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What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« on: November 25, 2014, 02:37:16 pm »
As everyone knows, a lot of public school positions are being cut this year which will likely push many teachers who want to stay in Korea toward hagwon jobs. As everyone also knows, a lot of hagwon jobs can be terrible.

This being said, with due diligence and some research, good hagwon jobs are out there. For those of us who are looking for a job and are already in Korea, we have the advantage of going to these schools and vetting them in person before we even see a contract.

Specifically for people who are here and interviewing in person at hagwons, what are some of the questions that you ask in your interview, and what are some red flags?

This is intended to be a constructive thread to discuss general interview tips that can maximize the chance of finding a good school or job. This thread is not for people who only want to whine about how terrible hagwons are.



Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2014, 02:45:19 pm »
"If you don't give me a job I will shoot you where you sit."


Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2014, 03:21:45 pm »
Hagwons are businesses first and educational institutions second. Although they want shiny qualifications and experience, they don't tend to care about anything other than keeping paying customers happy. Keep this in mind.
They will probably ask about your education philosophy and about classroom management. After that it is typical stuff of any job interview and they just want to hear that you are fun and well adjusted to Korea, hardworking, and pretty much willing to be flexible. Make up a bunch of fascinating lies involving your personal experiences in Korea and before. Do ask about your duties and the contract, but don't waste your time asking questions that won't help you if they lie about the answer (ie have you ever paid anyone late?).
If they offer to let you speak to a teacher (someone who currently holds a position you seek), shadow a typical class or look at the materials this is a good sign. If they deny such a reasonable request this is a bad sign. If the teacher seems reluctant to allow you to contact them outside the office, be worried you may end up working beside a jerk. Keep in mind a lot of people are just going to lie to you anyway, unless they know you. I would make it seem like crap to someone I really don't want to work with. If I was on my way out of a bad place, I would help sell up a bad school until I've gotten out. I may sound like a jerk, but let's be honest, screw you guys.
Ask questions that aren't rude, but they can't lie about. Ask to speak to the teachers who have worked more than a year, if no one ever has, run. Ask the teachers how many students they teach in a typical day, get a feeling of the finances, all broke places screw over employees.


Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2014, 07:54:59 pm »
Ask them when the payday is.  A delayed payday is a red flag (some hagwons pay your salary after 2 weeks into the next month).  They don't want you pulling a midnight run because they've had problems with that before.


  • SteveP
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Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2014, 07:41:18 am »
Keep in mind a lot of people are just going to lie to you anyway, unless they know you. I would make it seem like crap to someone I really don't want to work with. If I was on my way out of a bad place, I would help sell up a bad school until I've gotten out. I may sound like a jerk, but let's be honest, screw you guys.
Damn, Sejong, that's cold.

Otherwise, seems like good advice, especially about requesting contact info for former teachers.
Clever reasoning, SteveLee. Unpleasant hagwon --> midnight runs --> delayed paydays.

I'm still at a public school. When I was placed at my current school, I asked about former NETs. My school has had 5 NETs in 5 years... Message received, expectations lowered.


Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2014, 07:59:22 am »
This is a good thread!

I'm losing my job at the end of August 2015! So I'm already thinking about a hagwon door I want to start getting my foot in.

That being said. I'm a male F-6 visa holder. Are there any magical jobs out there?! Someday I'd really like to simply start tutoring and have my private business, but I'm not sure I'm ready. Anyone here doing that? Willing to share advice? Maybe I should start a new thread...




Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2014, 12:38:13 pm »
Keep in mind a lot of people are just going to lie to you anyway, unless they know you. I would make it seem like crap to someone I really don't want to work with. If I was on my way out of a bad place, I would help sell up a bad school until I've gotten out. I may sound like a jerk, but let's be honest, screw you guys.


