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‘Responsibility’ beats ‘professionalism’ in conglomerates’ hiring priorities

Korean conglomerates strive to improve corporate culture for Gen Zs, in return for a sense of responsibility

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Jan. 30, 2023 - 15:18

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Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry building in central Seoul (Yonhap) Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry building in central Seoul (Yonhap)

Demonstrating a sense of responsibility during a job interview will boost one’s chance of getting hired by large companies in Korea, a report from business lobby group Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed Monday.

Since 2008, the quinquennial report has been mainly looking into job recruiting announcements and websites of the top 100 local companies in terms of sales to find out trends in qualification that they seek in their applicants.

“As the job market is expected to turn bleak this year, it is important for applicants to carefully understand changes in qualities that companies require and appeal their strengths accordingly,” KCCI official Yoo Il-ho said.

The report noted that responsibility, which was ranked No. 5 in 2018, became the most important quality among local companies. Meanwhile, professionalism -- which was considered the second-most important quality the same year -- has now became less important, coming in at No. 6.

“Companies are making efforts to change the working environment by creating horizontal organizational cultures, providing fair compensation and eliminating unreasonable practices to meet the needs of Generation Z, who are emerging as a core workforce. Correspondingly, (companies) are expecting a sense of responsibility for the organization and its tasks from applicants,” the report analyzed.

The report also explained why it became less necessary for companies to emphasize professionalism as a required skill when hiring. This is not because the skill is less essential, but because most applicants -- college graduates in particular -- seem to already have a certain level of professionalism in the area that they are applying for.

According to the report, the top three qualities that local firms value are responsibility, a spirit for taking on challenges and communication skills.

Sixty-seven local companies seek responsibility as a trait among applicants, and 66 firms said they are looking for applicants that are willing to take on challenges. In addition, 64 companies picked communication and negotiation skills as important factors.

In addition, in recent years, top companies have started valuing applicants’ contributions to society, which was not even on the top 10 list of required qualities five years ago.

As societal demand increases for companies to make a profit while caring about climate change and implementing socially responsible policies, it is also reflected in the qualities required for new hires, the report added.

This also reflects Gen Z applicants’ preference for working at firms that have social responsibility policies.

Moreover, different industries in Korea tend to ask for different qualities from their applicants, according to the KCCI report.

Responsibility is an important quality for companies providing customer service in various sectors such as retail, trade and transportation.

In the case of the manufacturing industry, there are external uncertainties that come from changes in the global supply chain, digital transformation and economic slowdowns. Therefore, firms tend to look for applicants with a greater spirit for taking on challenges, according to the report.

The finance industry, which has been plagued with embezzlement crimes by employees in recent years, puts more emphasis on finding applicants with firm principles and trustworthiness.

Construction companies prioritize communication skills, as securing safety through smooth communication with workers on-site becomes more crucial.