To score the best position possible, it’s crucial to know how to market yourself. We’ve provided these guidelines to help you understand what Korean employers look for in an applicant and to put your best food forward.
Emphasize your most marketable experience. Korean employers are obsessed with prestige, so graduates of top tier universities or colleges should list their academic credentials at the top of the page. Candidates from the Ivy League University should be sure to draw special attention to that. Don’t worry, Korean employers will not find your bluntness off-putting or elitist. Candidates from less prestigious universities but with experience in education may want to emphasize their work experience and list their academic experience at the bottom. Include your GPA if and only if it’s good (about 3.25 or above). Include SAT, AP, GRE, LSAT, etc scores if and only if they’re good.
Most positions require the applicant to submit a photograph. Americans tend to underestimate the significance of the photograph. In the United States, it would be uncommon if not illegal for an employer to request one. Korean employers are more blunt about the role of looks in the application process.
You don’t have to get a professional photograph taken for the occasion, but we do recommend that you put a little effort. Dress well, remove piercings, make sure your hair looks clean, find a well let location, and take a few shots to make sure you look your best. We advise you to look straight on at the camera and smile.
Your employers want to see that you look professional enough to market to the parents, but that you appear kind and personable enough to connect with the students.
COVER LETTER & SELF INTRODUCTION
We recommend that all candidates submit a brief self introduction or cover letter. It’s a good chance to emphasize your most marketable strengths and it will make your application seem more earnest and thoughtful.
Make sure that your cover letter is specific for the purpose. Your main focus should be on why you want to teach in Korea and why you think you’d be good at it.
It’s ok if you don’t know much about Korea, but try to express an earnest curiosity an willingness to accept a foreign culture. If you’ve ever lived abroad or even traveled abroad, you could mention it. It will help employers recognize you as somebody who is capable of adapting to life abroad and will not suffer from major culture shock.
With regard to tone, you want to sound intelligent but the most important part is to be understood. Remember that the person in charge may not speak English. However, a native speaker will probably read your application at some point in the process. To strike an appropriate balance, you should be articulate and proof read, but avoid unnecessarily complicated terminology or structure.
Some employers will ask you for a reference although, in our experience, most won’t actually check up on them. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to have a few names and email address on hand so that you can provide a reference if requested. The less hesitation you demonstrate in offering a reference, the more likely they’ll trust you and won’t actually contact that reference.
If you have the time, go the extra mile. Photographs of you in the classroom are especially useful of you have them. Some applicants even like to submit a video introduction. This can be a great way to distinguish yourself from the pack. At they very least it shows that you care enough to put in that extra effort.
You’ll probably be asked to interview on Skype. We’ll help you arrange an interview time but, given the time zone differences, it will probably be at night or early morning. At that time, make sure to be in a comfortable and quite location with a reliable internet connection. If you plan to do a video interview, make sure to look presentable and check to be sure that there’s nothing embarrassing (dirty clothes on the bed, empty beer cans) in the screen shot.
Expect the interview to be short (about 10-20 minutes) and to end with a tentative job offer. Keep in mind we have an extensive number of schools we deal with in Korea, but we have selected this school to be the best option for you, in our opinion. In Korea, the school will look at a few resumes, but generally will only interview the candidates they are most interested in hiring. The interview is more of a confirmation of the school’s decision, and making sure they like the sound of your voice, and energy level.
There’s a good chance the person who interviews you will not be fluent in English. Therefore, it’s important to speak slowly and clearly. However, do not ‘dumb it down’ and speak in broken English or incomplete sentences.
Be prepared for any sort of question. You will probably be asked about class control or culture shock and should definitely be ready to talk about such topics. You might also be asked some questions that would be off limits in the states. For instance, some employers will ask if you’ve ever done a drug or seen anybody to a drug. Just deny any involvement because Koreans don’t know about drugs and think that marijuana will kill you. Some employers will also ask you whether you’re Christian. If you are, it’s easy to say yes. If you’re not, it’s ok to say no. Or, if it feels more comfortable, tell them that you’re not very religious these days. At any rate, it won’t be a big deal. If you accept the job they won’t call you out on it and pressure you to go church or pray with them or anything like that.
Make sure you ask a few questions about the school. Schools do not want to hire tourists, so you need to show a genuine interest in helping kids learn the English language. Here are a few safe questions to ask:
- How many hours a week would I be teaching?
- How many foreign (as in Western teachers) will I be working with?
- What is the age range of my students? (If not posted online)
That said, try not to bombard the interviewer with questions, as you may seem picky, or just intimidating if the interviewer’s level of English is not too high. The interview is NOT the time to negotiate contractual details. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to do that later and if you are uncomfortable about bringing it up, KoreaNow! can negotiate on your behalf. At any rate, first impressions count for a lot in Korea, so appear cheerful and flexible in the initial interview and save the demands for later. Be sure to smile!
Be ready to make a decision. For the most part, schools in Korea will expect a decision in no more than 2-3 days. Once they start the job hunt process, they want to secure the best teacher quickly, so if you delay too long, the job might be gone. However, remember that nothing is final until you’ve signed the contract. It’s ok to verbally accept a job on the spot and then back out later if the details of the contract aren’t good enough.