Recruiter In Korea

The Honest Truth About Recruiting in Korea

Archive for March 2010

Filipina English teachers tell of discrimination

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Thanks to Korea Beat and Gusts of Popular Feeling for posting this.

I know that I’ll probably get flamed for this but I’m going to say it anyways.  I totally disagree that Filipinos can teach the same caliber of English as that of someone from one of the E-2 countries.  The reason is that I’ve spoken to several Filipinos (not Filipino-American/Canadian) and either their accent was too thick to the point I couldn’t understand them or they used incorrect grammar/sentence structure or both.

It’s not an issue of race or discrimination.  For example, if I wanted to learn Chinese, I’d much rather learn it from someone who grew up in China (even if they were white!) than from someone who studied it in school for a couple of years.

Marketing of these instructors will not likely shoot up anytime in the near future as I’ve talked about before regardless of how low a hagwon will be able to pay them.  It really irks me when they try to play the race card:

Hagwon instructors are mainly Americans, Australians, and Canadians, but some of them are unqualified, they said. Even so, Koreans not infrequently tend to give preferential treatment to white people and particularly Americans, they said. Hagwon owners were doubtful of them in the beginning and would only hire them if they could speak as fluently as white people.

We should reflect on our tendency to ignore certain countries and think too highly of others.

The writer is implying that more or all Filipinos are more qualified than their counterparts from the U.S., Australia, and Canada?  It is a shame to see any non-Korean face racism in Korea as per the examples given in the post.  However, when it comes to English education, if someone’s native language is not English, then a person from one of the E-2 countries would be MORE QUALIFIED!

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 31, 2010 at 12:23 pm

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Ask the Recruiter

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Erik wrote:

I also have a question. My wife and I will be applying for teaching jobs within the next month or so. What has been the average wait time lately since the market, as you say, is flooded with applicants? I know many variables factor into this, but we’re looking to teach in Seoul, since she’s from there, and we don’t need to teach at the same school.

One more thing, since she’ll qualify for an f-4 visa, we were thinking it might be easier to get me a job (E-2 visa) and have her worry about getting a job when we arrive. Would this, in fact, be easier?

Thanks in advance for the reply. Your blog is great. It’s both informative and entertaining.

I don’t want to write this in stone, but I think the market is finally starting to dry up a little.  Don’t take my word for it though yet as I want to see how things play out a bit.  We’re heading into the worst recruiting season of the year (April/May) and from my perspective there seems to be more positions than there are candidates compared to the same time last year.

That being said, Seoul positions, while still available, are still going to be harder to be placed in simply because it’s Seoul.  I was going to give you my ‘couple advice’ but since you guys don’t mind being placed at different schools, it shouldn’t apply to you.  It should then be a lot easier, especially if you’re wife has an F-4 visa.

I wouldn’t want to advise for her to try to find a job here without trying overseas first.  I’d say you should both apply to as many jobs as possible in Seoul before you depart and worst-case you find a job first and have her find a job once you get here (if she doesn’t find a position before departure).

It’s definitely easier, and definitely possible, for her to find a job locally.  Just from my perspective, I would rather have something secure so I wouldn’t have to worry about finding something once I arrive.  Good thing for her though is that she can just find a job while in the States and then if the job is a total sham, she could easily find something else when she’s there.

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 30, 2010 at 11:57 am

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Ask the Recruiter

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Joey wrote:

Quick question. Im 28 and I have taught in Korea for 6 years already. Is an MA TESOL worth my hard earned money? or is this industry gonna dry up and leave me hanging? thanks, Im a long time reader and first time commenter. keep up the good work.

I advocated before that a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA are worth getting due to the relatively low cost and good chance that you can get a higher salary than without one (of course the knowledge is invaluable as well).  An MA TESOL I’m sure cost a few more dollars so it’s a bigger investment and with your 6 years experience, I’m not sure how much ‘more’ you can get with this degree.  However, it looks like teaching is your career path so while this degree may not make any significant changes in your salary in the short-term, it will always be good to have and may open up opportunities in the future that most others cannot obtain.

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 30, 2010 at 11:45 am

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Negotiating Salaries?

