When You Read Your Kid's Personal Statement

When You Read Your Kid's Personal Statement

Seohoi Stephanie Park
Seohoi Stephanie Park

It’s hard enough for young people to get a job in South Korea. Imagine if you were one of them, and one of your parents was a human resource manager reading your cover letter. 

Solfa, a group of South Korean creative content producers on Youtube, published a video last month that garnered about 400,000 views so far. They invited five “veterans in society,” i.e. those with long careers at big companies, who have had experience in the hiring process.

Each of them came to the Solfa studio, accompanied by their job-seeking child. Solfa made the parents read their children’s personal statements for job applications. The results were pretty funny.

Parents were asked to read their children’s responses to typical personal statement questions: “What is your philosophy of life?”, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, “What was the greatest adversity you’ve faced in life and how did you overcome it?” The video starts cheerfully, with the parents anticipating that their children would have done a good job.

Then…they start reading.  

Q: “What is your philosophy in life?”

A: “It is to constantly push myself out of my comfort zone.”

Suh Yoo-ji’s answer really wasn’t enough to satisfy her father, who has had 28 years of professional experience in an unidentified industry, and is now a CPO of an anonymous corporation.

“This is such a cliché….. I will give a B+ for this.” He said. His daughter looked a bit disappointed.

The mother of Kang Yoon-sik, who is currently a manager at a telecommunications company, listened with a straight face as Kang rambled on about his biggest adversity — something he experienced during a trip to Europe.

“I don’t think this is a topic that would draw HR managers’ interest,” she said. “This is something any other student might have faced at one point in their lives.”

“I wouldn’t hire him,” said Kang’s mother.

The Solfa video is a fun, bubbly video about a more serious issue in South Korea: youth unemployment.

Youth unemployment currently hovers around ten percent. Most of these job-seekers are overqualified. Among OECD countries, South Korea currently has the highest concentration of college-graduates (69 percent) among those between 25 and 34 years of age.

And the most coveted jobs are at well-paying, large companies, especially the chaebol, or family-run conglomerates like Samsung and Hyundai. But competition there is fierce; in 2015, for example, the competition for getting into major corporations soared to an average of 35.7:1.

Big companies go through tens of thousands of applications during hiring season. Employers read thousands of personal statements that sound just like the rest. The entire process is incredibly stressful for young applicants, who need to find a way to stand out in the crowd.

“You can’t know someone 100 percent by reading just their personal statement,” Kang’s mother said in the Solfa video. You have to meet them in person to really know.”

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Not all employers can show the same kind of magnanimity toward applicants, especially when reading their hundredth personal statement.


Cover image: “I’d give him a B-.” (Source: Solfa’s YouTube channel)

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