TIPS to secure a good job

* Why some teaching placements fail: Top 3 reasons

As recruiters, we work hard to screen our applicants well, and being sure that they understand what it is like to live and teach in South Korea. We also only work with reputable and established schools, most of which are regular clients of ours. These policies have resulted in a very high rate of success for our placements.

it is certainly true that most of us who go to teach in Korea  go on to have great experiences that we would not trade for the world. However, once in while things do not work out for some teachers. I have accrued some experience in this business over the years, and I thought this may help some of you who are considering the experience to avoid some unnecessary potholes.

Provided that the school administration is being fair and upholding their half of the bargain, there seem to be three main reasons why positions sometimes go sour…

Top 3 reasons that teaching placements FAIL

1. False Expectations: It is important to remember that although this is a great opportunity to live and work in Asia, it is not a vacation. The first thing to remember is that private schools are profit-driven businesses like any other, so everyone is expected to pull their weight. In addition, the students come first in this business, so it is key to just go with the flow, be adaptable and easy going about things, even if it does not make sense to you; be a good employee for your school. Language institutes (in all countries) tend to be organic in their operation. As such, it is paramount to be a team player.

2. Aptitude and Teaching Skills: We have placed 100’s of teachers over the years. While most learn how to be good teachers, once in awhile we get feedback from one of our client-schools that our teacher is not teaching well or cannot control their students. While fairly rare for us, it does happen once in awhile.  Be sure to consult with other teachers and get help if need be. Work at getting better at your craft. There are endless ESL teaching resources on the internet to assist you on being more effective in the classroom.

3. Culture Clash: It may take some time to adapt to living in a different culture and learning the local cultural norms and expectations. While there so many fascinating things to learn from living in Korea, it is not like back home.  The most important thing to remember is to respect where you are, whether you agree or disagree. This is not western culture so you really can’t judge it by the familiar western standards you are used to. Educate yourself on the cultural differences before you go… it will be more fun and interesting and will prevent unnecessary misunderstandings. 

In summation, why not think of yourself as an ambassador to your country? That is really what you are. In the international community, ideologies and perceptions are often based on stereotypes, so it is up to you properly represent your culture. We have much to learn from each other, so embrace the differences and allow yourself to grow as an individual. It’s part of the adventure.

* Your photos are just as important as your resume


Along with a proper ESL resume, photos are a key part of the application process when attempting to secure a quality ESL position in Korea, and Asia in general. Private school directors are seeking teachers who not only have the aptitude for the work, but who also look presentable, and can properly represent their school in such a competitive market.

As recruiters, we always require photogenic photos, preferably two or three.

Things to keep in mind:

  • What we require is smart clean-cut, clean-shaven for the males.
  • Can be casual or formal.
  • A nice smile! As the proverb suggests: “All people smile in the same language”.
  • Proper colors including contrasting background, proper lighting etc.
  • Secondary photos (ONLY)can be with friends or family, or alone. Active photos. Photos with children and/or teaching are helpful.

Things to avoid:

  • Wear a hat or sunglasses
  • Take a picture with another person (as primary photo)
  • Have tattoos shown 
  • Have piercings other than in your ears
  • Show excessive skin

Along with your formatted resume and you will be surprised at how your chances improve…

For more info on preparing a proper application package see: How to craft an ESL-focused resume


* How to craft an ESL-focused resume (download resume template)

When writing an ESL teaching resume, it’s especially important that you put yourself into the shoes of the hiring school. While it’s true that you may be taking a risk by securing a job over the internet, the school is also making a big investment by offering a teaching job to an applicant they are not able to meet in person.  As such, creating proper ESL-focused resume is key to generating interest and not losing any potential opportunities.


Crafting a Good Teaching Resume

1. Include your address, contact information  at the top of the resume. Including a proper photo in your resume is a nice touch, though not necessary. To apply to teaching jobs in Korea however, you will need to include a photo in your email somewhere.

2. To follow should be your OBJECTIVE and RELATED QUALIFICATIONS. 

3, Next is your EDUCATION (including TESOL cert. if you have it).

4. The MAIN EMPLOYMENT SECTION can be titled: TEACHING-RELATED EXPERIENCE In this section you can list any relevant experience you have, be it paid or volunteer that is related to the position you are applying for. 

