better listeners, on the average anyway.

If the interviewee was one of three kids, the birth order was girl—girl—boy.
If their were two kids in the family, the mix might be boy-girl, or boy-boy. Not once did I meet someone from a family with a birth order of boy-boy-girl. Hello, gender preference.

I asked the applicants about their families up front.

I wanted to lob them a softball, so they’d feel comfortable. Also, hearing about their families individualized each applicant for me, so I could focus on them fully. I tried not to let my personal feelings color the interviews. Frankly, the boys who had older sisters and talked lovingly about them, I liked these applicants best, or as much as the gals who talked adoringly about their younger brothers.

The male applicants who talked condescendingly about their younger sisters, well…

One of the applicants complained that his younger sister wasn’t talking to him. This guy had spent a year abroad and traveled a lot after college. His younger sister just graduated and now also wanted to spend a year in Canada to improve her English. The brother told his sister she should get serious and get a job now, and he had no idea why she wasn’t talking to him.

The Daewoo gig was outstanding really.

The opportunity to interview so many young people in a concentrated period of time was a boon. I glimpsed a bit of family and business culture here, which is so different from the US, but I also met kids at the beginning of their careers and got to see that their anxiety and expectations aren’t any different than those of our kids back home.

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