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This post on ESL Cafe gave me the idea for mine.  I put a question mark at the end of my title because from my experience, it’s not always possible with every position/school and if it is, it must be approached with extreme caution.  Also keep in mind that recruiters don’t really set rates/salaries; we may be the messenger between the employer and instructor but never the final decision-maker.

If the position seems perfect in every way but the salary not so much so, I think the best way to approach the matter is to simply ask if the rate is negotiable.  This will pass the buck to them and if you’re worth it, they may tack on an extra 100,000 KRW per month.  Don’t push it by asking for more.  This route is far better than outright demanding that you won’t work for less than xxx as this will surely piss the employer (and recruiter) off ESPECIALLY if you’ve already progressed quite a bit in the process (ie. received visa code).

I mentioned before that a first-time instructor should shoot for a minimum of 2.2 million KRW per month with all the basic benefits (health, pension, severance, apartment) unless of course a salary lower than than comes with unusually high vacation days and/or low hours.

As we all know the current state of looking for a teaching gig in Korea is pretty flooded, I would say that most schools would not be up for negotiations unless you’ve got a super-stacked resume or they just really like you for whatever reason.  Also in my experience, most of the big name chain schools have specific guidelines as to what they can offer their instructors based on education, experience, interview, etc.  That’s not to say that they’re totally not up for negotiations as I’ve seen it before.  But again, that was when there were shortages of applicants.

Smaller hagwons would definitely be more open to negotiations but again, it depends on several factors.  Just ask and don’t demand!

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm

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Shinhan Bank Opens Foreigner-Friendly Branch

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From 10 Magazine.

Shinhan Bank Opens Foreigner-Friendly Branch

Posted by 10 Media on March 28, 2010 · Leave a Comment

Any long-term resident of Korea has at some time had to deal with Korea’s distinctly foreigner-unfriendly banking system. Quite often you will hear, “I don’t think we can do that.” Translation: foreigners need not apply. That’s all changed with the opening of Shinhan Bank’s Seoul Global Center on the first floor of the Seoul Finance Center downtown. This is where you hear, “Sure, we can do that for you.” This is where the tellers speak English, Japanese and Chinese. This is where you can sign up for Internet banking all in English. This is where foreigners who qualify can actually get credit cards made from real plastic with honest magnetic strips and everything! If you’re a new resident to Korea, making the new Shinhan Seoul Global Center your first stop in Korea will make your entire adjustment to this country a whole lot easier.

I’m always weary when I see services that are ‘foreigner-friendly’.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s definitely great that banks such as Shinhan are taking a proactive step in making banking easier for foreigners in terms of setting up an account (which is actually pretty easy at ANY bank even if your Korean is limited or non-existent) and setting up internet banking.  However, I doubt that any E-2 Joe can just walk in and apply for a credit card.  Actually I’m willing to be that the restrictions are the same as any other banks and that apply for one would be restricted to ones’ visa or ability to pay a large deposit.  I know in the articles it does say to those ‘who qualify’ but it’s not like that those who qualify will only go to this foreigner friendly bank.  In fact, I believe that Samsung and other credit card companies have English-speaking representatives who will visit your office or school directly.

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 28, 2010 at 10:18 pm

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Korean-American gangsters arrested

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I know that this is relatively old news but as I talked about in a previous post, the hagwons that hired these guys should have screened their employees more thoroughly (or screen them at all for that matter).  I think hagwons should face some responsibilities for hiring criminals.

If myself or my agency referred these guys who were subsequently hired to work there and it was discovered they were former murderers, you can be sure that heads would’ve rolled.  I say this because one of the services that we offer (that most recruiters don’t) is that we do secondary checks for all of the candidates that we refer, whether they hold an E-2, F-4, F-2, or are even Korean.  The criminal background check required for an E-2 for a U.S. citizen is extremely limited since it only covers a particular state.  Crimes committed in New York, for example, would not show up on a California state check.  This is why we use a secondary service that does a national check.

Canada is a little different though.  Since criminal law is under federal jurisdiction, a local check in Winnipeg would show an offense committed in Toronto.  We require that F-4s get a local criminal check if they’re Canadian but we don’t require them to get it certified by the Consulate as E-2 holders must.

