In the United States, interview questions about a candidate’s physical attributes or family history will quickly earn a company a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Hell, if you so much as look at a millennial the wrong way during a first meeting you might quickly find yourself unemployed for your insensitive microaggression.
But, as Bloomberg points out today, questions about physical appearance and family history, among other bizarre stuff we’ll get to shortly, are a common occurrence for young graduates in South Korea. Take the case of 28-year-old Joo Yerim who was required to provide her height and weight on a recent job application.
When 28-year-old Joo Yerim applied for a job at an art distribution company in Seoul last year, she was required to provide her height and weight on the application. The experience left her angry and frustrated.
“That has nothing to do with my ability to work,” said Joo, a university graduate who had interned at similar companies in the U.S.
The questions faced by Joo, who eventually landed a position at an art magazine, would bring an avalanche of complaints and a consumer boycott in many countries. In others, the firm would be hauled before the courts. But in South Korea employers routinely demand such information, along with personal details like an applicant’s age, religion and even the occupations of their family members.
But questions about outward physical appearance are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the bizarre interview process in South Korea. 26-year-old Yang Changmo says he’s frequently asked for his blood type and “drinking and smoking capacity” on job applications and is almost certain he bested another candidate for a job recently because he’s a self-professed ‘good drinker’.
Sometimes the information sought by companies veers into strange territory. Yang Changmo, 26, said he was once required to provide his blood type, and is frequently asked about his “drinking and smoking capacity” during interviews. Heavy drinking with colleagues is a core element of the country’s work culture.
“I think they chose me over the female applicant with almost the same qualifications as mine because I said I was a good drinker,” said Yang, who worked in the hotel industry before quitting to find a new position.
Sadly, South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in is looking to rid his country of its “old school” hiring practices which he says are tantamount to discrimination.
It adds up to what President Moon Jae-in says is discrimination against people who are less affluent or deviate from the mainstream. Moon pledged during his campaign to prohibit such practices as part of his fight against growing inequality, particularly in the job market.
Moon’s administration is working to fulfill his pledges. It will issue guidelines on questions private companies can ask later this month, before revising workplace laws to make those guidelines binding, the labor and finance ministries said in a recent joint statement.
The government is already taking action in the public sector. By the end of August, 481 public offices and companies will be banned from asking job seekers for certain personal information, including family relations and physical details. Applicants will also no longer need to submit a photo of themselves. Because a civil service test must be taken, in many cases they also won’t be required to submit their educational background.
It’s too bad really because we know a lot of people who truly excel at drinking and were this close to buying a one-way ticket to Seoul.
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