If you're on your way out, nobody can force you to stay.  No need to help a bad school that deserves to fail and screw someone over at the same time.  So why would you help sell up a bad school??  Now every advice you posted here on Waygook lost credibility with that one!  :huh:


Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2014, 01:33:36 pm »
If you're on your way out, nobody can force you to stay.  No need to help a bad school that deserves to fail and screw someone over at the same time.  So why would you help sell up a bad school??  Now every advice you posted here on Waygook lost credibility with that one!  :huh:

But if you're not out YET then you don't have your severance and stuff. I wouldn't risk more problems by saying bad things even if it was a bad place.

This brings up a very good point. Don't just talk to current employees. Ask a hagwon for a PREVIOUS employee. If the school is as good as it seems they should be able to give you a few references from previous teachers. If not, I'd see that as a red flag. Obviously even if they have a former employee for you to talk to, it could be someone who was friends with the boss or something.


Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2014, 02:33:55 pm »
If you're on your way out, nobody can force you to stay.  No need to help a bad school that deserves to fail and screw someone over at the same time.  So why would you help sell up a bad school??  Now every advice you posted here on Waygook lost credibility with that one!  :huh:

But if you're not out YET then you don't have your severance and stuff. I wouldn't risk more problems by saying bad things even if it was a bad place.

This brings up a very good point. Don't just talk to current employees. Ask a hagwon for a PREVIOUS employee. If the school is as good as it seems they should be able to give you a few references from previous teachers. If not, I'd see that as a red flag. Obviously even if they have a former employee for you to talk to, it could be someone who was friends with the boss or something.

I agree - I think it's better to be wary about anyone you talk to. The teacher I talked to about my school turned out to be the "foreign head teacher", a position he took way too seriously, and was a nightmare to work with. He actually ended up getting fired. That said, the Koreans I work for are pretty laid back and I would continue working for them but I'd like to move.

I wonder if anyone has experience in interviews feeling out the Koreans in the administration, i.e. how laid back they are, are they going to micromanage you, expect you to do ridiculous things, talk smack, generally make your life hell. 


Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2014, 03:00:45 pm »
If you're on your way out, nobody can force you to stay.  No need to help a bad school that deserves to fail and screw someone over at the same time.  So why would you help sell up a bad school??  Now every advice you posted here on Waygook lost credibility with that one!  :huh:

But if you're not out YET then you don't have your severance and stuff. I wouldn't risk more problems by saying bad things even if it was a bad place.

This brings up a very good point. Don't just talk to current employees. Ask a hagwon for a PREVIOUS employee. If the school is as good as it seems they should be able to give you a few references from previous teachers. If not, I'd see that as a red flag. Obviously even if they have a former employee for you to talk to, it could be someone who was friends with the boss or something.
Keep in mind a lot of people are just going to lie to you anyway, unless they know you. I would make it seem like crap to someone I really don't want to work with. If I was on my way out of a bad place, I would help sell up a bad school until I've gotten out. I may sound like a jerk, but let's be honest, screw you guys.


If you're on your way out, nobody can force you to stay.  No need to help a bad school that deserves to fail and screw someone over at the same time.  So why would you help sell up a bad school??  Now every advice you posted here on Waygook lost credibility with that one!  :huh:
Okay buddy you never worked in a really bad hagwon before, or you are the savior of Waygooks, good for you.

Think what you want about my advice, but when you are in a position to fight with a hagwon versus lie to a stranger and withhold information and get your due pay, decent reference, or even LOR (hell no I won't stay 12 months if I can find a chump to take my place), what will you do?

The high chance of more undeserved punishment and holding the moral high ground versus lying to a complete stranger and passing it on to them?

Imagine before you talk to the guy, your boss asking you not to say certain things to potential new employees. They threaten to sue for damaging reputations and harming business. They say they will withhold pay to compensate them for damages, cancel your visa with immigration, blacklist you to hagwon associations, etc. They say ignore this and then you have the pleasure of going to the labor board and officials to negotiate further. These people hear you badmouthed the place to a new recruit despite being told not to and now contract problems with your employer are worse. They ask you why did you do it? They hear that you are looking out for foreign strangers at the expense of your boss. They now sympathize with your boss for the problems experienced earlier and clearly see your lack of judgement.
Now obviously if you plan to leave the country and never come back, it doesn't hurt to be honest.

