When it comes to getting a job overseas (namely in South Korea), the world of recruiters is about as divisive as it comes. The only topic more sure to start an argument is public vs. private.
Depending on your situation, recruiters can be a life saver. They can also make things a lot more stressful. In this blog post, I'm going to break down recruiting agencies for getting a teaching job in Korea. We're going to look at all of the fundamentals, everything that makes working with a recruiter so bipolar.
First things first, some facts about recruiters.
1. Recruiters are not there for you. Honestly. I hate to break your heart, but to almost all recruiters, you are a dollar sign. Recruiters earn commission from the schools based on the bodies they put in the classroom. While this may sound disheartening, it's actually a mark in your favor. This commission means that they want to make sure you're a good fit for the school. If you end up leaving early because the school wasn't good for you, they may potentially lose out on future work with that school. They could also lose the commission for you, depending on when the school pays out on your hiring.
2. Recruiters are all over the place, not just in South Korea. For instance, I'm working with a recruiting agency that is headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. They have an office in Seoul, but that field office in Canada means that I'm speaking with someone who is closer to my time zone. It just so happens that this Canadian agency is my favorite. So don't be dubious of a recruiter just because of their location.
Frequently asked questions about recruiting agencies!
1. Should you ever pay your recruiter?
NO! Recruiters are earning their money by filling positions. The schools pay them, so you shouldn't. There are plenty of recruiters out there that will work for you for free, so don't think that paying will get you further. It won't.
2. Can you work with more than one?
Absolutely! I'm currently working with 5, and I'm in the process of looking for more. The only thing you get from working with more than one recruiter is more jobs. It'll give you a wider net as far as positions go.
But there is a caveat: If you're going public, only use one recruiter. If your application for a public program gets put in more than once, it will disqualify you. However, you can apply to public through one recruiter and then private through several. That way you're guaranteed to get a position faster. As soon as one becomes available, you'll know. And this can be good if you're looking to head over as soon as possible.
3. Can you find a job without a recruiter?
Yes. In fact, one of the disruptive facets of recruiters is this exact question. You can find a job without a recruiter. In fact, you'll probably get a better job. You'll be able to negotiate on your own behalf. You'll find a school that you like, do your own research, and make your own rules.
The problem is that finding your own school is hard, especially if you're new to this whole ESL thing. If you're already in Korea, you can network and ask around, look at schools, and get first hand information. But if you're working from another country and you've never set foot in Korea....well, a recruiter can be your eyes and ears to the ground while you're packing and earning a regular paycheck in your home country.
It all comes down to your comfort level. I'm working with a recruiter because I don't speak or read Korean, so finding a job would be on the difficult side. I don't know anyone overseas, so I would be relying on testimony from online communities (which are always biased). But if you're comfortable flying to Korea and working your own career path first hand, go for it! There's absolutely nothing wrong with either side of the argument.
What are some of the bad things about recruiters?
1. Well, you have someone throwing jobs at you non-stop. The bad ones will just toss you anything and everything. It's up to you to sort out what fits your preferences and what is completely out of left field.
2. You also have someone breathing down your neck every second of every day about accepting a position. After all, their paycheck is riding on your yes, and sometimes they're not above high pressure sales tactics to get you to sign on the dotted line.
1. Find something that you want to do in Korea. For me, it's a particular cafe in Yeongnamdong. I am basing a lot of my decisions on location in accordance to that cafe. I know that I'm going to be taking Korean lessons there, and a lot of my spare time will be spent there. So when I get an offer, I map it. I figure out how long it would take me to get from my potential apartment to that cafe.
2. In addition that, my headliner (as always) is to stay organized. Personally, I'm using an app called ChoiceMap. I made some priorities (pay, location, hours, vacation time, etc), and then sort out all of the offers based on those priorities. This app takes a lot of the burden off of me and keeps all of the jobs straightened out and easy to discern at a glance. I can choose weights for those preferences to make sure that the decision I'm making is well-informed.
When it comes right down to it, the decision on whether or not to utilize a recruiter is solely with you. They can be a life saver: getting your paperwork organized, finding you tons of opportunities, holding your hand when things get confusing. But they can also bring additional stress to an already nerve-wracking experience: throwing random jobs, pestering you, or not finding you a position that you're interested in.
As with anything when traveling to another country, the key is flexibility. I'm working with several recruiters, but I'm also out looking for jobs on my own. I'm recognizing that these recruiters, when it comes right down to it, are in this for themselves. And I'm perfectly comfortable telling a recruiter no when they offer me a position that I'm not the slightest bit interested in. Firm, but flexible.
Here's hoping that doesn't lead me astray.
Writer, Photographer, Dream-Seeker