Teach Abroad

Do I Need an ESL Recruiter to Land a Teach Abroad Job?

If you're wondering whether to use an ESL recruiter to find a teaching job abroad, read on to learn the ins and outs of working with an ESL recruiter including what they do and how they can benefit you.

Key Takeaways 🔑

  • ESL recruiters offer a free service to match you with teaching jobs abroad.
  • Recruiters operate around the world but they are most popular in Asia in countries such as China and South Korea.
  • Aside from finding employers that may be the best fit for you, some recruiters also offer free visa assistance.
  • Although recruiters are there to work for you, there are potential cons to using them for your job search.
Two women looking at a laptop screen.

In your search for a teach abroad job, you might have heard the word "recruiter" floating around. With all of the ways to look for and apply to jobs overseas, how do you know the best way to do it?

Working with a recruiter can be a great option when comes to finding teaching jobs abroad. However, it may not be right for everyone. To understand the ins and outs of ESL recruiters abroad, we'll walk you through what a recruiter is, why you might want one, which countries they typically work with, and how to make sure your recruiter places you in a school that's a good fit.

What is an ESL recruiter?

In the world of teaching abroad, a recruiter's job is to find qualified applicants for teaching abroad positions. Whenever a teacher successfully arrives and starts teaching, the recruiter is paid a commission. This means that for you, working with a recruiter should be completely free because they're paid by the school that ends up hiring you.

Recruiters will often also help out with the visa and application process. They might instruct you to fix up your resume, make an introduction video, or emphasize certain qualities in the job interview. They'll then help you get all of your visa paperwork together, and make sure that you're ready to start teaching legally abroad. In short, their job is to get you a job!

Types of ESL recruiters

A group of people looking at a computer.

Overall, there tend to be three major types of recruiters: freelance recruiters, corporate recruiters, and recruiting companies.

The freelance recruiter works with many different schools and training centers, sending qualified applicants to whichever job they think would be a good fit. Usually, these recruiters have their own websites and are hired on by schools that need more teachers.

Freelance recruiters are a very popular method for finding jobs in China and elsewhere in Asia. Oftentimes recruiters find you when you're already in a country. I've been approached on the subway, in restaurants, and even bars in Beijing and Xi'an. Their goal is to find native speakers for a selection of schools but they are not connected with any one company.

The second type of recruiter is one that actually works for a specific company, the corporate recruiter. Usually, they're a part of the HR department and are tasked with finding teachers for that company's many branch schools or centers. They may be paid a salary, on commission, or both.

Finally, you may also encounter large recruiting companies that place teachers in schools all over the world. Some of the most popular companies include:

Which countries use ESL recruiters?

A busy Chinese city street at night.

The most popular regions for recruiters and recruitment agencies to operate are Asia and the Middle East. Recruiters are especially common in China, Taiwan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. While you might be able to find recruiters working in South America and Europe, they're much less common.

Read more: The 9 Highest-Paying Countries Where You Can Teach English Abroad

Why do schools work with ESL recruiters?

Now that we've covered why you might want to work with a recruiter, you may be wondering why schools will hire recruiters rather than doing all of the work themselves. Why don't schools find their own teachers?

Well, for many countries, this is easier said than done. While larger companies can afford to hire recruiting departments and advertising, many smaller schools with fewer foreign teachers have no idea where to start when it comes to hiring a foreign employee. The language skills might not be there, and finding qualified teachers can be very time-consuming.

For most schools, it's more efficient to simply hire someone to find ESL teachers. This is especially true in countries with a complicated visa process. If a school is only hiring one or two foreign teachers a year, it's just not practical to train someone to deal with the visa and recruitment process.

Why work with an ESL recruiter?

Do I Need a Recruiter: Why Work With a Recruiter?

I know it can seem a bit nerve-wracking to approach a recruiter to find a job. What are the pros and cons? How do you know if you're making the right decision? Many people feel a bit uneasy about working with recruiters, and I can understand why. However, there are plenty of great reasons why you should consider working with a recruiter. There are also some drawbacks, too, though, so we'll break down the big picture for you.

