For this article, we reached out to a Korean teacher recruiter and asked 5 questions to get some insight into what employers are looking for in South Korea and how potential TEFL teachers can best go about finding work there.
1. The type of teaching position (private institute vs. public school) is a decision every English teacher must make when considering South Korea. In your experience, what personalities or teachers are best suited for each type of position?
We’ve seen teachers in Korea who swear by their public school jobs and we’ve seen teachers who say they’d never teach in anything other than a private school (hagwons/kindergartens) in Korea. For the public school positions, the bar has been raised in terms of the qualifications and experience of the teachers accepted. Because of this, most teachers coming to Korea for the first time don’t have the option of a public school job unless they have certifications and/or education degrees. It hasn’t been expressed by the Korean government, but one possible reason is public schools have experienced more success with teachers who’ve had teaching experience and a background in Education/English.
The teaching environment in a public school versus a private school is quite different. In public schools, the larger class size and Korean co-teacher can make the transition for a new, inexperienced teacher difficult. Another major difference lies in the teaching staff. Often times in a private school, there are more than one, if not several, foreign staff. In a public school setting, there is usually only 1 foreign teacher.
This is also a factor in what type of teacher is attracted to a public school. Teachers arriving in Korea for the first time will often times find it easier to transition into a new job, new culture, etc, when they have a community of teachers at their school to help them out – which means they pursue work in private schools. At the same time, private schools in Korea are sometimes run more like businesses than educational institutes, which tends to push teachers – who have a future in education and see their time in Korea as furthering their career – into the public schools where education (without the pressure of schools-run-like-businesses) seems to be more of the focus.
2. What are some things that new teachers can do to make their profiles and resume more attractive to Korean employers?
In our experience, Korean employers are looking for energetic, outgoing, enthusiastic teachers. You can communicate professionalism and expertise by completing a TEFL certificate. You can show your enthusiasm for Korean culture by brushing up on your understanding of Korean history, traditions, etc. You can get some formal teaching experience under your belt – try volunteering! We’ve seen that any experience related to being in and among groups of learners (be it Sunday School, coaching, kid’s camps, teacher assisting or tutoring) is all something that should be written on your resume. Jobs unrelated to teaching can usually be left off. Make your resume as specific to teaching English overseas as possible. If you’ve spent time traveling or living abroad, be sure to put that, too!
3. Once offered a teaching position, what is the best way for a teacher to research their potential employer in South Korea and be confident they are making a good decision accepting the contract?
What an important question! We’d highly recommend that every teacher pursuing teaching opportunities abroad spend ample time online, scouring websites, blogs, and forums to get a good sense of what other people are saying about the school, the city, the lifestyle, etc.
With every interview offer, we send our teachers a link to the school’s website. We also send links to websites featuring information about the area/city central to the school’s location. And a word of caution – how often do happy/satisfied teachers take the time to comment somewhere online, compared to folks who feel like they’ve been wronged? In our experience, the margin is huge.
Take the time to research, but keep in mind that you may stumble across information/opinions that need to be taken with a grain of salt. Our policy with our schools is that they must give our teachers the email addresses of current foreign teachers at their school so that they can ask questions and gain more insight into the working environment before making their decision. We encourage teachers, whether they are coming with Adventure Teaching or through another agency, to use this same precaution before signing a contract.
4. Obviously, you hope that every teacher chooses Adventure Teaching as their recruiter, but if they didn’t choose you, what are some signs that they have chosen a good recruiter? A bad recruiter?
Choosing a recruiter all depends on what you’re looking for, and what kind of experience you want. If your priority is simply to land a job and to find it quickly, you’ll probably want to work with a company that is known for having a plethora of job openings at any given time. If you want to make sure you get placed in a reputable school, and you’re willing to wait for something that will be a good fit, you should work with a recruiter that has a history of working with good schools. It’s hard for us to say what makes a “good” or “bad” recruiter because each company has a different mission. We recommend taking the time to investigate the mission, vision, culture, and past teachers’ experiences before working with any recruiter. With that said, some basic questions you should ask are:
What do online forums say about this recruiter?
If a recruiter has a bad reputation, you’ll find out quickly by researching forums.
Are they established?
Work with a recruiter who has had a presence in recruiting for a number of years; experienced recruiters are less likely to make mistakes (or shut down) before you find a job.
Have the recruiters themselves done what you want to do – teach English?
You’ll want someone who can relate with you and who has already done it.
5. How did you get started as a recruiter and in the TEFL industry? Why is helping teachers find work abroad important to you?
We’re passionate about people living abroad! We genuinely believe it is one of the best things a person can do. Living abroad adds invaluable elements to our personal stories; it changes us and enlarges our world view; it teaches us in ways that nothing else will. All of us at Adventure Teaching have lived and taught abroad; some of us for a year or two, others of us for almost 6 years! We all had varied experiences – a few of us landed amazing jobs with reliable employers, while some of us had those nightmarish experiences that you read about online.
What we found to be consistent though, was that each of us loved being immersed in another culture. Originally, Adventure Teaching was a MySpace page where our friends could find information about teaching in Korea. Finding accurate information about teaching in Korea was difficult. As they started telling their friends, and those friends told their friends, we knew the need for a trusted agency was there… and a website soon followed.
From the beginning, Adventure Teaching has been the program that puts teachers first. You can count on us to be upfront and honest with you (check out Let’s Be Frank on our website). We want our teachers to feel 100% prepared before they depart, rather than sugarcoat things in an effort to get them abroad. Our goals in helping you get overseas include (1) getting to know you (2) finding you a good fit and (3) walking with you… the whole time you’re there!