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South Korea Information: Understanding RecruitersI feel compelled to write this after reading a few reviews on recruiters from this website. My perspective comes from both side of the specturm as a job seeker and also as a hiring manager. I think a lot of people are under the misconception of what a recruiter is. There are basically two types of recruiters -

1) individual/small group recruiters. These are basically individuals who have connections with various hagwons/schools and they're constantly posting whatever they can get.

2) Corporate recruiters - such as Aclipse, who specifically recruit for a few major chains. Either way, they work for commission or are under contract of the schools they're working for. They do not work for you, job seekers. This is why a lot of people feel jilted when they're ignored or they feel that recruiters are not doing their best to find them a job. The recruiter's job is not to find you a job, their job is working for the schools/companies to fill their positions. This is also why it is common for recruiters to exaggerate or even lie about the schools they are recruiting for. For example, veteran teachers know Aclipse is full of it and pretty much every major corporate recruiting firm will tell you their school is #1 and most reputed in all of Korea. CDI, Pagoda, YBM, etc... they can't ALL be #1 now can they?

With that said, recruiters in general have a bad rap. Young generation Americans are unaware that recruiters used to be called "headhunters." Headhunting - the practice of literally taking a person's head after killing them (wiki). Why? Because they're like sharks. It is a business and like everyone else, they're in it for the money. This is especially true for those working on commission. When it is a teachers' market, more jobs and not enough teachers, the recruiters treat job seekers like a Korean boy treats a girl he's interested in. They shower you with attention and praise and do anything to hold on to you and make you happy. They are even well-known for trying to poach teachers/workers from other companies for their clients. However, when it is a schools' market, more teachers than jobs, these recruiters treat teachers as mere numbers and often are annoyed because they get dozens of resumes per position. This leaves many job seekers feeling jilted, ignored, and mistreated.


Now this is true for recruiters in general for all venues, however again I mostly deal with those recruiting for Korean schools. I have also spoken and worked with recruiters recruiting for Japan and Taiwan as well and found similar attitudes. However, I would never work with recruiters or schools from China. If you understand the Chinese culture, you would not waste your time venturing in that area. Trust me, despite all the misfortune you may have had with recruiters/schools for other countries, China is the "source" of unethical business practice and corruption.


1) Racial discrimination - Generally recruiters do not discriminate, the schools they work for discriminate. It is very well known by now that the best scenario to find a teaching job in Korea is being a single white female fresh out of college. I have heard of African Americans being discriminated, but mostly discrimination is against Asians. The reason is simple, they believe English is a white man's language and parents want to see white teachers. They are under the impression that if you are Asian, English must be your 2nd language. I was teaching in HK once and the students were confused when an Asian American teacher spoke English. They asked me why he looked like "them" and yet sounded like a white man. They literally asked why his skin was not white and hair not blonde. Recruiters are interested in money and with so many candidates per position, they prioritize white teachers above others because they are easier to place.

2) Qualification - Korean hagwons in general do not care about your qualifications. Not only so, the more quality you have, the more overqualifed you are. There is a review on this website by a teacher who has a MA in Education, 15 years of experience, and TEFL qualified. This teacher may think he is in a good position, but in reality he is at the bottom of the barrel. When Korean recruiters/schools see someone like this, they are thinking - "very expensive." Korean schools are interested in cheap laborers. The more experience you have and the more education you have would actually go against you. If you do not believe me, try removing your experiences and education from your resume. Cut them to the bare minimum, BS degree with maybe 0-2 yrs experience. You will find more schools interested in you. Also, a lot of Korean hagwons are corrupt and they will take advantage whenever they can. Veteran teachers know the game, so much harder to deceive. This is why, again, the best qualification for them is a single white female who recently graduated. They are easier to take advantage of and generally won't fight back legally.

So, when you are looking for a teaching job in Korea, general rule of thumb is try to negotiate with the schools directly. You have enough trouble finding a reputable school, don't add recruiters to the equation. Recruiters would only work with you for the sole purpose of benefitting themselves. The only time you should ever work with a recruiter is with someone that was personally recommended to you by a friend or a reputed source. There are a couple of good public school recruiters out there, sadly I am not exaggerating when I said "a couple." These people are gems and very rare.

Good luck.

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