Monday, October 20, 2008

You Can't Ask That Question!

So I am expanding my Asian empire, having two new reqs to hire people in Korea. My current Korea rep is acting as a consultant, helping me find and interview guys (and they're all guys) for the open sales and field engineering positions.

I spent the morning interviewing earnest young men who are eager for the position - any position, actually as they were to a man unemployed (did I mention that they were all men? Gender roles in Asia are about where they were in the U.S. in 1950, so there actually aren't any women available to even interview.)

Durng the interview I am asking questions looking at the candidate's English skills, their sales or engineering skills, how they would fit into my company culture, and ultimately if I trust them. I am responsible for sales in Korea and how these guys do will reflect on me - and my bonus.

But my Korean rep, being Korean, makes judgements based on other matters. About half way through each interview come his questions:

"Are you married?"

"How many children do you have?"

"What are their ages?"

Now this is not off-the-record chit-chat. These questions are actually part of the interview and quite legal in Korea, as is asking the candidate's age (although the birth date is always put on the resume, so you never have to ask).

In Korea being married and having children show stability, commitment and character, and is an important part of the culture here. Again think U.S.A. 1950. I obviously don't care, but it turns out it didn't matter since every single one of them was married and had two or three kids - it wasn't a differentiating feature.

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