Okay, so the last hogwon I worked at was pretty horrible (late pay, no pension, delayed salary date, machiavellian boss, possessed children, and crazy k-teachers with crabs-in-a-bucket mentality who saw to it that nothing went right for you) but I never had the opportunity to meet whoever was replacing me anyway, perhaps because the director wasn't going to let that happen.  I did however meet the replacement for the other NET teacher and worked with her for the last few months I was there.  During her training I kept a neutral position with a poker face, just did what I was told to do to train her.  Didn't go out of my way to promote the hagwon image with a plastic smiley face nor did I bash it, and the director, as well as the teacher, did not have any problems with that.  A lot of bad hagwon directors know their hagwon is shit (and they don't do anything about it because they can't; they are incompetent) and they understand (maybe even respect you more) if you didn't put on a fake happy persona and acted like you had a good time there; just do what you're told without putting a smear on their reputation.  Of course if you're leaving the country or deliberately on a crusade to see the downfall of evil hagwons, then by all means bash them to a pulp.

And yeah I got my severance and everything I was owed.  And Sejong, based on what you said, how do we know you're postings are not a part of a grand scheme to attract a lot of waygooks to Korea and help the crappy hagwons replace teachers easier?


Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2014, 07:13:33 pm »
Okay, so the last hogwon I worked at was pretty horrible (late pay, no pension, delayed salary date, machiavellian boss, possessed children, and crazy k-teachers with crabs-in-a-bucket mentality who saw to it that nothing went right for you) but I never had the opportunity to meet whoever was replacing me anyway, perhaps because the director wasn't going to let that happen.  I did however meet the replacement for the other NET teacher and worked with her for the last few months I was there.  During her training I kept a neutral position with a poker face, just did what I was told to do to train her.  Didn't go out of my way to promote the hagwon image with a plastic smiley face nor did I bash it, and the director, as well as the teacher, did not have any problems with that.  A lot of bad hagwon directors know their hagwon is shit (and they don't do anything about it because they can't; they are incompetent) and they understand (maybe even respect you more) if you didn't put on a fake happy persona and acted like you had a good time there; just do what you're told without putting a smear on their reputation.  Of course if you're leaving the country or deliberately on a crusade to see the downfall of evil hagwons, then by all means bash them to a pulp.

And yeah I got my severance and everything I was owed.  And Sejong, based on what you said, how do we know you're postings are not a part of a grand scheme to attract a lot of waygooks to Korea and help the crappy hagwons replace teachers easier?
So you worked for a few months with someone and they never asked a question that required you to lie? I find this person would make a perfect employee at a crappy place.
Besides it's kind of different because they were already hired first, so no reason to warn them now that it's too late. Also you got everything due to you without a fight so it couldn't have been that bad. You've described a slightly crappier than average hagwon, no reason to warn people about something so close to the industry standard. Mean coworkers, late pay (how late) and loopholes to get out of pension bad? Your expectations are too high.

I once worked at a place where someone (investor?) walked in and beat the crap out of my boss then people saying don't talk it's dangerous. This place had no particular concern for what was legal and what was not. I never had a chance to promote the place, but it would have been a unique challenge.
You caught me with my agenda, I shouldn't have said it on a public Internet forum. Oops.

Well, I think the repercussions you described are a bit exaggerated.  You're correct that I havent had a chance to talk to any would be teachers before they signed the contract, but based on how truthful I was to the already signed-up teacher and how nobody really seemed to care, I'm willing to stick to my belief that they won't go THAT far.  I'm saying you can frankly tell the would-be teacher the truth, not commit your life to a vigilante mission of making bad hagwons feel your wrath.  For example, if they asked if I always got paid on time I would tell them, "no, sometimes they payed me late"; I wouldn't start going on a tirade about the evils of the hagwon and how they shouldn't work there.  I would let that person decide for his/herself the integrity of the hagwon without deliberately trying to sway their opinion.  If the director started freaking out about a non-issue like that, then he would be considered a psychopath and even Korean society would not take such a person seriously. 
On the other hand, by lying about how great a crappy hagwon is, you've sold yourself out and now the director thinks you're scared of him and he can mess around with you further.   
And the last part, I wasn't accusing you of a scheme, I was merely pointing out that you may have invalidated your other posts after admitting to your tendency to be duplicitous.  :undecided:

