‘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.


Indonesia sells Asia’s first 50-year dollar bond to fight pandemic

Updated 07 April 2020

Indonesia sells Asia’s first 50-year dollar bond to fight pandemic

  • Indonesia will use the cash raised to partially ‘fund its COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts’
  • The deal was carried out virtually, with bankers working on the transaction unable to travel to Jakarta

HONG KONG: Indonesia has raised $4.3 billion, including the longest-dated US dollar bond ever issued by an Asian nation, to help the government fund its battle against coronavirus, according to a term sheet reviewed by Reuters.
The deal was finalized in the United States on Monday and sold in maturities of 10.5 years and 30.5 years, worth $1.65 billion each, with a 50-year tranche worth $1 billion.
It was Indonesia’s largest-ever bond, according to the term-sheet which showed Indonesia will use the cash raised to partially “fund its COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts.”
The decision to sell 50-year bonds by the government came after initial conversations with potential investors found there was appetite for such a tenor, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
Asian life insurers, especially some based in Taiwan as well as US fund managers were the largest investors, the sources said. The sources could not be named because they were not authorized to speak to media.
“The mood in the market is starting to feel better, investors are starting to think we could be moving toward the end of the tunnel,” a banker working on the deal said.
The deal was carried out virtually, with bankers working on the transaction unable to travel to Jakarta which would have been normal practice.
Bankers working on the deal said the international travel ban put in place to control the coronavirus pandemic made the transaction more efficient to negotiate.
However, for syndicate bankers selling the deal to investors it was logistically more difficult because trading rooms in the major banks have been scaled back.
Indonesia’s coronavirus cases stood at 2,491 on Monday, with 209 confirmed deaths — the highest number of fatalities in Asia outside China.
Fifty-year bond deals priced in local currencies have been held in the past, Refinitiv data showed. South Korea raised 1.1 trillion won through a 50-year bond in September 2016 that at the time was worth $1 billion.
Indonesia’s government said on Monday it had raised its estimated 2020 net bond issuance to 549.6 trillion rupiah ($33.55 billion) to cover the country’s widening deficit.
It also listed a plan for sales of 449.9 trillion-rupiah ($27.47 billion) worth of “pandemic bonds” to cover additional spending for the COVID-19 response.
Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Standard Chartered were the joint book runners for the deal, the term-sheet showed.