Tips for Korean Americans Applying to Korean Companies

Korean Americans can bring a lot of value to Korean companies. Mainly because they understand Korean working culture and are fluent in English. If you can speak Korean that is a huge plus. Since I have worked with Korean startups and worked for large Korean companies, let me give you some tips when interviewing for a position at a Korean company. In Korea, it is not only important to nail the interview, but you also have to master the informal interpersonal aspects of the interview. Here are some tips to make sure you land a promising job with a Korean company.

Make sure you understand the Korean Office Culture

One might ask, why do you want to work for a Korean company in the first place? Many Korean Americans come to Korea as English teachers and might be looking for something different or looking for their next phase in their professional journey. Most Korean Americans have bad experiences when working at a Korean company, worse than working at a Korena hagwon. However, even bad experiences can be looked at as a beneficial experience. Most Koreans have a mutual understanding of Korean office culture but if have not grown up in Korea, it might take some time to get caught up on it. If you don’t know the Korean language it will take you a lot longer. I’ve also written an article on the unwritten rules for foreigners working in Korea.

There are basically 3 key features of the Korean Office Culture

  • Never question authority publicly – This might have started during the military service years which all Korean men have to go through. When your superior gives you a task, you need to follow it without questioning it. This seems counterproductive since it would be wise to hear out feedback from your staff. However, this is frowned upon in Korea. Koreans need to keep their mouth shut. Korean Americans might be able to get away with this at a certain level because they bring a different way of thinking to the table. But in general, it is important to never question authority out in the open.
  • Show up early and leaving late – Korean companies expect or sometimes demand you never be even a minute late. It is good to come about 10 minutes early. However, to leave exactly on time is also frowned upon. While working hours might be set, expect to work an extra 1-2 hours a day. This is because most Korean companies, the “look” of working is still important. Therefore to keep it simple. Come in 10 minutes early and stay behind for at least an hour.
  • Company dinners/lunches are mandatory – Korean company lunches and dinners are used for team building in Korea. Therefore, look for these as an opportunity to bond with co-workers rather than an obligation. Dinners will involve a lot of drinking and multiple locations. If you can’t drink or have plans, try to still make the event. It is not legally mandatory but it will not look great on you if you miss one of these after-work dinners. The good news is that these dinners happen at the most once a month. 

Likely Questions for Korean Americans

Job Interview for Korean AmericansThe basic question you will be asked is to tell them about yourself. Koreans go over resumes beforehand so they already know your basic details. What they want to know about you is what is not on the resume. Don’t focus on hobbies but rather the qualities that separate you from other applicants. In the case of Korean Americans, the key-value you can bring is your ability to help them globally. When Korean companies ask for strengths and weaknesses try to give specific examples for each. My weakness was my low ability to speak Korean. However, I was able to turn that into a strength by showing how quickly I was able to improve my Korean skills.

Don’t be shocked if you get personal questions about yourself. Questions regarding whether you are married and what kind of work your parents do is a common question in Korea. Don’t get offended and don’t feel pressured in answering every single question. Just give the bare minimum answer for personal questions and in most cases, they will not press too much on it. Females tend to have it worse as many companies in Korea are relucent to hire women who could potential be looking to start a family soon. While things are improving regarding these forms of discrimination, it still exists. 

Research the Korean company

If you can address the company’s needs to them, that will show your value right away. First, look at the team members of the Korean company. Are they mostly Korean? How strong is their global sector? Then look at the company itself. When it was founded and who they are partnered with. An example could be if the company lacks a strong presence in the US and you can try to position yourself to lead the expansion into the US market. For those looking to work for a more global company, a good way to start is if the company has a LinkedIn page or if their team members have English names. 

Provide a Solution to a Problem

Figure out one challenge that you think the Korean company might face or is likely to face in the future. Then, determine the ways in which you can resolve the problem. It can be something simple as finding a mistake on their website or whitepaper. Adding your value right away will show the company your potential. If you feel you can add value by creating content, try creating an infographic about their company. Or send them edits regarding the text on their site. Most Korean company websites are filled with text errors because they rely on Crome to translate their site. 

With these quick tips, you will be a lot more ready to land the job. Korean companies are always looking for global talent to be able to show your worth as well as your desire to embrace Korean culture. Furthermore, another strong tip will be to offer to teach basic business English to the entire company. This alone will bring tremendous value to the company as the whole staff will benefit. This is something a Korean American can do rather than a Foreigner as most Korean workers can’t speak English. Therefore having a teacher who can speak English and Korean can make teaching easier. 

Job Fair for Foreign Residents 2020

Seoul Job Fair for Foreigners takes place once a year around September. It is a great event for foreign residents and International students to work for a Korean company. The event brings over 75 Korean and multinational companies with intentions to recruit foreigners living in Korea. The event takes place at COEX and job seekers will get a chance for 1 to 1 on-site interview with recruiting companies. There will be spaces to print resumes and cover letters. In addition, there will be a recruitment bulletin board to check out which companies are there and which job posting you would like to interview for. 

Some of the notable companies at the event include:

  • Gucci Korea Co. Ltd. 
  • PAGODA Education Group
  • Pearl Abyss
  • Lotte R & D Center 
  • Webzen
  • Neowiz
  • 42 Maru 
  • UBASE Inc.
  • HYUNDAI IT CO. LTD
  • YBM
  • Cloud Brick
  • GRAVITY

And more….