SEOUL: In cram school-obsessed South Korea, students fork out for classes in everything from K-pop auditions to real estate deals. Now, top Korean firms are rolling out artificial intelligence in hiring – and jobseekers want to learn how to beat the bots.
From his basement office in downtown Gangnam, careers consultant Park Seong-jung is among those in a growing business of offering lessons in handling recruitment screening by computers, not people. Video interviews using facial recognition technology to analyze character are key, according to Park.
“Don’t force a smile with your lips,” he told students looking for work in a recent session, one of many he said he has conducted for hundreds of people. “Smile with your eyes.”
Classes in dealing with AI in hiring, now being used by major South Korean conglomerates like SK Innovation and Hyundai Engineering & Construction, are still a tiny niche in the country’s multi-billion dollar cram school industry. But classes are growing fast, operators like Park’s People & People consultancy claim, offering a three-hour package for up to 100,000 won ($86.26).
There’s good reason to see potential. As many as eight out of every 10 South Korean students are estimated to have used cram schools, and rampant youth unemployment in the country – nearly one in four young people are not in the workforce by certain measures, according to Statistics Korea – offers a motive not present in other countries where cram schools are popular, like Japan.
“The AI won’t be naturally asking personal questions,” said Yoo Wan-jae, a 26-year-old looking for work in the hospitality industry. “That will make it a bit uncomfortable … I’ll need to sign up for cram schools for the AI interview,” said Yoo, speaking in Seoul’s Noryangjin district, known as ‘Exam Village’, packed with cram schools and study rooms.
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Businesses around the world are experimenting with increasingly advanced AI techniques for whittling down applicant lists.
But Lee Soo-young, a director of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Institute for Artificial Intelligence, told Reuters by telephone the new technology is being more widely embraced in South Korea, where large employers wield much influence in a tightening job market.
According to Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI), nearly a quarter of the top 131 corporations in the country currently use or plan to use AI in hiring.