‘Smile with your eyes’: How to beat South Korea’s hiring bots

A three-hour class in AI hiring techniques can cost more than $80. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 January 2020

‘Smile with your eyes’: How to beat South Korea’s hiring bots

  • As many as eight out of every 10 South Korean students are estimated to have used cram schools

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, according to Statistics Korea — offers a motive not present in other countries where cram schools are popular, like Japan.

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 use or plan to use AI in hiring.

One AI video system reviewed by Reuters asks candidates to introduce themselves, during which it spots and counts facial expressions including “fear” and “joy” and analyzes word choices. It then asks questions that can be tough: “You are on a business trip with your boss and you spot him using the company (credit) card to buy himself a gift. What will you say?”

AI hiring also uses “gamification” to gauge a candidate’s personality and adaptability by putting them through a sequence of tests.

“Through gamification, employers can check 37 different capabilities of an applicant and how well the person fits into a position,” said Chris Jung, a chief manager of software firm Midas IT in Pangyo, a tech hub dubbed South Korea’s Silicon Valley.


Carlos Ghosn brings executive training to troubled Lebanon

Updated 30 September 2020

Carlos Ghosn brings executive training to troubled Lebanon

  • Former Nissan and Renault head says programs will boost jobs market and help rebuild crisis-hit country

BEIRUT: Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan and Renault head who fled Japan where he was facing trial, is launching a university management and business program in Lebanon, a nation mired in a deep crisis blamed on years of misrule, mismanagement and corruption.

Nine months after his dramatic escape to Beirut from Tokyo, the Lebanese-French executive has unveiled a plan to shake up the business school at the Universite Saint-Esprit de Kaslik (USEK), a private university north of the Lebanese capital.

Ghosn, credited with turning round the Japanese and French carmakers before he faced charges of financial wrongdoing that he denies, plans programs to coach top executives, offer technology training and help startups that will create jobs.

Ghosn, a fugitive from a Japanese justice system he says was rigged against him, has found refuge in his childhood home Lebanon where the economy is collapsing under debts amassed since the 1975-1990 civil war. A devastating blast in Beirut on Aug. 4 compounded Lebanon’s woes.

“Obviously I am not interested in politics but I will dedicate time and effort into supporting Lebanon during this difficult period,” he told Reuters at the weekend, ahead of Tuesday’s formal launch during a press conference of his new university program.

“This is about creating jobs, employment and entrepreneurs to allow society to take its role into the reconstruction of the country,” Ghosn told a press conference at USEK on Tuesday.

Ghosn, who was approached by USEK in the weeks after arriving in Lebanon at the end of December, said the programs aimed to offer practical help. He will help supervise.

Drawing on his experience, the focus for the executive program would be turning around companies in trouble, corporations struggling with a troubled environment and how to “make yourself invaluable” in a company.

Ghosn said several international executives had agreed to give pro bono courses, such as Jaguar and Land Rover CEO Thierry Bollore, former Goldman Sachs vice-chairman Ken Curtis and venture capitalist Raymond Debbane.

The short courses, expected to start in March, would be open to 15 to 20 senior executives in Lebanon and the Middle East.

“The role model is my experience, what I think are the basic needs of a top executive in a very competitive environment,” he said, adding that, when he was in charge, Nissan’s executive training program in Japan had been open to other companies.

The second USEK program, subsidised by the executive program, would train people on new technologies, such as computer-assisted design and artificial intelligence.

Ghosn said Lebanon’s jewelry exporters were among those who would benefit from the use of software to help with designs.

The third program would act as an incubator for start-ups, and he aimed to invest in two projects. “I am mainly interested in projects that have environmental impact,” he said, citing the example of a project to turn sewage into fertilizer.

“You are creating entrepreneurs which are badly needed, you are creating employment,” he said, adding he had been persuaded to work with USEK by the president of the Maronite Christian institution, Father Talal Hachem, and his young team.

Ghosn said he had also chosen to work with USEK, rather than some of the bigger Lebanese universities, because he liked the idea of working with an institution that drew in a broad range of students, not just the wealthy.

“These students need help more than anybody else. This is the class that has been smashed by the situation today,” he told Reuters.

“I’m going to help in the way I can,” he said. “I’m going to help build the economy by helping to solve problems that every Lebanese is facing today.”