Sunday, 25 July 2010

Step #5 - Visa Requirements

Gathering your visa documents for Korea is one of the most time consuming steps of the whole job application process. It is also the most important step to get right, as not doing so will inevitably cost you valuable time, more money and maybe even your job!

Korean E-2 visa requirements have been revised fairly frequently in recent years and the list of required documents seems to get longer each time. It is, therefore, advisable to start looking into your specific requirements early, as some of the required documents can take some time to procure. As many jobs in Korea are posted at relatively short notice (~1-2 months before the start date), employers looking to hire quickly may favour someone who has all their documents ready over someone who hasn't. Consequently, having your documents ready in time could be the deal breaker in nabbing that great job offer of yours...

Below I will attempt to outline the basic requirements for an E-2 visa. This information is valid at the time of writing in July 2010.

Note: It has come to my attention that E-2 visa regulations are in the process of changing once again over the course of this year. I will address these planned changes where they apply (change indicated by *), however, I nevertheless urge you to double check with your local Korean Embassy for the accuracy of these changes.

Basic Requirements for an E-2 Visa:

1) Your native language needs to be English
2) You need to own a passport from one of the following countries: Canada, USA, England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand

Required E-2 Visa Application Documents

Document List #1 (to be sent to Korea)
1 Copy of University Diploma*
2 Sealed University Transcripts*
1 State-wide Criminal Record Check*
1 Resume
1 Photocopy of Passport Information Page
1 E-2 Health Statement
2 Official Passport Photos

Document List #2 (to submit to the Korean Consulate/Embassy when applying for your visa)
Note: This list can vary, so please check with your local embassy as to which documents they require)

1 Passport
1 Completed Visa Application Form
1 Consul's Checklist
1 Official Passport Photo
1 Sealed University Transcript
1 Resume
1 Fee for Visa Application

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Step #4a - Passing the EPIK Telephone Interview

Probably one of the scariest parts of the whole EPIK application process is the telephone interview. Especially if you have absolutely no experience teaching, it can be a little nerve wracking to think about the fact that you may spend anywhere up to an hour on the phone talking about yourself and teaching. However, the good news is that the EPIK interview is based on standardised questions and apart from a few exceptions it is very likely that you will only get questions from the standardised list. I therefore present to you, the ultimate EPIK/SMOE question list!


  • Why do you want to teach in Korea?
  • How committed are you to working in Korea?
  • What do you know about Korean Culture/History?
  • What are the differences between Korean culture and US/European culture?
  • Do you know much about SMOE, Seoul, or Korea?
  • Tell us what you know about SMOE, Seoul, or Korea, please.
  • Are you well aware of the job you have applied for? And the working conditions?
  • What do you find the most attractive about this position? And what the least?
  • Why did you decide to seek a position in this field?
  • What have you heard about teaching in Seoul or Korea that you don't like?
  • What do you think will be the most difficult thing in staying in Seoul?
  • This is a very different situation than you've ever worked at. How do you feel about this?
  • What do you think is the least interesting thing of this job? How will you handle the least interesting or less pleasant tasks of the job?
  • What do you think will be the most difficult thing in teaching students who don't know any English?
  • Give us the three best reasons why we should hire you?
  • Why should we consider you a strong applicant for this position?
  • What/How do you think a good teacher should be?
  • How would you help a co-teacher who is too scared to talk English in class?
  • How would you manage a class of 30 students/large class numbers?
  • How would you engage students?
  • How would you get students to care about learning English?
  • What is your approach to teaching English?
  • What do you think about lesson planning?
  • How would you deal with a multi-level classroom?
  • How would you deal with discipline in class?
  • How would you deal with an uncooperative/absent co-teacher?
  • What if your Korean co-teacher told you to only do repeat after me exercises in class and wouldn't let you do anything else?
  • How would you deal with stress?
  • What are the problems you envisage in the classroom?
  • Discuss your lesson plan.


  • Describe what you feel to be an ideal working environment.
  • How long do you plan to stay with us?
  • Why haven't you found a new position before now? How long have you been looking for a job?
  • Tell me about the best/worst boss or colleague you've ever had?
  • Looking back on the experience now, do you think there was anything you could have done to improve your relationship with that one bad person?
  • What do you want to be doing 3-5 years from now?
  • What are your most important long-term goals?


  • What led you to select your major? Your minor?
  • What skills did you learn during your degree that would help you teaching?
  • Tell me about your University and your degree.
  • What skills did you learn from non-related work that will help you teaching?
  • Tell me about your references.
  • Tell me about your TESOL course.
  • Why don't I see any internships on your resume?
  • How do you generally handle conflict?
  • How do you behave when you're having a problem with a co-worker?
  • Suppose your supervisor left an assignment in your “in” box, then left town for a week. You can't reach him and you don't fully understand the assignment. What would you do?
  • Your supervisor tells you to do something in a way you know is dead wrong. What do you do?
  • Say you're asked to do something by the principal on very short notice. What would you do?
  • Recall a time from your work experience when your manager or supervisor was unavailable and a problem arose. What was the nature of the problem? How did you handle the situation? How did that make you feel?
  • Give examples of your experiences at school or in a job that were satisfying. Give examples of your experiences that were dissatisfying.


