A couple of years ago, looking for a change from teaching in Bangkok, I decided to apply for teaching positions in Korea. I had friends who were working in Seoul, knew Korean schools paid higher salaries than schools in Thailand, and I had all the qualifications most schools asked for. So, I followed step-by-step instructions given to me by one of my friends who had a job he loved in Incheon, and applied to various schools in Seoul and Busan.
Obviously, I did something right as, out of the six schools or programs I applied to, three offered me positions soon afterwards.
If you too would love to teach English In Korea, the step-by-step instructions I followed may just help you as well.
Don’t use a recruiter for public schools – Recruiters are notorious in Korea for complicating the interview process and not always doing everything for your benefit. Besides, almost every public school English teacher is going to be placed through EPIK, TaLK, SMOE, or Gnet and you can apply directly to those programs yourself. If you don’t, and choose the recruiter route, your application will take much longer and your chances of being placed in the area of Korea you want to be in will be fewer.
I applied through EPIK (English Program in Korea) directly, and was not only offered a position through them but would have been placed in the Korean city that was my first preference.
Apply directly through EPIK – The most popular program in Korea for learning English in public schools, EPIK is the easiest way to get a teaching job and the easiest one to apply through. Just go to EPIK’s website and read through their copious amounts of excellent information and then follow their instructions for application submittal to the letter. They take care of everything for you, including providing you with a free apartment while you’re teaching through them.
Use a recruiter for jobs at hagwons – If you want to work at a language school or hagwon, then your best bet is to use a recruiter. There are quite a few dodgy language schools in Korea, where working with them you can easily come unstuck. Recruiters know which language schools you should avoid, and often have good relationships with the best of them so your chances of getting a job automatically increase. Remember, though, never ever pay a recruiter in Korea to find you a job. The schools pay those fees, so you don’t need to.
If you do use a recruiter, don’t use more than a couple, otherwise the same hagwons could get your resume five or six times and definitely decide not to hire you.
Apply for copies of your original university transcripts – You will need at least two unopened copies of your university transcripts as potential employers want to check them for grades, classes taken and, of course, that your degree is genuine. A university signature must be stamped across the envelope flap and must remain unopened. You will also need to make sure you have your original degree certificate (and remember to take it with you to Korea) as that also will be requested.
Submit a professional resume – You may be surprised at how many schools receive resumes from people that are far from professional. Yours should be.
That means make sure your contact information is correct. Use simple language without industry-specific jargon a potential interviewer isn’t going to understand. Make sure contact information is included for every past employer you worked for as Korean school administrators will want to check your references. Finally, remember to stress if you have worked with children before, as many Korean language schools hire teachers for their children’s programs. With experience, you already have one foot in the door.
Submit a professional photograph – Photographs are submitted with resumes all over Asia and should be as professional as it’s possible to be ie: look like a teacher before you even start.
Always have a photograph by a photographer, and don’t submit something you just threw together on your computer. Wear business dress when having it taken and, if female, wear only light make-up and conservative jewelry. The way someone looks is extremely important in Korea and all over Asia, so you don’t want to nix your chances before you even start.
Be professional in the interview – Some programs interview in person in the US or Europe, but most interview via telephone or Skype. Make sure you behave professionally during the interview, yet be friendly and relaxed, and of course dress well for any interview other than a phone interview.
When I interviewed for teaching jobs in Korea, most of my interviews were via telephone but two were via Skype. They were short, the interviewer was friendly and spoke excellent English, and I ended up with immediate job offers right at the end of each Skype call.
As my friends already in Korea had told me, Skype interviews tend to be just so that the interviewer can make sure you don’t have two heads, as in many cases they have already made up their minds to hire you from the resume you sent. That’s why you don’t want to blow the interview and lose the chance of an immediate job offer.
All in all, applying for a teaching job in Korea is easy as each recruiter or program has specific steps you need to go through. Follow their instructions to the letter, and be professional at all times, and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a great job in any Korean city you’d like to live in. Good luck!