CEO of AI-based recruiting platform Wanted Lab on how digitization is reshaping Korea’s job market

CEO of Wanted Lab, Lee Bok-kee (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

When Lee Bok-kee, founder and CEO of Wanted Labs, quit his high-paying consulting job in 2013, he had only one goal: to solve problems.

Having spent around five years at a consulting firm seeing tech mammoths like Samsung and LG pay millions of won to solve business problems, he was certain there would be at least one problem he can solve on his own.

But finding the right one was not an easy journey.

After brainstorming hundreds of businesses ideas, two failed startups, and losing his 100 million-won ($86,400) severance pay, Lee realized the problem he was looking for was right under his nose.

“When I was recruiting members to join my startup project, I realized our labor market was very inefficient at finding the right people,” he said.

Lee thought it was “abnormal” how Korea’s job market worked at the time.

Businesses were spending tens of millions of won to post job notices on recruitment websites targeting random people. Job seekers, especially computer developers, relied on headhunters who sometimes had little to no knowledge on the company or the project they were hired for.

“If you think about it, the actual people (staff) we end up working with are those recommended by people inside our network. That got me thinking, ‘If we can materialize this idea into a (feasible) platform there’s got to be people who’d spend money on it,’” he explained.

So, in 2015, he founded Wanted Lab, a job recommendation platform that uses artificial intelligence.

Wanted Lab’s goal was to use technology to find the most appropriate people in the most efficient way possible. The AI-based tool they developed matches candidates with job postings.

The system also utilizes the old-fashioned “human network,” giving financial incentives to members when someone they recommend gets hired for the job.

With the popularity of professional networking services such as LinkedIn, more local job seekers and companies started looking for new ways of recruiting and hiring.

In its early stages, Wanted Lab had a very small pool of users — 1,000 job seekers and 30 corporate members. Six years later, as of September, the platform boasts 2.2 million job seekers and some 10,000 firms.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an unexpected boon for the firm, as it accelerated the speed of change in the local hiring…

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