Teaching in Korea: How to Ace the Interview in 5 Steps

teaching english in south korea

So you’ve decided to teach English in South Korea. You’ve talked to a recruiter and they want to interview you. Now what? As someone that has taught English in South Korea, I know that it can be a process from the moment you first apply for a job until you actually begin working. I would like to share my knowledge and help others find a job teaching English in South Korea. This article post will explain how to pass the interview with your recruiter or school.

The Process for find a teaching job in Korea

To teach English in South Korea, in most cases you would first talk to a recruiter. The recruiter does lots of work for you. He or she answers all your questions and gets all your documents ready, and helps you prepare for the visa process and finds you a school, for instance. There is no fee for the recruiter, their services are free of charge to you. The recruiter will usually interview you first — it’s kind of like a pre-screen interview. After that, you may be interviewed by the school. All of the advice in this post applies to both a recruiter interview and a school interview.

Step 1: Make a good first impression

One thing you may know about Korean culture, or if you don’t, you will learn very quickly — is that Koreans care a lot about first impressions and appearances. If you are meeting with your school officials or principal, make sure to dress up! Make sure your hair looks nice. For you guys out there, it is recommended be clean-shaven. Smile. Maybe impress your school by learning a little Korean and saying “anyoung hashimnika,” Korean for “hello.”

action item: Look nice. Be well groomed. Maybe learn some Korean and try to show them. They will be impressed, even it it’s just the basic “hello”.

Step 2: Know your “why”

Why do you want to teach in Korea? This will definitely be one of the first questions the interviewer will ask you. For me, I wanted to do important work, travel the world, experience a new culture, and grow as a person. Sometimes they will ask you specifically why Korea and not, say, Japan. Before the interview, really think about why you want to go South Korea.

Action item: Have your “why” prepared so you don’t start the interview off with an awkward beginning, and show them you’ve put some thought into teaching here.

Step 3: Be excited!

This is important (although maybe obvious), especially for young and new teachers. Chances are you are going to be teaching little kids, or children aged from kindergarten to high school. Korean schools love to see passionate teachers, so show your excitement and passion for this amazing opportunity to make a difference in students’ lives — students from across the globe, nonetheless.

Action item: Do I need to say it? Get excited! New experiences await.

Step 4: Be open minded

This goes along with step three. Schools don’t want a teacher who is unwilling to compromise at all, especially in a foreign culture. There’s bound to be difficulties, obstacles, and cultural differences. Showing appreciation and willingness to understand Korean culture will help your chances to get a contract offer and goes a long way towards building goodwill with your school. Previous international travel is preferred but not necessary. Have you been to Korea before? Don’t forget to let the interviewer know.

Action item: Familiarize yourself with Korean culture. The more you know, the more you’ll be prepared for your journey. View cultural differences with an open mind and be respectful and understanding when difficult situations occur.

Step 5: Ask Questions

Have some questions prepared to ask of your interviewer. You are interested in moving across the globe in a brand new country for a year’s time — if you don’t have any questions, there’s something wrong with you. I’m kidding, but you get the point. 😉 Below  are some good sample questions to ask the  recruiter or school:

What will my housing situation be like?

What is a typical day in school like for the students? For the English department?

How many native speaking teachers will be at my school?

How will I get to school every day?

What are my working hours?

Action item: Spend some time to prepare good questions. You can even ask the interviewer about their journey: How did they get into their field of education, for example.

Bonus: English Teaching Ninja Move

It’s important to get as much information as you can about your school; after all, you’ll be spending the next year of your life here. You can ask the school if you can talk to the previous English teacher.A lot of times the school will say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, as you can find out a lot about what the school is really like, from a foreigner’s perspective. If they don’t let you talk to him or her, try to find out the previous teacher’s name and search for them on social media. Talking to someone who’s been in your shoes is a great way to get a feel for the new school. If there is more than one native teacher at your school, then by all means try to talk to a few of them as soon as possible, not only to build relationships but also to get a real feel for how your school operates on a daily basis.

Korean English Interview: Notes and Loose Ends

The things you may find out on your own . I recommend getting a TEFL or TESOL certificate. It will give you more opportunities in Korea and yields a higher salary. Sadly, there is a bias in ESL teaching in Korea. Schools generally prefer young females and prefer an American accent. Public schools do not discriminate as much as private schools, called hagwons. You cannot legally become a teacher in Korea if you were not born in a native English speaking country. The list includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa. Schools don’t care too much about non-english experience on your resume, though they do care about the skills that can transfer from your old jobs or experiences into the classroom, such as discipline, organization, and management, etc.

Conclusion

Follow these five steps and your Korean interview will go very smoothly. Just be yourself, prepare well and communicate to the interviewer that you are excited and eager to get started on your English teaching journey.

Have you been interviewed for a teaching job in Korea? How did it go? Let me know in the comments. Do you have any questions? Please let me know in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. You can also connect with me at my site English For My Dream.

 

About Ryan OLoughlin 1 Article
After graduating from university, Ryan got his TEFL certificate and went over to South Korea to teach English. He lived in Seoul for about four years, and now lives back in Pennsylvania with his Korean wife, Eunsuk. He works full time but also teaches english online at his website called English for my Dream.