Teacher Recruitment Companies - What New Teachers Need To Know
One of the most common questions teachers and those who aspire to teach abroad ask, or more likely debate ad infinitum on obscure internet forums, is whether it is better to apply directly to schools or to use the services of a recruiting company to obtain gainful employment teaching abroad.
If you read the discussions in these forums, the two most common opinions are some versions of this: ‘all recruiters are scum and are only in it for the money – never use a recruiter’ and ‘I never would have gotten my job with DonkeyPony LaLa Kindergarten without Teachovertheresomewhere – Matilda and her co-workers are aweome!!’
I taught abroad for five years - (4 years in Korea, 1 in Brazil) and I have 15 years of experience as a recruiter – as the founder and CEO of a leading teacher recruitment company. Fundamentally, there is no one specific answer – there good and bad schools, and good and bad recruiters. Ultimately it is up to you to do to your own research and find the best fit for you. However I will examine some of the benefits and drawbacks of both applying directly and using the services of a recruiter. I’ll use one well known recruitment agency – Teach Away – as a case study.
The first thing teachers should be aware of when using a recruiting service is that recruiters only get paid when you are placed in a job – thus they have a vested interest in selling you a position with a school or organization they represent. This is not a bad thing – this is how contingency recruiting works. Bad recruiters will work with any organization that pays them a fee regardless of working conditions; good recruiters will screen the schools they work with to ensure that they are placing teachers in a good working environment. These are the agencies that tend to stay in business. Recruiters, like real estate agents – get paid on commission. Like real estate agents, recruiters want to preserve a good reputation – but if the roof falls in on your new house, or your new job sucks – you are the one that has to deal with it.
Do Your Research
That being said, don’t take your recruiter’s word for it that the job they are trying to place you in is the most amazing job ever and you will never find another opportunity as remotely as good. Before you actually sign a contract with the school – do your own research. I can’t emphasize this enough. The basic things you can do are check popular internet forums for international teachers and see what people have said about the employer – I would not be scared off by one bad review – there is often more than one side to a story – but consistent negative feedback over time is a warning sign. I would also communicate via phone or e-mail with current and former teachers at the school (and if it is a large chain – the specific branch where you will be teaching) – ask basic questions like:
Do you have a good working environment?
What is the housing like?
Do you get paid on time?
Would you recommend your employer to a friend as a good place to work?
Consider it a huge warning sign if the recruiter is unwilling to put you in touch with teachers at the school where you are going to work before you sign a contract.
One more caveat – you should never, ever have to pay for a job in the ESL industry, whether the job is direct or through a recruiter. Never send anyone money via Western Union or Moneygram for any reason – this is a telltale sign of a scam.
See last week’s article for details:
Beware of Generic or Misleading Job Postings
If applying through a recruiting agency, apply for specific jobs at specific schools or with specific organizations. Be wary of generic job postings – i.e. “Teach In China – jobs at public and private schools, salary ranging from 9,000 to 20,000 RMB.” At best, this is laziness on the part of a recruiter who can’t be bothered to create more than one job posting. At worst this is a ‘bait and switch’ where the recruiting company is trying to funnel in as many applicants as possible and then will try to figure out where to place you. This goes for misleading landing pages as well. A good example of this can be found if you type in the search term “teach in Korea”. One of the first results is for a landing page for the recruiting company Teach Away – the Title tags are, “Public Schools, GEPIK, EPIK...” Similarly the search term “Teach in Hong Kong” pulls up a Teach Away landing page for the NET Scheme in Hong Kong, and a search for “Teach in Georgia” pulls up a Teach Away landing page for the TLG program. The reality is, Teach Away lost the contracts to recruit for these government programs years ago, yet Teach Away continues to encourage applicants to apply to Teach Away – if you look closely an applicant may realize they are filling out a generic application, but it appears as though you are applying for this specific program.
