Almost 100,000 young people applied for a job aptitude test administered by the Samsung Group over the weekend, the first in a series of exams that lead to a job with the huge conglomerate. It was the largest number of applicants since Samsung began administering the test in 1995, and it had to administer it in 84 locations in Seoul and other major Korean cities as well as New York, Los Angeles and Toronto.
The surge in the number of applicants was due to Samsung's decision last year to scrap the resume-screening process that allowed it to drop a quite number of applicants in the initial stage. As a result, many more graduates from less prestigious regional universities are applying.
Yet it is still abnormal for almost 100,000 people to flock to an employment test offered by a single conglomerate. The competition ratio for the available jobs is higher than 100:1. It has become tougher to get a job than to gain entrance to one of the top universities.
Some 300 different study manuals are on sale at bookstores with tips on how to pass the employment exams of Samsung, Hyundai, LG and other conglomerates.
Young Koreans are climbing over each other to get jobs in a handful of major business groups because they offer better salaries and job security than smaller companies. Rather than looking for career-boosting opportunities offered by smaller companies, these young people are placing more importance on the name value of their employers.
Individual talents and skills do not stand out much in such a huge machine, but talented people could shine in smaller businesses and propel their companies to new heights. Overseas, job recruiters place far more importance on applicants with experience and stellar track records in smaller companies than those who manned cubicles in a big business.
Many successful businesses overseas are the results of a venture by a small group of entrepreneurs rather than offshoots of major conglomerates. Kazuo Inamori, the founder of Kyocera and a management guru, started his business with a handful of graduates from a regional engineering college.
It is important for the economy to produce more quality jobs. But young Koreans must be taught to look beyond the present job market and challenge themselves and be brave enough to learn from their mistakes. The government, for its part, has to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs as well as safety nets to make sure they can get back on their feet in case they fail.