  • Emphasize experience in art and entertainment subjects such as acting, music, theatre and writing. Include anything related to teaching, leadership, camp counsellor, coaching etc
  • Be sure to let the employer know if you had a job working with children before, whether it’s as a babysitter (caregiver) or a Little League coach. Understanding the psychology of children goes a long way when working in ESL

5. Your unrelated work experience can follow under the heading OTHER EXPERIENCE.

Here you can list your “soft skills” e.g.languages: experiences, travel, interests, hobbies etc.. (in point form)    

5. Cover Letter OR Email Introduction

Your cover letter can be in the body if your email. However,  if it is attached along with your resume and photo, be sure to provide a proper introduction in your email, otherwise it may seem insincere and generic, and may be deleted. it is important to make it easy, clear and effective for those receiving your email.

Explain why you are the right type of person to teach overseas, and your motivation
Explain what qualities you think are necessary to be a good teacher.
Describe how well you work with others and why.
Note: keep it succinct. Long, tiring emails get deleted. Keep in kind that many recruiters receive 100’s of emails a week.

Tips & Warnings

Think of an ESL resume as a replacement for a face-to-face interview. Since it’s unlikely that you will meet your employer until after everything is finalized, you need to make sure you use the resume to express everything you won’t be able to say directly.

Write a powerful query letter to go along with your resume, making sure you emphasize why you would love this position, your knowledge of the country and why you would be perfect for the job. It doesn’t hurt to also do a little research on the school and mention some positive things about them in the letter.
DOWNLOAD Resume-template



* Securing a teaching job in Korea: Things to consider

For those who are considering taking on a teaching adventure in South Korea, here are some key tips to keep in mind while you’re researching where to go in Korea and who to work for. They will help you save time and make a proper-well-informed decision when attempting to secure a placement:

1. All schools are independent: One issue that we have dealt with for years is the generalisation of school chains on the net. It is important to be clear on this point as many have passed up good opportunities due to some misinformation.

– Firstly, most school chains compete for the same market (Wonderland, SLP, Kid’s Club etc..), and as such are really not so different from each other. It is key to note is that all schools within a school chain are individually-owned. They may share the same contract provided from their respective head office, but ultimately the way in which a school is run is determined by the personality and ethics of the owner/director and staff of that individual school.

Each major chain e.g. Kid’s club, Wonderland, SLP, GnB, CDI has 100’s of schools operating under their moniker across the country. School directors apply to make their school part of a chain as it theoretically legitimises their academy in the eyes of the Korean parents. However, they are independent of each other for all intents and purposes (schedule, salary, often even curriculum).

Good recruiters may work with schools from all chains in Korea, however they do discriminate on which schools and directors they work with. They should only work with those who they deem trustworthy and fair (offer a competitive package), and have a solid record in running a proper school. Directors should also be understanding and allow applicants to communicate with a foreign teacher at their school.

2. READ BLOGS.. Take FORUMS with a grain of salt. 

When researching others’ opinions on the internet, it only makes proper sense to try and locate information on that particular school. Again, be sure it is not the name of the chain you are taking into consideration, but the school itself.

Forums generally tend to be a place for people to vent, or share their biased opinions. It is human nature to vent after having a negative experience, and this is indeed the place to do it. What it is not, is a place for people to celebrate the great time they had in Korea. That is for personal blogs.

Many people who are posting their opinions on forums may not be so objective in their statements. With 1000’s of English teachers coming and going each year in Korea, it is only logical to assume that there will be those whose placements did not work out for one of many reasons e.g. cultural difference, personality, work habits, conflict, financial issues, lesser quality schools, lesser quality teachers etc… This is no different from any other job except that the cultural component can play a role as well.

Negative comments on a particular school: After a school has been in business for a few years, they are going to eventually have a teacher that does not work out. Those teachers are undoubtedly going to vent about it online. It is hard not to take it literally of course, but you must keep the same level head when reading these comments. Some may be accurate, but in my experience, most are not, s they are emotionally-fuelled.  Communication with a teacher who actually works there now, working with a good recruiter AND having some faith are all key in making a decision on a school.

In short: most teachers who enjoy a great year or more in Korea won’t express it on forums. So when reading them, be critical and take what you read with a grain of salt; use a holistic approach to gathering information.  Most importantly, be sure to read teacher’s blogs of their experience. This is the usually information you want to know. 

3. Communicate with a foreign teacher there:

Communicate with a foreign teacher at the school and ask them whatever questions you like. This will give you an accurate idea of what it is like to work at this particular school, and can be much more accurate and informative than scrutinising a generic contract passed down from head office (or of an independent school as well, as they are often no different).

