If you have some mastery of the English language, you might not need to make use of their services.  The question to me is: “Why do they exist at all?”.  Let me see if I can answer that question.  Recruiters do offer service.

I got the idea after I finished my last weeks post and then this popped up.

Imagine you run a hagwon, but don’t have the ability to communicate in the language(s) that your potential employee speaks (this is already an indication that communication might not be efficient to begin with). Here comes the Mediator.   Someone who professes to master at least on of the languages, should be able to manage the paperwork involved with hiring a foreigner, and can do it whilst saving you time.  The problem is a lot of people look at that business and think that it is easy money, and it is regulated, so the desire to work outside of those regulations is very appealing.  Another point to distinguish is that recruiters can either work for public or private schools, or business.  I am only concerned with the Hagwon business, since I have little experience with any other.

Let’s first talk money.  What do these recruiters make?  I’ve seen quotes from 600.000 won all the way up to 2.000.000 won.  If you can score five to six teachers a month, you are doing fine, but is it really that easy?  To get a hagwon to pay you that money a few conditions need to be met.

You need a database of teachers willing to work.   Easy?  Not really.  The ESL world is very transient and very impatient with constant changes all the time.  Teachers will take the first decent job they can get cause they need the money.  They are not in a situation to wait for your call (and if you do, as a teacher, you are only screwing yourself).  There you have it.  You have teachers who need a job now, if you don’t give it to them someone else will.  Good luck building that database of teachers. On the other side, you need to be able to offer jobs, so you need to build a huge amount of contacts that might be looking for employees.  How many hagwons are you going to walk down and hopefully they’ll think of you when they are looking for an employee.  Ergo sum.  The recruiting is a balancing act where you have to do a lot of work, in the hope you can find a match.  No wonder recruiters want to close the deal as fast as possible, irregardless of the actual level of quality on either side.

If I were to ever have the crazy idea of starting a recruiting business, the approach would mostly be focused on getting schools to commit to me as their service provider, but how many FT’s does a school need?  Most smaller schools only need one or two per year.  So if we go back to scoring 6 contracts a month, and we assume that schools hire 2 teachers per year, you are going to need to have 36 schools committing to you 100% for their HR needs (if you work with 2 people, double the numbers).  I do believe that most recruiters are incredibly inept and unprepared to provide an actual HR service to those companies.  Recruiters need to change their attitude towards hagwons and provide a far more comprehensive service than just resume handling if they want to achieve repeat business.  Constantly hunting for new schools to give you a contract is inevitably going to cost you future growth and your sanity, if not your soul.

Due to the nature of the business and how recruiters set themselves up, it is obvious that they are part of what ails the ESL market in Korea.   Teachers cannot but become opportunistic and play the market in their favor.  Schools cannot but take a chance with a random recruiter, and if it doesn’t work out, drop the recruiter and find another one.  It really is a vicious circle that goes round and round, because for some reason, it is difficult to get rid of all those people just looking for quick and easy money , rather than providing real value to society and build up a business that can sustain itself.   The amount of amateurs in the market just doesn’t make it possible for anyone to take it seriously and change the game.  I know it is unfair to put all the blame on the recruiters, but I am not doing that.  It is a triumvirate (hagwons, recruiters and teachers) of lies and deceit, all looking for that elusive easy cash at the end of the rainbow.

If I ever do see a recruiter business coming up with an attitude to focus on repeat business rather then hit-and-run, I might actually make use of their services, but until then, when I got an offer to make, I can collect my own resumes and make an equally bad choice without having to pay oodles of cash

Boss Out.