Recruiters – The Debate
Most people heading to Korea for the first time use recruiters. I used one, and it worked out fine (so far). However, the jury is still out on whether you need a recruiter and if they are helpful (see the “Teaching at public schools” section below). Let’s use a Q&A format to look at whether you need a recruiter or not.
1) Do I need to use a recruiter?
Essentially, no. A lot of people arrange work without using recruiters, and come out just fine. Others get screwed over like there’s no tomorrow. My personal opinion is that when you go to Korea for the first time, use a recruiter. They will help you through the application and visa processes. It is always nice to have someone to ask when you are not sure about something. The people on the forums are not always helpful.
2) Do I need to pay a recruiter?
NO! The schools in South Korea PAY the recruiters to find teachers for them. This is something like US$1,000 for each teacher. So if you pay a recruiter, they get money from both sides.
Recruiters in Korea DO NOT charge a fee to find you a job. There are a number of South African recruiters that do charge a fee. Their argument is that they look out for your interests instead of the schools’. However, the amount that they charge is (in my opinion) excessive. One recruiter asks for half of your first month’s salary. This is anywhere between R7,500 and R9,000 (other recruiters ask from R1,000 to R3,800). Eish. And I’m not convinced that they don’t also get paid by the schools.
There are pros and cons for both sides. A lot of South Africans have used South African-based recruiters and had great experiences. But personally, I have had a good experience with South Korean recruiters, and it didn’t cost me a cent. It all comes down to the level of support and assistance that you think you will need.
PS: I’d like to offer as balanced a view on this as possible. If you have used an SA recruiter and paid up front, and felt that it was more than worthwhile, please let me know.
3) Where do I find a good recruiter?
Tough one. All I can say is do some research. I found mine by surfing Dave’s ESL Café and reading reviews about recruiters. Then I searched for any comments and complaints about them. I then checked out who they are affiliated with (in my case, some of the major government education departments). Other people work directly through the government education departments (EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE) for jobs (if you want to teach at public schools – see below). But remember:
i) If the recruiter has only an email address and no website, be wary (ie, if they can only be contacted at XXXXXX@gmail.com, or XXXXXX@hotmail.com).
ii) Recruiters are only as good as their staff. Some people may have an excellent experience with one staff member at a recruiter, while other people may have a terrible experience with another staff member at the same recruiter.
iii) The people who write reviews on the various forums tend to be unhappy (unhappy Americans at that), so take what they say with a pinch of salt.
Also keep an eye on the blacklists. These are not perfect, but if your recruiter is listed, think about using someone else.
Teaching at public schools
It is important to note that if you want to teach in a public school in Seoul or Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi province), or any other city or province in Korea, you don’t need to use any recruiter, and you certainly don’t need to pay a recruiter. Public schools are the safest option there is in Korea. They won’t cheat you, refuse to pay you or fire you before you get your bonus. Yes, you can have many other problems, like the principal is on a power trip, or there is no one to speak to, or the kids drive you crazy, or the classes are too big etc, but these things recruiters can’t help you with anyway.
So if you want to teach in a public school then just go to the education websites of the area or city and apply directly. It’s that easy and simple. After deciding to hire you they will tell you step by step what you need to do or send to complete your visa and everything else to come to Korea. Otherwise there are many, many recruiters out there who will find you a public school job and help you with everything for free.
Thus don’t pay a recruiter EVER.
Click on the links below for more info:
Gyeonggi-do public school jobs (Gyeonggi province) (GEPIK)