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Inside View: Samsung

This week we interview Lorenza Salerno, the European recruiter for HQ positions at Samsung Electronics. She talks to us about what Samsung has to offer MBAs, and why they should move to South Korea...


Thu Jan 5 2012

This week we interview Lorenza Salerno, the European recruiter for HQ positions at Samsung Electronics. She talks to us about what Samsung has to offer MBAs, and why they should move to South Korea!

Lorenza has been working at Samsung for over 18 months. In that time she's fulfilled a very specific role: she looks for candidates for Samsung's global headquarters. Most of the candidates that she's trying to find are those with a technical background. However, she says that there are definitely opportunities for MBAs as well. She points to the fact that Samsung's marketing intelligence team are currently looking for a candidate with an MBA.

When Samsung looks for MBAs, it’s usually for candidates who have already had experience at leading global companies like Unilever, IBM or Procter & Gamble. Samsung is looking for people who not only have a solid academic background but also good business experience which they can share with the company.

Samsung first began hiring from Europe and North America in 2000: “we started to hire outside of Korea because we were becoming a global company,” says Lorenza. Now Samsung is looking to increase that number further as they're in a period of expansion: “currently we have offices in over 60 countries which is amazing when you consider that Samsung started out as a family business back in 1969… because of this growth we need our company and our headquarters to be more reflective of our global make up.”

Currently there are about 1000 international employees based in the firm’s South Korea headquarters, however the company is looking to substantially change that number in the near future: “we want to bring in 30,000 people from outside of Korea for our research and development team over the next ten years.”

Lorenza also highlights that even though her role is to recruit for the HQ, Samsung also have lots of opportunities all over the world, “we have regional headquarters in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China and Russia”. Around 95,000 of Samsung’s 200,000 worldwide employees are currently based in South Korea either in Suwon or Seoul.

We ask Lorenza if it is difficult to attract people to work in Korea. “Definitely not. The economic situation in Europe doesn't seem to be getting better and people are much more willing to travel for work purposes than they used to be.” Samsung's contracts for the headquarters are either one or two years in length, which means people don't have the pressure of signing up for a long time but there is the potential to stay as well.

When discussing MBAs Lorenza tells us: “Just because we're a technology company doesn't mean we only hire scientists. We definitely need people with MBAs.” At the global headquarters there around 600 people with MBAs, both Korean and international.

And if you’re not on LinkedIn, you had better sign up now! Lorenza recently found a great MBA candidate via the site: “I found them online and thought this person would be a great candidate and we're now going through the interview process.”

Samsung flies their candidates to Korea for interviews: “this means that our potential employees can get a feel for the company and they can really see the environment that they'll be working in and decide if they really fit in with us.”

What separates Samsung from other big electronics companies like Sony? “Samsung is the largest electronics company in the world right now,” says Lorenza. In 2010 our revenue was US$135.8 billion, we're also the 17th most valuable brand in the world.” Samsung is a world leader in telecommunications, semi conductors and digital convergence technologies and it's the number one company in the global monitors market, she adds.

Regarding employee satisfaction, Lorenza addressed how their current motto, “inspire the world create the future”, reflects the kind of attitude the company tries to instil into its employees. But how hard is it for Europeans to adjust to life and work in South Korea? “Of course there's a cultural difference and a language barrier. On the other had more and more Koreans are learning English and they're extremely interested in learning about Western culture.” She pointed to how many street signs are now in English and Korean.

Nevertheless, Westerners must accept that they too must make adaptations: “The culture in Korea is very hierarchical and you have to respect the code of conduct and methods of communication here.” Lorenza went as far as to say that Samsung isn't a company for everyone: “Our people need to be flexible and perceptive.”

She gave us some examples of the cultural differences you could expect to encounter: “People here will ask you very personal questions about your age and your marital status, that's just the way people like to show their interest in you. Here age is also very important, seniority is related to years of experience and you have to respect that.”

When discussing Samsung's business model Lorenza thought that, “Samsung have taken the best elements of the Japanese model and the US model of operations and combined them. For an MBA this is a great culture to work in as you will be exposed to a very interesting model of operations whilst being in roles that you'd be familiar with such as marketing and finance.”

Lorenza also assured us that when candidates relocate to South Korea the cost of relocation is covered by Samsung: “When you come here we want the transition to be as smooth as possible. We know that when our international employees come here they have a lot of adjustment to go through but we do our best to make sure they can do it quickly.”


Interested in tech jobs? Read our interview with the folks at Rocket Internet, Europe's biggest tech incubator