This stuff is written in many places throughout The Saloon, but I want to get it carved in stone...
People travel to China and find their teaching niche in a variety of many different ways. (I suspect what I say here will apply to many other countries as well, especially in East Asia.) I'm hoping I can help convince you to avoid one of them: Using a recruiter is just not a good idea. Here's why...1. Recruiters have a terrible reputation.
If you dig into the archives of the TEFL internet, you'll find a wealth of horror stories about wrongs committed by recruiters. One of the biggest complaints is outright lying
- people are promised Hainan and then get shipped to Inner Mongolia, they don't get the promised salaries or benefits, they ask for adults and get kids, and so on. Some recruiters have been reported to confiscate teachers' passports and documents in an effort to force the teachers to accept their situation. Then, when teachers feel they have been ripped off by their employer, the recruiters are nowhere to be found...or worse, they come down on the side of the school and try to cow the teacher into just taking it. One of the best known cases is that of "Frank Zhang", who has worked China for many years under dozens of different names. He's one of the worst of the bullies and liars, and those lies extend to phony "testimonials" from non-existent "expats". I hate to even think how many people have been his victims. As far as we know, "Frank Zhang" is still out there setting his traps, under who knows what names...and so are many more dishonest recruiters. So, are you feeling lucky?2. Recruiters don't work for you...they work for the schools.
Recruiters are paid by the schools in which they place hapless expat teachers, and they're keenly aware of which side of their bread bears the butter. This can only lead to one major and obvious conclusion: Recruiters do not have your best interest at heart.
Oh, they may make a big show of trying to get you what they want, but when push comes to shove, the recruiters are going to work to please their customers...and that ain't you. Again, as mentioned above, when you have a conflict with your school, the recruiters are not going to anger their cash flow by backing your side. Once you've been placed and the check clears, the recruiter is going to forget all about you. Why get used by someone looking to profit from you, while offering little or no support after the fact?3. Recruiters get paid the same whether you're happy or not.
Some people will leap up and say, "Oh, but I worked with Recruiter X, and everything was great!"...and these people are probably telling you the truth. However, they're only speaking for one of many cases, and there's no real reason to believe that what happened for them will necessarily happen for you. The reality is that recruiters work for a list of client schools. Some of these will be OK, and some of them will not...and the recruiter may well be quite aware of which ones are which. This isn't going to stop those recruiters from sending people to dodgy schools, though...there's too much money in it for them. The sad fact is that recruiters will send you to good schools or bad schools with equal enthusiasm
...for them, the money is fine either way. Is this an approach you want in YOUR job search?4. Recruiters tend to be major-league bottom-feeders.
The best schools, in desirable locations, offering competitive salaries and benefits, don't tend to use recruiters. They don't NEED them. They can attract plenty of applicants all by themselves. This makes recruiters the champions of a lot of bottom-of-the-barrel jobs
...places in crappy locations, and/or offering lousy deals, and/or trying to hide from a bad reputation. By using a recruiter, you're automatically cutting yourself off from some of the best jobs to be had...and increasing your exposure to some of the worst ones. Does this sound like a smart strategy to you?5. Recruiters are completely unnecessary.
The TEFL job market in places like China is often difficult for newcomers to understand. They're used to labor being a buyer's market...every job gets tons of applications, and employers can pick their choices at their leisure. In China and many other countries, though, teaching English is a SELLER'S market...a lot of schools struggle to get enough teachers to fill their positions. In other words, most schools need you worse than you need them.
For every job ad placed by recruiters, there are more placed directly by the schools. There are many sites listing EFL jobs, and many, many ads placed with those sites. By working directly with the employers, you have more freedom to negotiate your own contract. It's easier for you to back out of a bad deal. You will see your own contract, and have a much better idea of what you're getting into. And who knows...if your school doesn't have to pay a recruiter, they may be more willing to pay YOU more. It's shamefully easy to find EFL job listings...they're all over the place. You can, and should, be in control of your own destiny. Recruiters offer NOTHING that you can't do yourself...and add another layer of risk you just don't need.
Isn't a little bit more work worth a better chance at avoiding a bad situation in a faraway foreign country?
I'm not saying there aren't any reputable recruiters out there. In the case of China, there may be two or three good recruiters in the whole country; the rest ain't nuthin' but a bunch of mangy dogs. Even with a couple of good recruiters out there somewhere, I postulate that the odds of you actually finding one of them is so small, it's simply not worth the risk...again, especially when they're not doing anything you really need them to do anyway.
Do yourself a favor...ALWAYS work ONLY directly with actual employers.
The TEFL industry in many countries (especially China) is hazardous enough anyway, so don't submit yourself to additional risk for no real additional benefit. If you accidentally send a resume to a recruiter, or one otherwise attaches themself to you, simply stop communicating with them. They'll eventually flake off and seek other victims.How To Spot (and Avoid) Ads From Recruiters:
1. Recruiter ads generally don't specify the name (and often the location) of the ultimate employer.
They're afraid to, for fear that you'll contact the employer yourself and cut them out of the deal. They also want to be free to send you to whichever client happens to be hurting the most for teachers. Good employers tend to be proud of their name, and will specify it in the ad...so if you don't see the name and location of the school, with direct contact info, don't send them a resume.
It's just that simple.
2. Recruiter ads often mention or hint at multiple openings in multiple locations.
Again, real employers don't generally do this...they want the best teachers for themselves, and have no interest in chiming in with the schools they compete with to get those teachers. So again, if you see a multiple-location job ad, give it a miss
and keep looking for something good.
(Of course, recruiters will get busy countering these arguments, in an attempt to have you sign with them. This is fine; just bear one thing in mind: I have no profit motive in giving you this warning. Can you say the same about the recruiters?
Raoul F. Duke