Oh yeah, and I had to put up a fight about a lot of things there.  It was hell.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2014, 08:10:39 pm by stevelee0000 »


  • Ley_Druid
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Re: What are your interview tips for finding a good school?
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2014, 08:13:16 am »
Hagwons are businesses first and educational institutions second.

Actually, the education provided is actually third. What comes in on second is customer service/satisfaction. Basically a hagwon is an institution that takes money to make customers happy, and the way that they do it is through providing an education to either the customer or the customer's dependent.

Going back to the topic: interview tips for finding a good school. Well, that is a bit difficult to understand exactly what the OP is looking for.

Assuming it means:

(1) What are some good tips for actions taken during an interview to determine whether or not a school is decent for you?

I would say that you should come with a bunch of questions, and well thought out questions. If they cannot answer them, or they get annoyed, you will quickly find out that it is not the place for you. Do all the usual interview niceties, like coming 15 min early, dress for success, get a haircut, use deodorant, brush your teeth, pay careful attention to how your hands look (if they are dry, lotion; if they are dirty, wash them; if the nails are too long; cut them)... ect.

During the interview, ask questions that are related to the job and their hagwon. Ask things about class size, number of teachers, number of full-time teachers, how long they have been in business, what their materials are, how long is a typical class, how often you will be expected to come to work during non-contracted hours, housing, insurance, benefits, insurance, insurances that your pension will be paid, those kinds of things. If they get frustrated, you need to ensure them that you don't blindly do things and that it is a protective measure for both them and you.

(2) What sort of things might give away a hagwon that you might not want to work for?

Other than them not answering any of the questions you bring to your satisfaction, you need to also scan the place with your senses. Look for signs of organization. If there are papers stacked all over and dirty walls and kids running around with their fingers in their nose, what is their administration and future plan for expansion and improved services? The school should also respect you as an applicant. If they keep changing the interview time, they are not worth your time. If they criticize you, make sure to take notes. Don't just "go with the flow." What are they complaining about?

(Religion)
Also, another thing that I would suggest being careful about are religious schools that are not marketed as such. SLP is religious, but that is in their initials. When it comes to other schools, make sure that their core values mesh with yours. I have interviewed at a few hagwons, and all of them had religious imagery either in the classrooms or more commonly, in the offices. Remember that a lot of these people who own hagwons are under the assumptions taken with the "prosperity gospel" and they will act as such.

(Contract)
Never sign a contract you are not fully ready to accept, no matter what promises they pile on top. Never. Review the contracts in the interviews, if available, and get the contracts fixed to your liking. If there is no mention of sick days, and they tell you "we just handle those as they happen," get that fixed. That is not right. If they have any information in their contract that penalizes you if they were to fire you in month 11, get that fixed.

(Housing)
If you are accepting housing from an employer, ask for pictures or additional information about it. Don't just settle for "the school will pay for individual housing for the teacher." Sometimes individual means a goshiwon or even an "individual" bedroom in a shared house.

(Contacts)
If they aren't brand spanking new, ask for the contact information of both current and previous teachers. Contact them before signing any documents. Ask them all the usual questions as well.

(Follow your logic)
If something is off, either in the interview or in the application process, pay attention to that. Don't let things slide as you might with a friend.

(Foreign Country)
Remember that applying for jobs and especially interviewing here is not the same as in our home countries. Those of us on an E-2 visa are technically foreigners, even you Gyopos that are on an E-2, you are foreigners, too, so our rights and protections are much more limited than with others. The Korean legal code is not very friendly toward foreigners, so remember that.