A Job Evaluation Checklist

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Raoul F. Duke

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A Job Evaluation Checklist
« on: April 18, 2007, 08:16:39 AM »
Before pursuing a job- or certainly before accepting one- you might want to consider a few things about the job ad. This list will most likely be added to over time...

If you can't evaluate these things with the information you have, get the information you need. Some things you can get by our resident experts here at the Saloon. Other things you'll have to get from the school; if the school is reluctant to give you a direct answer you might consider that a warning.

Note- I suggest you research environmental issues independently of the prospective school. At best they will but the best possible spin on things. At worst they will lie like a rug...

- Can you hack the weather where this job is? China has just about every weather pattern under the sun...from Siberian cold to stinking jungle heat. If you don't know the city, ask around.

- How polluted is the city in question? All Chinese cities have environmental problems, but some are just beyond the pale. Again, do the homework. Don't find out the hard way that your new home town centers around the world's largest soft-coal-fired cadmium smelting plant.

- How isolated will you be? Do you have to travel 200 miles by bus to buy a stick of butter or have a conversation in English? Find out. A lot of people come here and say they want to immerse themselves in "The Real China." Many come here, find The Real China, and realize to their horror that they definitely DON'T want to immerse themselves in it. Having a few other foreigners around can definitely be a real and valuable comfort.


- Is the salary livable and fair? Costs of living vary wildly across China. Make sure you can live decently on the salary you're given. Assuming you didn't just come to China for a job, this should allow a little fun money and enough to save up for traveling.
Definitely DO NOT fall for the hooey some job ads gush about the average local living on 300 RMB a month or some such. Such people's lives are long grey tubes, spent squatting on the floor, eating rice and cabbage in a tiny, squalid, bare concrete box. You don't want this; you'll need many times this "average local income" to achieve a level of comfort you can tolerate.

My personal take is that you should never take anything under 4000 RMB a month (with a free apartment) in a university or public school. This salary is insulting, but many public schools and unis are under regulatory limits that won't let them pay more. For a private school, I can't recommend anything under 6000 a month (add about 2000 to this in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen) with a free apartment or separate housing allowance. These figures are just MY personal guidelines for recommendations; what you need may be different.

- Does the ad make clear how many hours you have to work each week? 4K a month isn't too bad for 12 hours a week. It just sucks for 25 a week. Also, be clear on TOTAL hours as opposed to CLASSROOM hours. A current trend among private schools is to have you teaching 25 hours a week or less, BUT you're expected to hang around the school for 40 hours a week. This makes it very difficult to find outside part-time work...make sure the pay reflects these hours, too.

- If the job is full-time, they should provide you a Z Visa (if you are entering the country) and a legal residence permit and work permit for the city you live and work in, along with the physical exams and paperwork attached to them. Bar none. No excuses. If they can't or won't do this for you, you don't want to work there. If an ad says they will "sponsor" your visa/permits, take it to mean that you must pay for it and do all the legwork yourself, and run away. Don't go there unless things are otherwise so good it's worth the risk, expense, and hassle. If you live in China and work for a Chinese organization of any kind, and you don't have a residence permit, you are breaking the law and subject to prosecution. Period. Many, many schools here will tell you that a Business (F) Visa is good enough; they are lying to you, and putting you at risk, for their own enrichment. Don't buy the lie!

- Does the school have a bad reputation and a long history of teacher conflict? Get online and do the homework. Google your school and see if the cat drags anything in.

- How many days a week do you work? 5 is average, but do make sure. Having consecutive days off is awfully nice...pesonally I need 1 day to rest and then another to actually enjoy.

- Is housing provided by the school? What's the housing like? Make sure you get a decent place to go home to. Note that some schools only provide shared apartments; you'll get a private bedroom but share the rest of the house with someone else.

- Are taxes deducted from your salary? If so, how much?

- Will you be working in the same building every day, or are you subject to being farmed out to local public schools? Most teachers come to resent the constant commuting required if you work in multiple locations. Some private schools make a lot of money farming out teachers to local public schools, and assume you won't mind the added inconvenience a bit. This may sound like a small deal, but when you're waiting for a bus for the 4th time today in Harbin in January (temperature, -45C with a howling wind) you may find it growing in importance.

- Is the contract for a full calendar year? Many schools write a 10-month contract, and assume you will just sod off over the summer. Some teachers WANT this, so they can travel or return home for the summer. Do YOU want this? If not, can you get a 12-month contract?

- Is there a trial period? If so, do you get your full salary for the trial period? If the trial salary is lower, can you live on it? A new trend with schools is that you work for 2-3 months at a low salary, then complete the year at the salary they advertised. This has little to do with evaluating you and everything to do with saving money. Personally, I will not take this unless the salary difference is very small. My take is: pay me my salary. If you don't like me, fire me, but don't rip me off for 2-3 months.

- Is some living assistance available? Unless you arrive here speaking Chinese and knowing your way around the Chinese way of doing things, you're going to need help running errands and finding your way around. Make sure some help is available.

- Are there other benefits? Some schools offer meals, basic medical coverage, transportation benefits, paid utilities, internet access, and more. What exactly will you get? Don't make too much out of free Chinese lessons (which many schools never get around to actually offering, and often aren't very good when they do happen) or school-sponsored trips (which often serve to try and restrict your individual travel, and to provide a boondoggle for the Chinese staff).

Remember: Many things are negotiable. If you don't get what you want, try it. If they want you badly enough, many schools will find a way to make you happy. If they won't at least get you close enough, walk away. It's a seller's market for foreign English teachers...there are a million unfilled jobs out there. Don't get stuck with a bad deal.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2011, 12:31:28 AM by Raoul F. Duke »
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