Note: it is reasonable protocol to request communication with one teacher via email or possibly telephone, not several.

4. Contracts:

Lastly, all language institutes offer similar conditions, though the wording in their contracts can vary from precise to vague, and although this can be disconcerting, contracts should not be regarded as accurately portraying the day to day operations of a specific school. This is a shortcoming of many school contracts and is something we as recruiters and you as prospective teachers have to work around when considering the quality of a particular placement. Contracts are usually non-modifiable as they are from HQ and that is a policy in order to avoid issues with each teacher having a different clause in their contract for whatever particular reason.

5. Locations:

Most applicants begin their search for a job in either Seoul or Busan. This is generally because they are the two biggest cities; one being the capital and the other being on the Southern coast across from Japan.  They are also the two locations where one can acquire the most information about online.

While these are great locations in their own right, it is important to note that they are also the most competitive areas in which to acquire positions. Basically, there are more applicants and as such schools are generally more discerning on who they hire.

That being said, Korea has so many great locations to live and work that most first-timers are unaware of.  Foreign teachers are enjoying their Korean experience all over the country. Most of  the urban landscape of Korea is quite similar city by city.  In addition, Korea is also a relatively small country and has a great transportation network. As a general rule, those who are somewhat open to locations have a higher rate of success of securing a good position.

6. Things to be wary of:

Two policies that we have in place based on my own experiences as a teacher are the following:

– No new schools: They can be a liability, both financially and in terms of how professionally they are run. As with any business, it takes time to make your business solid and secure. It isn’t worth taking the chance. The exception would be if the director were expanding from an established school.

– More than one foreign teacher per school.: This is a general rule, although we do have 1 or 2 exceptions. Based on my 1st year experience as a teacher in Korea, it can be lonely being the only foreign teacher at your school. Granted if you are in an area with other language schools this may not be an issue. But generally, it is a good rule for us. In addition, as I said, it also gives you a chance to communicate with a foreign teacher there before you accept a position.

7. Who is helping you?

Working with a quality recruiter who seems to have your better interests in mind; one that works to provide you with all the information you require in order to help you feel comfortable and properly informed about the position. In addition, any good recruiter will support you (and their client) for the duration of your contract.


So, as a recruitment agency owner with many years of experience in this business, the aforementioned suggestions have been a key part of our consultation process with most of our applicants. They have helped guide them in making rational and wise decisions when considering their teaching placement at private language schools in Korea.

Good luck in your search!


* Interviewing with ESL schools

Tips for Interviewing with ESL Schools:

After preparing documents and a good application package, the first step in securing a position is to receive a job offer. Applicants can either pass or fail their interview so it is key to be prepared and maximize your chances of receiving an offer.

Once a teacher receives an offer, we have a few days for you to go over the contract, communicate with a foreign teacher, and do further research if you like. As your agent, we are here to answer any questions you have and assist in any way we can.

However, without a job offer we have no option but to move on to a new potential position, so here are some key interview tips that can help you achieve optimum results. Basically, school directors are seeking the following combination:

  • Presentation: This is a Skype video interview, so be sure to look proper, and have suitable lighting and back background. 
  • Enthusiasm (I cannot emphasis this enough. Most applicants fail their interview because they are lacking in this department). These schools teach little kids, so they are looking for lots of positive energy during the interview. Over-act if you have to – you’ve got a little window to sell yourself).
  • An affinity with children
  • A passion for teaching: be prepared to discuss any prior teaching experience you have. if not, any experience you have related to teaching, coaching leadership or children, volunteer or paid.
  • Good positive energy and and some humour (smiles).
  • A good clear voice
  • Hard-working and diligent teachers
  • Adaptable and open-minded (the Korean way can be different from the western way)

Aside from the above, it is always good to have questions prepared to help a proper discourse along. The interviewee should not be silent, but be talkative and give the director a chance to get to know them.

  • How many students per class?
  • What are the ages of the students?
  • What kind of curriculum do you use?
  • Is there anything I can bring to add to the curriculum (this is a good one as it shows you have an inherent interest in being an educator).

Following a successful interview with one of our client-schools, we then make sure that all additional questions by our candidates are answered in full.

* Download: Tips for Interviewing with ESL Schools

We hope this proves helpful to you.

Good luck!