I’m probably under the correct assumption that the hagwons in question did not bother doing any criminal check as well as a secondary degree check.  There was an incident awhile ago where a couple of Korean-Americans had fake degrees so from that point, we did a secondary degree check on everyone, including E-2 guys.  Now some might say that it’s immigration’s responsibility to ensure that E-2 applicants have all the proper credentials which I believe to a certain extent is true however, it’s also the responsibility of the recruiter/school that they’re referring/hiring someone that’s legit.

It would be pretty crazy though if someone actually got an E-2 visa with a fake degree and transcripts.  If that was ever discovered I wonder what standards immigration will come up with to further tighten the strings.

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 26, 2010 at 11:44 am

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English Teacher Vetting Needs Tightening

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I absolutely believe that F-4 applicants should be screened the same way that E-2s are currently screened.  This is clearly more evident from the latest debacle about an ex-gang member wanted for murder in the U.S. who was teaching at a hagwon under an assumed name and forged credentials.  Not sure if was an F-4 though but it just goes to show that there are non-E-2 guys with a less-than-reputable past.

I actually know of some schools that screen ALL candidates themselves regardless of their visa status through their own 3rd party checks (degree, criminal history, and even if they’re on the sex offender registry).  Mentioned in this article is how immigration and the government is ‘passing the buck’:

Immigration and education officials are passing the buck. “F-4 visa holders are allowed to do all kinds of jobs as it is a residential card, so hagwon supervisors have to weed out unqualified English teachers among the visa holders,” said Jeon Dal-su, an official from the immigration office.

I do believe that it is up to the employer to ensure that ALL of their employees are properly screened to ensure that they are free of any possible liabilities that may incur in the future.  However, an even better plan would be to screen EVERYONE that comes into Korea regardless if they’re going to be an instructor or do something else.  Of course we don’t want these psychos to teach children but would an F-4 with a checkered past be an easy sell to say, Samsung Electronics as an engineer?

By Kang Shin-who
Staff Reporter

Both immigration and education authorities have long turned a blind eye to loopholes in screening “unqualified” foreign English teachers.

That inattention occasionally horrifies parents and students when such teachers show their true colors. The latest case involves a Korean-American English teacher, who police said used to be involved in organized crime in Los Angeles.

According to industry sources, “hagwon” or cram schools have improved their screening, requiring teachers to submit copies of their graduation certificates on applying for positions, but small institutes often skip this procedure. This was the case with the former gangster teacher whose true identity was recently exposed.

Under Korean visa rules, native English speakers applying for the E-2 English teaching visa are required to submit police background checks and drug test documents. However, ethnic Koreans, who can gain a residential F-4 visa, are exempted from the screening procedures.

Earlier, The Korea Times reported about complaints from E-2 visa holders and problems with the “unfair” visa policy. In response, the Korea Immigration Service (KIS) said it would not change its policy to favor ethnic Koreans, while the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, responsible for overseeing hagwon or private institute teachers, said they would devise ways to close the loopholes.

However, the government has not come up with any measures in over a year to block unqualified ethnic Korean English teachers.

Immigration and education officials are passing the buck. “F-4 visa holders are allowed to do all kinds of jobs as it is a residential card, so hagwon supervisors have to weed out unqualified English teachers among the visa holders,” said Jeon Dal-su, an official from the immigration office.

Chung Young-min, an education ministry official said, “If it’s a problem regarding visas, then it should be a subject for immigration authorities.”

Police announced Tuesday they arrested a group of unqualified English teachers who habitually took drugs. Among them were two Korean-Americans, who were members of gangs in Los Angeles. One fled to Korea after allegedly murdering another Korean-American and the other was deported from the U.S. after being charged with attempted murder and drug offenses.

The two used to teach children English at hagwon in Seoul, using fabricated degrees.

This is not the first case when police have caught an unqualified English teacher, wanted by Interpol. In 2008, another ethnic Korean from the U.S. wanted for murder was arrested here having taught English at hagwon for nearly 10 years.

Currently, there are 50,666 F-4 visa holders and 22,018 E-2 visa holders as of December 2009, according to KIS. Among those with F-4 visas, the government does not know how many are involved in English teaching.

In the meantime, police plan to expand their investigation of native English-speaking teachers having criminal records or using drugs. “Many hagwon blindly hire such teachers due to the English education fever in Korea. They need to be more cautious in their recruitment,” said a police official.

