Being Smart Doesn’t Help You.


At least in hiring process in Asian company.

Sorry for being MIA for a long time, readers.  While I’ve been studying for LSAT, my motivation started shake pretty badly, because the employment for graduates were bad, and even worse for non-citizen internationals like myself.  People who graduated from top10 schools, like Columbia, were coming back to South Korea because no one was offering them a job, let alone internship.  Now that is something I really do not want, especially after busting your butts for 3 years and paying huge sum of tuition.  And my score stalled (which isn’t impressive at all, by the way).

Then I randomly ran into a global hiring posting by a prominent Japanese company (henceforth JC).  This company is fast-growing, young Japanese company who did really well even in the global recession, and they are very aggressive in international expansion.  Most importantly, they sponsor your visa and you get to work in Tokyo.  There aren’t many employers willing to sponsor your visa in times like this, and in my humble opinion, it is a bit foolish to not to take such an opportunity.  After all, I didn’t have much to lose.  Even after law school, I would love to work focused on Japanese market, and I thought it would be a good chance to test myself and the company – whether I can fare as TCK in Japan, and the company really means what they say.  And, I wanted to check I can actually handle the daily work.  Plus, they pay for the flight and accommodation – and the JPY is frigging expensive.  Hell yeah!  I applied, passed the resume screening, 2 interviews, and 2 personality tests.  Then I was invited to Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan for final interview.  According to the official e-mail, the chosen candidates were to spend 9 days in Tokyo, having some presentations, group discussion, 2.5 days on field, and then final interview.

The flight arrangement was not smooth at all.  Some of the factors are my fault, but again, many things could have been better if the outsourced company planned a bit more carefully.  For instance, my flight schedule was changed once.  The flight number and time were same.  I went to the Incheon airport on the day of my flight, and handed my passport and e-ticket.  The lady at the desk looked really confused, and said: “ma’am, your flight doesn’t leave from here.  It leaves from Gimpo airport.” (Seoul city has two airports).  Fortunately, I did not miss my flight but I had to give up all my practical duty-free shopping, like my formal black coat which was 30% off.  I am just glad Tokyo’s temperature did not drop much during my stay.  It turned out that the flights have exactly same numbers, but two different flights leaving from different airports.  I wasn’t the only person confused.  Honestly, it would have been more convenient to let people book their flight individually and file compensation to the company.

Then, for some reason, the company did not make a solid plan for meals.  So 15+ people who flew from all over the world had to just follow chaperon, visited a restaurant, wait outside for a seat availability, kicked out, walk, then another restaurant.  Had they thought more, they could have divided us into smaller groups (Roppongi doesn’t have big restaurants with lots of seats!) or made reservation to somewhere else.  Really, it’s not that hard.

But all of this are nothing compared to people from Russia and Mongolia.  Something went wrong in immigration, and they were locked in the airport for 3+ hours.  As soon as they arrived at the office, they were greeted by 3 hours long personality test.  During the program, We were given 2.5 days to spend in actual workplace.  After the first day, each group’s field experience was vastly different, and it wasn’t hard to infer that the pre-arrangement was next to non-existent.  Around the middle of program, a strange rumor was spread- that after the interview, the company’s human resource officers will secretly pick candidates to have final round of interview with the CEO.  Not everyone took it seriously, and many thought it is just some urban legend created by frustration and nervousness.  After all, you wouldn’t do such a covert operation when you are doing “international hiring,” and many people came all the way from the other side of earth, flying 10+ hours.  Right?

The 6th day was supposed to be wrap-up/review meeting with human resource people.  Well, in the morning, the human resource officer said the plan has changed and the interview will be today.  Not an ideal situation but not impossible to be understood.  But then, the interview arrangement was shit.  They had only two interviewers to interview 27 people in a day.  Expectedly, interviewers were totally worn out, and toward the end some candidates were given only 4-5 minutes, if not waiting for 6 hours locked in a waiting room.

Then on the next (and also the last) day, we were supposed to have a group discussion.  A lady from human resource picked 7-9 people, saying there is something wrong with their personality test so they will have to retake it.  Now, this already sound strange – retake? On the last day?  And those people were asked to bring their translation receiver.  When one candidate asked, “excuse me, but why are they taking receiver for taking a test?”  The officer said “well, they just have to be returned for a while.”  Nice excuse, ma’am.  The rumor turned out to be true.  In addition, the “chosen ones” were asked to lie to others (that they took test, not the final interview with CEO) by human resource in order to “keep everyone happy.”  Instead, the intention of “keep everyone happy” really made everyone awkward with each other.  And people knew it anyway, so what was the point of “lying?”  If you want to hide something, hide it well.

Since I had a working experience in South Korea (where the business culture is very similar with Japan), my reaction was more like “well, I should’ve expected it…” (not that I was happy with it).  Now, the people from UK were flipped.  Totally flipped.  They pretended that they are just asking others’ opinion, but really they made a pretty clear complainant to the company.  By no means I am saying the chosen ones were undeserving losers – but everyone who were called to the “secret final interview” were people who don’t really have their own opinion (or don’t really state it), a bit naive, zero to little experience living in Japan, and speak zero no little Japanese.  Now, if you say you are looking for someone who are going to work in Japan yet hire someone who has zero to little Japanese experience, I think the message is clear: the company wants people who are easy to deal with, follow their way unquestioningly, and easy to train. Some people who were active and/or received positive feedback on in-field experience did not get the job.

If the supervisors who actually spent time with us were decision makers, I think the result would be very different.  But they were not decision makers, and usually, Asian middle managers don’t want smartest/brighest/talented/skilled people to be hired – they don’t want to be outsmarted and lose their face in public.

Now I really don’t hold any hope on Asian big-shots’ “globalization.”  If you are doing everything in a very local way while hiring, how would you expect to have a diverse, fresh view in your company?  I would not expect the companies to be 100% honest on their intention.  But if what they want is “nice” malleable people, they really should not say they want someone active and self-thinking – for three days straight.  This company calls itself as young, active, and a totally new type of Japanese company.  They could’ve just told us such-such things are to be expected, instead of hiding everything (and never admitting it even after everyone knows everything).  Go and screw your sorry ass, and forget about globalization.

I don’t want to sound like ugly American/Westerner who believes everything  western is better (after all, I’m not exactly the westerner).  But in terms of communication and getting to the goal, west is better – there’s no crap and meaningless effort involved to hide.

On the positive side – my supervisor liked me, I got some compliments, and people whom I spent time together liked me.  And I got to visit some of my dear people in Japan.


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