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

Richelle Gamlam
Topic Expert

Richelle has been living, working, and teaching in China for the last four years, from high school English teacher to college admissions consultant.

Do I Need a Recruiter to Land a Teach Abroad Placement?

In your search for a teach abroad job, you might have heard the word "recruiter" floating around.

What is a recruiter?
Do I need one to study abroad?
Are recruiters a scam??

Recruiters are a complicated topic when it comes to teaching abroad. They can be a fantastic way to find a position in some countries, while they're completely nonexistent (or useless) in others. Well today we'll go 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 a 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.

Imagine your recruiter is a headhunter for a popular tech company. They're hired by the company to go out and find good applicants. Once the employee is successful hired and starts working, then the recruiter is paid for their effort.

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 the end, their job is to help you get a job, because when that happens, they get paid.

Freelance Recruiters, Corporate Recruiters, and Recruiting Companies

Do I Need a Recruiter: Freelance Recruiters, Corporate Recruiters, and Recruiting Companies

Overall, there tend to be three major types of recruiters. 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 who need more teachers.

The second type of recruiter is one that actually works for a specific company. 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:

Recruiters in Disguise

While some recruiters are obvious about their position, many teach abroad websites are actually recruiters in disguise! How do you know if these websites are paid to find you? Well, firstly any website that gives you a preliminary interview is actually a recruiting site.

Typically, if you apply through a third-party website's application form, this website is making some sort of commission if you're hired. This is especially true if you receive any advice from the website on your resume, application, or job selection.

When I was looking for jobs as a college counselor in China, I found a position on what I thought was a job listing board. However, a week later I was actually contacted for an interview by an employee of the website I had applied through. Only after this interview was I able to interview with my potential employer. Meanwhile, the woman who interviewed me sent me a few other job offers she thought I might be interested in. Once she knew I was a good candidate, she was very helpful in finding me a great position.

Fun Fact: If your TEFL provider offers job placement assistance after your complete your TEFL, chances are they're being paid a commission just like a recruiter!

Why Work With a Recruiter?

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

I know it can seem a bit nerve-wracking- Why would you work with someone who's making a commission off of you?! 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.

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 a 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.

Why Do Schools Work With 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 can't schools just 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 foreign employees. 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.

Which Countries Use Recruiters?

Do I Need a Recruiter: Which Countries Use Recruiters?

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

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

Can I Trust My Recruiter?

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.

Obviously, you don't want to get conned into signing a contract with a horrible school, so how do you make sure you can really trust your recruiter?

1. Look For Recruiter Reviews Online

Find an awesome recruiter? Your recruiter or recruiting company should have some sort of reviews online. Do they have a website? Happy customer testimonials?

2. Find a Recruiter Through a Friend

Do you know a friend who used an awesome recruiter? Ask around for recommendations. Asking friends is the best way to get a trustworthy recommendation.

3. Research the School or Company Your Recruiter Suggests

Do not, I repeat, 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. 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. You don't owe your recruiter anything. 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.

Need a Job? 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 corporate recruiters, and find a freelance recruiter, all at the same time!

Remember, this is your life. Recruiters are a great resource to help you find jobs teaching abroad, but you do not owe them anything. Don't use a recruiter, or use more than one: it's up to you!