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm

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Sorry….and an update

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Sorry to my few loyal readers for the extreme lack of posts in the past week or so.  We’re busy trying to fill our May positions.  I mentioned before that generally April and May are the worst recruiting months.  However, last year was actually not so bad and this year is turning out to be the same.  From a recruiting standpoint, things haven’t changed much over the past several months.  Good for recruiters who have a lot of clients and can fill positions with ease with a more selective choice of top applicants, bad for recruiters with little to no clients.

Now, while it may be true that it’s a tougher market for instructors since there’s so much ‘competition’, doesn’t necessarily mean that all hope is lost.  In fact, I’m hoping that this will weed out the undesirables and ‘abnormals’ as schools/recruiters become more pickier.  This has definitely been the case for myself and my agency.  While we still tend to get a couple of wackos here and there, the overall pool has gotten a lot better.  Of course there are still a lot of schools out there that prefer to take vulnerable/ignorant/misinformed/desperate over someone who will actually be a good instructor and not run away after 2 months, so maybe it will stay the same in the end anyways.

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 25, 2010 at 10:58 am

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Sound Advice

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A poster (rapidcake) on the job forums at ESL Cafe inquired about finding a recruiter to secure a teaching position:

Quick question in regards to work.

All over this forum and from the small amount of experience that I have been doing myself in terms of looking for work, it seems that getting a recruiter is quintessential to finding and obtaining a job in Korea.

I want to know exactly how true this is. Is there any way of circumventing the system? Can us future applicants contact the school directly? Or is there some sort of required system that I’m not very informed of?

Has anyone here ever tried to receive a job without the use of a recruiter while being in your home country? How did you do it?

Ttompatz gave some simple yet really good advice:

Use a recruiter? Yes, unless you are here and know your way around the system.

Use them for what they are.

They are an introduction to a job.
Use as many as you need to find the job you want.
They are like rental agents.
You look at the window and ask inside.
If they have something you like then you have a closer look.
Then you do your own “Due Diligence” and make a decision.
IF they don’t have anything you like, keep looking.

Do NOT limit yourself to one recruiter.
Do not pay them anything.

Echoes my advice given here and here.

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 16, 2010 at 10:53 am

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North American Applicants vs. The Rest

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Found this thread on ESL Cafe today.  Didn’t read through the whole thing but got the gist of it from the OP.

To be brutally honest (as I always am!), this is very true.  Most schools out there are looking for American/Canadian applicants.  Of course they’ll blame it on the parents who want their son/daughter to learn N. American English from a ‘real’ Canadian/American native speaker.  Unfortunately due to the flood of applicants, it seems that the situation has not gotten a whole lot better for the British, Irish, Australians, Kiwis, and South Africans.  Granted, I’m not saying that hope is completely lost but you just have to be a little more patient.  There are still schools out there that will accept and even prefer non-North American candidates.  I know a couple of kindergartens and hagwons that exclusively hire British instructors.

Unfortunately, if you don’t fall into the mold of what Koreans think an English instructor should be like, you’re at a disadvantage and you just have to sell yourself more harder.  Of course being good looking and having experience and a good resume will definitely help but the sad truth is, the majority of schools out there would prefer an average-looking North American instructor with ZERO experience as opposed to a decent-looking candidate from another E-2 country.  It’s all about their marketing to parents who I think we can all agree are relatively backwards compared to what we’re used to.

I hate this say this but if you really want to sell yourself, you should try to ‘neutralize’ your accent during an interview.  I know a lot of applicants/instructors that trained themselves to do this to sound more North American and it actually worked.  Also, please don’t flame me for this but sometimes I would interview someone from Scotland, Wales, etc., and I couldn’t understand a damn thing the person said.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the British/Scottish/Irish accent but only when I could comprehend what the person is saying.  If you interview with a recruiter and your accent is somewhat neutral, they’ll pass the positive information along to the school which will help in your placement.

This goes for all applicants, but don’t be a douche during the interview and write a decent resumeDon’t assume that a contract offer means that you’ll actually start working there.  Try not to get fired neither.

Written by recruiterinkorea

March 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm

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