If you are interested in applying for any of these programs directly, the websites are:
EPIK (Public School Jobs in Korea) - https://www.epik.go.kr/
NET Scheme – (Public School Jobs in Hong Kong) –
Teach and Learn With Georgia (Public School Jobs in Georgia – the country, not the state) http://tlg.gov.ge/
A few months ago, Teach Away was warned by the Ministry of Education in the United Arab Emirates for claiming affiliation with the UAE Ministry of Education and inflating the number of jobs available:
This begs the question, why do recruiting companies advertise jobs they don’t have? See below – the more applicants a company has – the more additional services the company can sell.
Beware Of Superfluous Add-Ons
For companies like Teach Away, a significant amount of their profit margin comes from selling additional services to teachers before they teach abroad. In some cases these programs are worthwhile, but often, they are not. In Teach Away’s case – their main add on is an online TESL course developed with the University of Toronto. While I have never taken the class – a 100% online TESL course has limited recognition – the main purpose for a TESL course is to qualify beginning teachers to work in China and if you obtaining TESL for this purpose there are cheaper options available.
Teach Away’s main clients are in the Middle East – specifically the ADEC program – teaching in the Abu Dhabi Public School System with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (https://www.adec.ac.ae/en/) , and vocational positions available through the UAE government supported entities IAT (http://point.iat.ac.ae/employment) and ADVETI (http://adveti.abudhabi.ae/) . Teach Away also has numerous clients in the private sector in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other Gulf countries. The visa requirements for a teaching visa in these countries are that individuals must have a state or provincial public school teaching license and teaching experience in order to qualify for a teaching visa – TESL is not recognized and has no bearing on an individual’s ability to get a job. Similarly, if an applicant does not have a passport from an English speaking country, a TESL degree will not make you eligible for a job in any country. While there might be some soft skills gained with regards to cultural awareness and classroom management – this TESL program offered by Teach Away will not help you get a job as a teacher with their core clients. I have personally recruited for the same clients and attended numerous interview sessions with members of the Abu Dhabi Education Council – and a teacher’s TESL training was never once discussed or mentioned as a positive attribute of a teacher’s application.
The Benefits of Using A Recruiter
Given the information above, you may ask yourself why you would use the services of a recruiter to obtain a teaching position abroad. In my opinion there are two main benefits. One is that recruiters may give you access to jobs you would otherwise not be able to apply for. In the case of Teach Away, some of their clients do not hire directly and only use recruiters – this includes ADEC – the Abu Dhabi Education Council, IAT and ADVETI. That being said, there are other companies that offer opportunities with these same clients including:
Teach Anywhere: http://www.teachanywhere.com/
Footprints Recruiting: http://www.footprintsrecruiting.com/
The second advantage recruiters can offer applicants is after service care – guiding you through the visa process and helping with unexpected problems. After arrival some recruiting companies offer after care support, including social gatherings, mentorship programs and priority placement for secondary teaching opportunities – I don’t know if Teach Away offers any of these services. I have never been through the Teach Away Recruiting Process so I don’t know how helpful they are with guiding teachers through the recruiting process. I did hear however that quite a few of their teachers that were ready to go to Abu Dhabi this August unexpectedly lost their jobs and Teach Away did little to nothing to help these teachers get other jobs. Like schools, do your homework and read reviews for recruiters. Be wary of review sites where companies advertise heavily as there is an inherent conflict of interest. For an unvarnished look at Teach Away’s business practices, check out some discussions on independent forums:
In summary – using the services of a recruiting company can help you get a job you otherwise would not be able to apply for. Recruiters can assist with paperwork and questions about visas, and can ease the transition abroad. That being said, your recruiter is NOT your friend. Recruiters are there to place you in a job and to get paid – it is your responsibility to do your own research and make your own decision and not take your recruiter’s word for it. Finally – once overseas, whether your recruiter did a good job or not, it is up to you to make the most of your experience – it will be a long two years of your life if spend the entire time complaining about the recruiter who placed you in the job – so whatever your circumstance overseas – make the most of it.
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