Thursday 24 October 2013

Quality, not Quantity, is Important When Applying for Jobs

Updated 2 December 2014

Applying in 2009
The first time I applied to universities in Korea I my motto was "beggars can't be choosers" because I wanted to get out of Peru. I really didn't have any job requirements other than working in Korea and applied to every university that didn't require . . .
I posted on Dave's Korean forum and was told by most people that there way no way that I'd get a university job even though I had a MA in TEFL and 3.5 years university teaching experience.

However, I figure that I had nothing to lose, everything to gain, and it was free to apply. I only looked at job adverts on Dave's ESL Cafe and there are a lot of job adverts there for Korea. I really don't know how many jobs I applied to: 50, 60, 70, 80? I applied starting in August 2008 and that's when the main hiring season starts since the school year starts on March 1st.

Out of the many, many universities I applied to, 8 got back to me and wanted to do a Skype interview. One of them (Ajou) later cancelled the interview because they decided to do in-person interviews only. (FYI: Ajou seems like a great uni gig, if you can get it. Turnover is super low and that's probably due to the 80 mil key money, 3 mil a month, 15 hours a week, 4 days a week, and 5 months paid vacation. I spent hours pouring over job adverts and they were on my list of the few good Korean uni jobs out there, but they weren't hiring when I was looking.)

Here's the places I interviewed at in fall 2008 and the results . . .
  • Woosong University: offered a job
  • Soonchunhyun University: offered a job
  • Sungkyunkwan University: offered a job
  • Honam University: offered a job
  • University of Ulsan: offered a job
  • Chonbuk National University: not offered a job
  • Hanseo University: not offered a job
5 job offers out of 7 interviews or 72% success rate. Seems pretty good, but numbers aren't everything. I'm not a rating's snob. I don't need to work at a top 10 university where I'm a small fish in a big pond. I'd rather work for a university that offers a better salary package, good vacations, and a fantastic work environment. Many times those can be found at the lesser-known universities. 

As I said before ratings nor contracts mattered to me then as I just wanted to get out of Peru. As luck would have it I tentatively accepted the first offer that came my way, but they didn't send me my contract right away. While I was waiting I got 4 other offers and turned the first 3 down. The last offer came on the last day of the year and I didn't know if the first offer was going to really come through. I accepted it and got the best of both worlds: a job at a top 10 uni, great salary package, good vacations, and a fantastic work environment.

Applying in 2012
The second time around my motto was "quality over quantity". For the past couple of years I had been scouring job boards and copying and pasting job adverts from around the world. I knew which universities in Korea I wanted to apply for and watched for those job adverts. I even emailed Ajou in spring 2012 and was told that they'd really like to interview me, but didn't know if a position would open up. Incidentally they did have an opening for fall 2012, but I wasn't available until spring 2013. Oh well, everything happens for a reason. 

I had pretty high job requirements this time. I wanted 3 mil plus free housing or 3.5 mil without housing. I also wanted 5 months paid vacation and to work around 15 hours a week. I didn't care about ratings. In fact some of the top Korean universities out there are increasing their hours, decreasing vacations, and salaries aren't moving. I figured that I had another 3 years teaching experience at a top Korean university as well as another master degree and some presentations and publications. Jobs weren't as good as they used to be though and you can see that in this article about the quality of jobs in Korea. Seems like people were hanging onto their jobs or hiring within. I only found a few jobs that were worth applying to for me.  

Here are the places I applied to in fall 2012 and the results . . .
  • Keimyung University: didn't get an interview
  • Inha University: their advert was taken down and they told me that it had been put up by mistake since there were no openings.
  • Inha Technical College: didn't get an interview
  • Hanyang University: got an interview but didn't get a job offer
  • Dongduk University: got an interview and a job offer
  • Xi'an Jiaotang-Liverpool University: got an inverview and a job offer 
  • Yeungnam University: got an interview but didn't get a job offer
  • GIFLE: got an interview but didn't get a job offer
  • Korean University in Sejong / Jochiwon: didn't get an interview
1 job offer out of 4 interviews or 25% success rate. Seems pretty bad doesn't it? But again numbers aren't everything. The universities I applied to paid well and had 5 months vacation. They only required 9-15 hours of teaching a week and most of them had you teach 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5. Although I only got one job offer that's all you need. It's like being second choice, it doesn't matter as long as you get the job.

Waiting Time for an Offer
Some people have asked me how long it takes for employers to get back to you and make a job offer. Usually, the longer you have to wait the less likely you'll get the job. Hopefully you'll hear from them within two week. That being said, there's always hope! Some universities dilly-dally and take forever to make their decision often because they need the president of the university to sign off on it. Others offer jobs right away even before the president has signed off, and will tell you that there's no guarantee that the president will approve (though usually it's just a formality). 

According to Korean law, universities have to interview 3 people for every position. Few people will put all their eggs in one basket and usually apply to more than one job. This means that if there are 5 positions, they'll interview 15 people and offer 5 people the job, right? However, it doesn't mean that those 5 people will accept the position (especially if the university takes a while to get back to them). That means they'll move on to their second choice, which could be you. You shouldn't care if you're second choice, because it really means that you're their first choice at the moment; they've written the other people off. Speaking from personal experience, I knew that I was second choice for a job when they called one university on December 31st and offered me a job. I happily accepted (as it is a top university in Korea) and signed the contract a couple hours later. 

More info
If you want to teach at a university in Korea, I'd definitely recommend Jackie Bolen's book, “How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams.” She wrote a couple of guest posts here at TEFL Tips, How to get the university job in Korea that you want and why I love working at a Korean university. She's been in Korea for over a decade and really knows her stuff. 


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