  • Are you in good health?
  • What do you do to stay in shape?
  • Do you have any physical problems that may limit your ability to perform the job?
  • What do you like to do when you're not at work?
  • If you could change one thing about your personality at the snap of a finger, what would it be? Why?
  • By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
  • Give me a specific occasion in which you conformed to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?
  • What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision.
  • We can sometimes identify a small problem and fix it before it becomes a major problem. Give an example of how you have done this.
  • Why did you choose the locations you did?
  • How flexible are you with teaching different levels?
  • What gets you stressed?
  • Tell me about your personality.
  • How much and how often do you drink each week?
  • What do you think about drugs?
  • How will you prepare to come to Korea?
  • How will you cope with being away from home?
  • How would you cope with sudden change?
  • Do you know what culture shock is?
  • How will you adapt/deal with culture shock?
  • It says on your application that you speak some Korean. Can you say something in Korean for me?


1) Prepare

The best thing to do before your interview is to go through the questions above and have an answer prepared for each question. Go over your answers a few times before the interview to make sure you know your stuff. Have a friend quiz you if you think this might help. If you do this, not a lot can go wrong.

2) Be confident and enthusiastic

The interviewer is interested in you as a person and what you may be like as a teacher. Try to show him or her that you are confident in your ability to teach (even if you haven't taught before) and show them that you are generally a congenial and enthusiastic person.

3) Be knowledgeable

You will probably get a few questions on why you chose Korea, what you like about Korea, why you chose the parts of Korea that you did, what you know about EPIK etc. Doing your research beforehand and finding out a little bit about EPIK and Korea will help you immensely in trying to answer these kinds of questions. If there is any aspect of Korea as a place, Korean culture/people or the EPIK program you find particularly interesting, mention this if the opportunity arises. Showing a genuine interest in the place and organisation you are planning to work in is never a bad thing!

4) Be flexible

One thing EPIK really likes is to see that it's candidates are flexible. This applies to location, deadlines, work etc., so do your best to show that you are someone who can adapt well to change.

5) Relax!

This interview is not the end of the world and the more relaxed you are going into it, the more likely you are to leave a good impression. Believe it or not the interviewer isn't there to make your life a living hell for an hour, they are there to find out who you are and what you are like. If you go into it with a positive mindset and you've done your preparations you really shouldn't need to worry!

Good luck! :)

Step #4 - Passing the Telephone Interview

In order to clinch the deal on any job contract in Korea, you will almost inevitably be asked to do a telephone interview. Depending on the institution, a telephone interview will last anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour. These interviews, however, are in most cases not something you should be overly worried about as long as you do some basic preparation. Much as I'd like to say that these telephone interviews are there to judge your actual suitability for the job, in most cases they actually seem to be more of a formality than anything. They just give schools an opportunity to form an impression of your character and your ability to speak English. If they like your voice and your attitude, the likelihood is you will get the job.

Note: I am going to subdivide this post into two: General Guidelines and EPIK Telephone Interviews. The reason for this is because the government run EPIK program telephone interviews are usually a lot more in depth than the average school telephone interviews and are also based on standardised questions, which is why I feel they deserve a post of their own.

Click here to view my post on EPIK telephone interviews.

General Guidelines

When you have a telephone interview, it is usual that the interview will be conducted by either the school director, school supervisor or a one of the native English speakers at the school. It will probably last 10-15 minutes and the questions asked tend to be quite basic.

Questions you may be asked are:

Why do you want to teach in Korea?
What do you know about Korea/Korean culture?
Describe yourself/ your character
What are your hobbies?
Have you worked with children before?
Do you have any teaching experience?
Describe your teaching philosophy/how you teach
What do you think makes you a good teacher?/ Why would you be a good teacher?
Do you have any relevant training/qualifications? (i.e. TEFL)
How will you deal with culture shock when you arrive in Korea?
Do you get home sick?
Have you lived abroad/ in Asia before?


1) Speak clearly

One of the things you should be aware of is that just because a senior member of staff may be interviewing you, it does not mean that their level of English will be anywhere near perfect. It is very possible that you will be interviewed by a person that really only has very basic English skills. This being the case, it is important to speak clearly and possibly slightly more slowly if you realise they don't speak English very well. Also, if you have a strong regional accent, you may want to try to neutralise it a little to make yourself more easily understood. Interviewers are trying to judge how effective your voice will be when teaching students, which is why they tend to prefer neutral accents that are easy to listen to and understand.

2) Sound Enthusiastic

The person interviewing you obviously wants to know that you are actually interested in teaching, so make sure to portray this when you speak. Show them that even if you haven't already got teaching experience, you are willing to learn and improve your skills in the future and that you are genuinely interested in working with students to improve their English abilities.

3) Highlight relevant experiences

Even if you don't have any actual relevant teaching experience, if you are asked, make sure to mention any experiences you may have had in the past that brought you in contact with children or a role similar to teaching. Baby sitting, helping out with younger siblings, working at a summer camp, working at an orphanage, being a part of a study group, managing a team etc. are all things that will count in your favour.

The most important thing when taking part in a phone interview is to listen carefully to the questions and answer them as best you can. Try not to be nervous and show the interviewer that you are in fact an open and adaptable person. It will be over before you know it! :)