Job-seeking students are blindly chasing ‘specs’ at the same time companies are beginning to change their recruitment to reduce their importance. Increasingly open selection processes are leaving students in the dark about how to pursue the career of their dreams.

Half of South Korea’s top 500 companies favour the use of open recruiting according to leading job portal Incruit. Open recruiting prefers interviewing and simulations over the screening of resumes for ‘specs.’ This has led to an increasingly widespread trend of ‘story’ not ‘spec’ recruiting, with conglomerates leading the way.

Hyundai now uses a “Five Minutes Self-PR” process. Applicants introduce themselves to board members at jobs fairs, and if they pass they don’t have submit their resumes. Hanhwa dropped their aptitude test and instead use games, simulations and overnight interview trips to recruit. ‘Viking Challenge’ is SK’s new recruitment tactic with applicants giving a self-PR presentation and going on an overnight interview trip to be selected.

Consultants warn that students focus on their grades, and there’s less thought on how to communicate the skills they have gained to prospective employers, although interviewing has become more important in an open recruitment process.

“For students, they have no idea how to do a job interview,” says Joshua Kwon, a career consultant and head hunter. “Even if they have great potential, they can’t show it. We teach good attitudes for interviews and how to summarize their career.”

However there is also a worry that completely dropping the screening of resumes for ‘specs’ will result in other problems.

“I think it is wrong to not look at specs,” says Kwon. “I think it is right to give more salary to hard workers. To recruit someone not knowing anything about them is impossible. It is populism. Companies will not actually do so. People have to make their chance by working hard.”

About 40 percent of students oppose open recruiting says Incruit, a figure unsurprising given the fact that 40 percent of students get A range grades, and would not want to see their university score rendered meaningless with the recruiting trend.

Despite the move towards open recruiting job seekers spent an average of two million won ($2,000) last year finding a job, an increase of 370,000 won ($370) compared to 2008. Students continue to spend money on building specs, with more than 60 percent of job seekers feeling that private education is ‘necessary or very necessary’ for successful job seeking.

Students continue to believe that gaining specifications are vital to their chances of finding a job. This includes achieving A grades at university, gaining certificates in language and expanding their skill sets. The competition to collect these ‘specs’ is fierce.

“There are a lot of good students with great experiences and great specs. For a normal student like me there is a very small hole to get through that competition and get a good job,” says one student for Ewha Womens University. “Especially when I want a good job that I can work for a long time, at least a few years.”

The costs of collecting ‘specs’ are not only restricted to money. Students often spend considerable time studying for special exams in languages or working in low paying internships while studying to make themselves more appealing to potential employers.

“We think that if we get a job in one year it is very successful,” says Park Seon Young, a journalism major. “For getting a job now I am preparing for the English proficiency tests and the Korean proficiency test. I am also preparing for a writing test.

South Korean companies traditionally follow a three stage recruitment process. First they screen resumes, then they evaluate applicants through an aptitude test, and finally use an often two tiered interview process. Private employment consulting companies deal with at least one of those three categories. They also tutor job seekers with one on one consultations and courses ranging from 100,000 won ($100) to 900,000 won ($900).

Still, four in ten business officials said they do not trust their companies recruitment process, and 55 percent said that their companies method was “simple and unscientific.” This is also one of the drivers of the change.

Meanwhile, the competition for career employment is still getting tougher, with youth unemployment rising from 8.6 percent to 10 percent this year, leaving more than 400,000 young people scrambling for more specs and work.