THE ‘BLIND screening’ system is a new hiring policy for public sectors to ensure equality among applicants. It prohibits candidates from writing down any qualifications that are subject to discrimination, such as their birthplaces, their school names and their physical attributes on their applications. During a meeting with his secretaries on June 22, President Moon Jae-in said that employers must not demand any personal information from employees in the hiring process, unless the job specifically requires a certain level of education or physical ability. The policy will be implemented some time during the latter half of the year.
While the majority is in favor of this new policy, lauding the transition from the discriminative employment process to a fair hiring practice, some disapprove. The opponents contend that despite its rosy intention to revamp the hiring process by eliminating the biases, ‘blind screening’ system is problematic in essence.
Why is it problematic?
Critics argue that the policy is incompatible with the regional quota system, which requires public sectors outside Seoul to fill at least 30% of the employees with those who graduated from colleges in the respective regions. President Moon proposes that the regional quota system can stimulate regional economic growth and resolve youth unemployment in those provinces. Nevertheless, this system involves revealing applicants’ academic backgrounds and hometown. Thus, the government is putting together two contradictory systems for its hiring policy.
Moreover, the new hiring practice acts as a reverse discrimination for students who attend prestigious universities. In Korea, attending top universities is an indication of one’s diligence, intelligence, and prestige. The university itself is thereby considered a valuable spec* among applicants. Yet, by ‘blinding’ the school names, the new policy completely disregards the long study hours that students had dedicated during their school years to attend prestigious universities. Accordingly, Yonsei students have expressed strong disagreement towards the ‘blind screening’ policy.
What do Yonsei students say?
Many Yonsei students are dispirited about the ‘blind screening’ policy and pinpoint the loopholes in the new system. “Why are GPAs revealed but not the names of our universities?” Lee Yoon-ji (Soph., Dept. of Econ.) skeptically questioned. “Many advocates of ‘blind screening’ voice that they just happened to be accepted in less prestigious universities. Then can Yonsei students also say that we happened to receive less outstanding GPA, which will appear on our curriculum vitae?” Since it is more competitive to get high GPA in top schools, students attending these schools may be disadvantaged. The government is merely showing the public that it is keeping its words by establishing policies that were advocated during the elections. Moon’s administration is clearly notwithstanding the contradictions it may engender.
Furthermore, if private sectors are compelled to administer this hiring practice by law, which is highly possible in the future, they will lose a big number of competent candidates. The firms may be hampered from recruiting the most qualified people with the government restricting their hiring process. Although one’s academic background is not a determinant factor of his or her ability, it shows the applicant’s perseverance, ambition and achievements. If it becomes mandatory for the private sectors to employ the ‘blind screening’ process, applicants from competitive schools will have to boost their resume on top of school work by participating in internships and taking language exams. Hong So-hyun (Soph., Dept. of Econ.) discussed the effects of the policy on our society. “The ‘blind screening’ system may devalue the importance of education. People will no longer want to go to top universities, where they can receive high-level education, because it is more important to acquire high GPAs. This may lead to a decline of tertiary education,” said Hong.
On the other hand, students who favor this policy underline the need of a more transparent and fair employment process. The ‘blind screening’ process may act as a positive stimulus for Korean society that is largely influenced by blood ties and school connections. In fact, some private companies require applicants to write down their parents’ professions and income levels on their applications. It is actually illegal for companies to ask their applicants for such private information in many developed countries. “If these discriminatory employment processes are reformed, everyone will be given equal opportunities to improve their lives,” said Choi Jeong-yeon (Jr., Dept. of Systems Biology). Through ‘blind screening,’ the public sectors can evaluate the candidates solely by their abilities and job skills. Since Yonsei students have worked arduously to attend the prestigious university, they can continue their efforts and obtain their desired jobs. If the students are competent enough, then they will get a job even if the name ‘Yonsei’ is hidden in their resumes.
How can we reach a compromise?
Many students are still worried that the system is implemented too abruptly. “The ‘blind screening’ system should not gain its effectiveness immediately. The society needs time to adjust to the new policy. It is absolutely unfair for current job seekers to be blind screened all of a sudden,” said Hong. To reach a consensus among students who attend prestigious universities and those who do not, the new policy should be applied for those who have not been admitted to universities yet. “Perhaps the system could be practiced towards students who are currently attending middle school,” suggested Hong. In this sense, they can prepare themselves for their college applications and future careers, acknowledging the altered employment process.
Also, the government should resolve its self-contradictory policies that include both the blind screening and the regional quota system. The envisioned system intended to assure equality among members of society is ironically triggering dissension. It is of urgent priority for the system to examine the roots of the problem. During an inaugural speech on July 5, Kim Sang-gon, the deputy prime minister of social affairs as well as the education minister, proposed a reform of the educational system and highlighted the need of a transition from a competitive education to one that promotes cooperation and harmony. “The government should provide necessary amendments to the ‘blind screening’ policy to appease the controversies,” he said.
* * *
The ‘blind screening’ process indeed possesses commendable motives to guarantee fair chances of recruitment. It plants confidence in all students to pursue their ambitions, regardless of their academic backgrounds or personal history. Keeping in mind of the controversies it sparked, Moon’s administration must announce the detailed plans and the standardized resume to be used in the new hiring policy as soon as possible. Hopefully, the ‘blind screening’ process can impartially uncover the potentials of all students attending universities in different regions.
*Spec: A term derived from the word ‘specification’; More specifically, spec refers to a wide range of achievements including one’s academic background, language proficiency test scores, volunteering activities, certificates, internships and many more. Spec is a key indicator of an applicant’s competitiveness in the job market.