Saturday, 26 June 2010

Step #3 - Finding a Job/Recruiter

(Recruiter recommendations are at the bottom of this post)

If you are new to the Korean EFL industry, it is very likely you will be applying from abroad and using a recruiter to do so. This being the case, you will probably be keen on finding a recruiter who will find you that one job that ticks all, or at least most, of the boxes of requirements you may have listed in your head somewhere. (If you don't have any idea of what you are looking for, I strongly suggest you look at this post if you haven't already.) I personally think it is very important to have at least some idea of what you are looking for before approaching a recruiter. This will help the recruiter in finding something suitable for you and will also hopefully prevent you having the wool pulled over your eyes, should you encounter one of the less savoury recruiters out there.

One thing you always need to keep in mind is that recruitment is first and foremost a business. Recruiters make their money by placing you in a job. This being the case means that while there are recruiters out there who will genuinely try to get you a job that will satisfy your wants and needs, there are also just as many who will try to tell you a contract is a good deal, just to get you placed. Once you have signed a contract, a recruiter has no further obligation towards you, so I advise you to do your research beforehand to make sure you are in fact getting a good deal out of them.

Finding good recruiters

So how, you may ask, do you go about finding a good recruiter who will work with your interests in mind? The answer to this is basically: Research.

There are so many different companies out there that it can be difficult to choose who to go with. The fact of the matter is though, that working with a recruiter is a unique experience and therefore you can only know if a recruiter is really suited to you by using them yourself. Nevertheless, I will give you a few tips to help you with your search below.

Things to look out for when searching for a recruiter:

#1 - Are they reachable?

A recruiter can only be of use to you if they are actually available to you when you need them. The way I try to check this is by sending recruiters a short email asking them some questions before signing up with them and then seeing how long it takes them to respond. I have had replies within a matter of hours, and replies which took 4 days...guess which one I signed up with? ;) Alternatively, you can call them by phone as well and see how easy it is to reach them in that way.

#2 - Do they know their stuff?
Most good recruiters will have very informative web pages, which pretty much give you all the information you need without having to ask. Nevertheless, there will usually be one or two questions you feel like asking anyways, so ask them and see how well they reply. If they say "I don't know", "Go find the answer yourself" or "I'm sorry, I can't help you there", then you might want to think about going with someone else. Recruiters should help you out when you need it, if they don't then they can't be very good.

#3 - Do they have any social networking options?

This is actually a personal preference of mine, but I thought it very important in my search for a recruiter. I think that if you are going to be moving half way across the globe for a job, it might be nice to meet a few people who are in the same boat. In some job situations you might be the only foreigner at your workplace, so it can be good to have some way of linking to the expat community. Some of the better recruiters actually have facebook pages, blogs and such set up to help you meet others who worked with them and smooth your transition somewhat. Some will also host events in Korea a couple of times a year, so that you have a place to meet fellow recruitees while out there.

#4 - Do they have good reviews?

I put this last on my list simply because a lot of the smaller recruitment companies out there, which still do a great job, actually won't have many, if any, reviews that you can find. Also, I find that reviews are a very subjective way of assessing a company. Working with a recruiter is a unique individual experience, and while some may have a great experience with one recruiter, others may have less favourable things to say about the same company. Of course, if you do see 9/10 reviews are bad you might want to stay away!

I think these four points pretty much sum up the most important things to look out for when looking for a recruiter. In the end, you need to find recruiters that you feel comfortable working with. Once you do sign up, do not let a recruiter pressurise you unnecessarily into taking a job you do not want, and make sure you are clear about what you are getting yourself into before you sign any contracts. Your recruiter should be willing to discuss good and bad aspects of a contract and help you with any queries you may have.

Working with multiple recruiters

One thing that gets asked quite a lot is whether to work with one main recruiter or a number of different recruiters. My answer to this would be, do whatever you feel comfortable with. I personally used two different recruiters, one for my public school application and one for my hagwon applications. I could have used more, but seeing as I wasn't under pressure to find a job super fast and I'm interested in personal service, two were enough for me. You can use as many recruiters as you like to find a job though. If you are keen to find as many job offers as possible in the shortest amount of time, using multiple recruiters is probably a good idea.

Note on public school applications:

If you are applying for EPIK/GEPIK/SMOE, you should only do so with one recruiter. If you apply through more than one it is very likely that your application will be rejected. You can apply for hagwon jobs through multiple recruiter though with no problem at all.

Recruiter Recommendations

Yes, this probably is the part you were all looking and waiting for, so I will get to the point. Here is a list of recruiters, I have personally been in contact with, as well as some that I have heard good things about, but not actually worked with.

