Getting a job in Korea

Applying for a job

I started my search using “Dave’s ESL Cafe,” a website devoted to ESL/EFL teaching, with numerous job postings and a very active user forum for professional and personal support. Dave’s has forums for countries around the world, but their main focus is, by far, South Korea. I received personal advice on Dave’s during my previous time in Korea, and their jobs board looks quite promising.

 (I am writing this post as a reflection and record of my own experience, but I also include advice and links for anyone interested in getting a job – feel free to write me at seth.lovingworker@gmail.com)

There are different ways to get a job in Korea, but I want to try going through an employment recruiter. Recruiters are controversial among ESL teachers – some people love them, some hate them, but I want to try using one. I feel more comfortable going through a structured, formal process to get my first job over there. I’m interested in working in the private sector, not public schools – I hope that a good recruiter can help me weed out any bad employers.

Before I even though of applying to anyone I got all my paperwork in order. The process of getting papers for a Korean visa alone can take weeks or even months, so it’s a good idea to start early. Recruiters and employers are happy to help get the papers, but I figure it will make me look more attarctive if I’m all ready to go.

The requirements for employment are ever-changing and will change in the future, but sites like ESL Cafe have good up to date information. When I applied I needed my passport, diploma (get a copy from your college if you don’t want to submit your original), university transcripts, a criminal background check (certified by both a local and state notary public for use abroad, a process called “apostille”) multiple recent photos (everyone demands a photo, and yes discrimination does happen) along with the normal resume. (As of 2011 teachers require an FBI background check, the state background check I received is no longer enough.)

I made a list of the 20 most recent recruiting companies on the ESL Cafe job board. Then I searched discussion forums for reviews of these recruiters. Right away I cut some bad apples and sent my resume and application forms to about 10 companies.

I heard back from the following recruiters: ATC (Available Teacher Consulting), Korvia, Aclipse, Work and Play and Avalon. I soon had interviews with Avalon, Korvia and Aclipse. Work and Play and ATC have continued to send me emails, but don’t have anything for me right now.

The initial interviews were not difficult, mostly they just felt out my preferences and motivation. Though Korvia and Work and Play were polite and seemed interested, they were very slow in getting back to me. My assigned contact at Korvia was particularly flakey and had trouble communicating with me by email – part of the problem being that she was Korean, in Korea, with good but not perfect English.

Aclipse on the other hand moved quickly – I had an interview three days after applying, and a job offer within two weeks. The Aclipse interview was also very thorough – in addition to the standard get-to-know you questions, they also had some difficult questions involving some potential teaching scenarios and grammar questions. This was difficult, but made me feel good about them as a company.

Update

1.5 years later. I ended up getting a job through Aclipse, with Chungdahm Learning. They are a large chain of English language academies (hagwons in Korean). I will write about Chungdahm more in future posts, but overall my experience has been very positive.

I read a lot of mixed reviews of Chungdahm, but in the end my research led me to trust them. I contacted some former employees of the branch I now work for, and I trusted my gut. No job is perfect, but in over one year of working for Chungdahm I have had no major problems, and I’ve had a blast living in Korea again.

Links

Dave’s ESL Cafe

ESL Cafe – Getting a Job FAQ

Recruiters

These are the recruiters which responded to me. I went through their application and initial interview process without any serious problems or red flags.

Aclipse (Had the best experience with them – Nicole Ostrowski in San Francisco was fast, direct and honest. Works mostly with Chungdahm in Korea, also recruits for Japan and China.)

Chungdahm direct employment

Work and Play Consulting

Avalon English

ATC – Available Teacher Consulting

Korvia

Public Schools

These are the central websites for the different regional programs with information about the systems and employment – in English. Most public school hiring is done through these offices, though individual schools may also hire directly.

SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education)

GEPIK Program (Gyeongi area, outside of Seoul)

EPIK Program (covers most of the rest of Korea)

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