Pros of working with a recruiter

1. Free job assistance

Finding a job abroad is hard work, and it can be difficult to know where to look. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone hand-select jobs they think might be a great fit for you?

For example, when the first college counseling job I applied to in Shanghai decided not to expand their department, my recruiter asked if I might be interested in similar counseling jobs in Chengdu, Beijing, and Singapore. After the second round of interviews, I ended up working at a great company in Beijing!

2. Application advice

Wouldn't you like to know if there was something wrong with your application? Many recruiters give you advice to make yourself a stronger applicant. They may suggest restructuring your resume, creating a 2-minute introduction video, or tips for the interview. Any advice helps, especially when it comes from people who are very experienced with the teach abroad landscape.

3. Visa assistance

For many countries, the visa process can be very difficult. For example, China recently instituted a new degree authentication policy which has left many schools and prospective teachers scratching their heads. Recruiters will help walk you through the process and will make sure all of your visa items are in order.

Possible cons of working with a recruiter

1. A limited view of your options

When you embark on your own job search, you are able to see the big picture of the mountain of jobs available around the world. Working with a recruiter though presents you with a small sampling. Even though your recruiter takes into account your background, strengths, and preferences, they're still only offering a handful of options to make things simpler.

2. Not all recruiters are reputable

Unfortunately, not every recruiter will have your best interests in mind. Some ESL teachers end up in exploitative working situations with shoddy contracts that can lead to undelivered benefits and/or extra work outside the agreed-upon hours. This makes finding a reputable recruiter extremely important! Luckily, we have some tips to guide you.

Can I trust my ESL recruiter?

Two women talking in front of a laptop.

To be honest, this is a tricky question. While some recruiters are very ethical and only work with the best schools, others are willing to work with whichever schools offer the biggest paychecks, regardless of quality. This means that you could end up in an unhappy working situation for the duration of your contract.

Obviously, you don't want to get stuck in a less than ideal situation, so how do you make sure you can really trust your recruiter?

1. Look for recruiter reviews online

Your recruiter or recruiting company should have some sort of reviews online. Do they have a website? Happy customer testimonials? Reddit has countless community threads for ESL teachers abroad and can be a good resource for connecting with those who are already working overseas and may have insight into your recruiter or potential school.

2. Find a recruiter through a friend

Do you know a friend who used an awesome recruiter? Ask around for recommendations. Word of mouth is an age-old tactic for getting a trustworthy recommendation.

3. Research the school or company your recruiter suggests

Do not blindly trust your recruiter. Even if your recruiter has a great reputation, it does not mean that every school your recruiter works with is created equal. Research the school online, or even visit in person if possible.

4. Trust your gut

Does something feel wrong? Do you not like how your recruiter responds to your emails? Just because you started working with a recruiter doesn't mean you have to use them. If you get a bad feeling, you can always cut your recruiter loose and start over.

5. Remember, you don't have to sign!

If anything doesn't feel right, you can always walk away with no strings attached. Remember: you're the one making them money! If you don't like your school or the recruiter, you can back out at any time. Thank them for their time and continue your search.

Beware of red flags

Honest recruiters should never...

  • Ask for payment to receive a placement
  • Avoid your questions regarding working conditions, pay, and contracts
  • Refuse to connect you to past or present ESL teacher clients who have used their services
  • Try to send you abroad to work on a tourist visa (this is illegal!)

Read more: How to Avoid Common ESL Job Scams

Need a job? ESL recruiters are there to help

Overall, recruiters are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to teaching abroad. Feel free to apply on job boards, work with a corporate recruiter, and find a freelance recruiter -- all at the same time!

The choice is ultimately yours and finding the right school can make or break your time abroad so it's wise to consider all avenues. Recruiters are a great resource to help you find jobs teaching abroad, but you're not obligated to commit unless you feel completely confident and happy with your circumstances. Don't use a recruiter, or use more than one: it's up to you!

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