My recruiters:

Adventure Teaching - My #1 recommendation! I have only good things to say about this company. They are very professional and do a very good job of keeping in contact and answering questions. They also have a great blog and facebook page, which is pretty interesting to read and they also offer an online add-ons package store so that you can buy some items before getting to Korea (i.e. Korean cell phones, duvets, plug adapters etc.). Great service! (I worked with Scot Sustad)

Flying Cows Consulting - I am going to recommend this company if you know what you are doing and what you are looking for. I have received a few contract offers through them which were very well targeted to what I had asked for. However, I personally feel this company has lost some of it's personal touch and charm over time, and is more about placements these days than when I first signed up with then a little over 2 years ago. They aren't that great at answering questions without an obvious answer and are most specialised in UK applications, though they do now accept applicants from different countries as well.

Park English - I have not actually sgined up with this company because I was looking for a public school job and they specialise in hagwon jobs. However, I have been in contact with them several times and they seem very professional. They also have an actual office located in Itaewon, Seoul, so I'm pretty sure they'd be in a good position to get some excellent contract offers from directly within Korea. (Ask for Chris Marionni!)

Other Recruiters:

Korvia - Korvia specialises in public school positions (EPIK/GEPIK/SMOE) in Korea and are meant to be very good. I personally didn't go with them because they seem to be a very large company and I prefer working with smaller companies, as I find the personalised service to be better.

ESL Planet - Another company I have heard is meant to be pretty good. I hear Rowan is the man to be with. They offer public, private and camp jobs.

Footprints Recruiting - These guys, I have to say, I hear mixed reviews about. Some say they're really good and others say they are awful, so I am guessing it depends on who you get as your consultant.

Korean Horizons - This company specialises in public school jobs. They seem pretty professional, but I have not heard much about them, so the jury is open on this one.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Step #2 - Getting qualified aka. a TEFL/TESOL Certificate

While a lot of people will tell you that it is unnecessary to obtain any qualifications to get a teaching job in Korea, I personally decided to get certified anyway.

There are several reasons for this:

1) I like to be prepared when I start a new job, regardless of what kind of job it is
2) I saw this video, which gave me the idea that classroom management skills might be a good thing to acquire before being thrown in front of 40 odd students...
3) I was interested in refreshing my grammar knowledge
4) The idea of a pay bump was just too tempting to resist! (100,000 won/month aint small change ya know!)
5) I thought, given the increased number of n00bs entering Korea without any qualifications due to the bad economies back home, a certificate might be that extra "something" that would get me hired

With these points in mind, I started trawling the internet in search of a suitable qualification.
However, this was easier said than done. Just typing in TEFL certificate into google brought up a good 213,000+ websites to look at, so this begged the question of how exactly are you supposed to find a good, reputable course without being 80 by the time you decide? Well, lucky for me (and in turn you), not too far into my search I found this lovely little site called It lists a large number of TEFL/TESOL/CELTA etc. providers and shows reviews from people that took the offered courses. It is through this site that I found my TESOL provider LinguaEdge, LLC.

I didn't have a lot of money at the time, so I was looking for something that was cheap, but still looked like it packed in all the essentials. LinguaEdge got quite a few good reviews, that all looked to be pretty legitimate, so I decided to take the plunge. The 100-hour course being a very reasonable $249 INCLUDING tutor support, I figured I didn't really have much to lose. Now that I'm done with the course, I must say I'm glad I did.

My tutor David was really encouraging, and helpful and had some great advice to give. The course was not super challenging, but definitely covered all the basics. I now definitely feel a lot more prepared to walk into a classroom and be fairly confident of the fact that I will come out alive and willing to repeat the experience ^-^. I only did 1-3 units a week, so it took me just under 3 months to do it (44 units in total) and I found it had a pretty interesting mix of reading, writing and online activities. The only thing I would comment on is that it might have been even better if there had been more opportunity to do lesson planning. Oh and final pointer, the certificate looks soooooo nice teehee ;)

While this post really does seem to have turned into a plug for LinguaEdge, the main point of this post is just to reiterate that getting a certificate before coming to Korea, in my opinion, does have it's benefits. If you've never taught before, I think doing a TEFL/TESOL certificate will really help in terms of preparing you for what's coming. Of course, it can't give you any real practical experience as it's all online (unless you choose to do an on campus course), but it will definitely give you an idea of what types of situations you might be faced with and how you might best deal with them if and when they do occur. As mentioned before, a certificate is a good way to get a pay bump and in terms of increasing your hiring potential, so it definitely has material value as well. That being said though, I know quite a few people who have been hired in Korea without certifications of any kind, so in the end it really is up to go and ponder! ^-^