Woman who works for a teaching recruitment agency having a man sign a contract.

Teaching Recruitment Agencies: What To Know

Many teachers starting out will usually end up looking into teaching recruitment agencies to help them find work overseas. These agencies can be a bit confusing and there are no hard rules for dealing with agencies or for understanding which ones are good and which are bad. I’m going to clarify what these companies can and can’t do for you and how you can avoid being taken in and scammed by a recruiter who may be less than scrupulous in their practices.

What are teaching recruitment agencies?

Teaching recruitment agencies are middlemen between schools and the teachers they want to hire. They can help both the schools and the teachers by providing a service to help them better understand each other.

For schools, recruitment agencies can help them access foreign teachers that are of a higher quality or that may be a better fit for the specific position they have available. For teachers, they can help them find jobs they otherwise may not have been able to find on their own and prepare for the transition abroad.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that at the end of the day teaching recruitment agencies are businesses looking to make money from schools by finding teachers. Their loyalties are with neither the school nor the teacher and the primary concern is the same as any other business, increase revenue.

It would stand to reason that, just as with any other business, the better the people at an agency are at doing their job and the more transparent they are about how they do it the more likely they are to succeed and generate new business. However, what is vital for you to remember is that this is not always the case.

In many parts of the world, especially those that are popular with TEFL teachers, transparency is not as important as knowing the right people. So, this means that it is entirely possible for a recruitment agency to operate in a way that is less than legal and still be successful and, you as the foreigner, will be the one left to take the fall. We will discuss what this means further. What is safe to say, however, is that not all teaching recruitment agencies are bad, but, the consequences of working with one that is can be significant.

How do teaching recruitment agencies help teachers?

There a number of benefits that a teacher looking for a job overseas can get by working with a trusted agency. The key here is that the agency is trustworthy, otherwise, all of these benefits can be rendered mute.

Finding Quality Jobs

Many schools around the world rely on teaching recruitment agencies to put them in touch with the top quality talent they otherwise would be unable to find on their own. These are schools that are top level in their respective countries and that don’t necessarily put out advertising for one reason or another. If it weren’t for the recruitment agencies, most teachers who are living outside of the country the school is in would never know that the position exists.

Some of these jobs can be high paying and have extremely attractive benefits. Recruitment agencies can help to put you as a teacher in touch with these companies, and, you may even stand a better chance of being hired through the agency than if you were applying on your own.

Preparing to Transition Abroad

Moving abroad to teach can be hard on the first time teacher. Reputable agencies can make this transition much easier by helping you get your paperwork sorted out and working with you and the school to make sure your visas and work permits are sorted before you arrive.

An agency will also be able to help you understand any legalities that will affect you such as government regulations that you need to be aware of. This can be extremely important for you to stay out of trouble and have an enjoyable experience teaching abroad.

Communicating Expectations with Schools 

It can sometimes be very hard to get a hold of somebody at a school that can help you. This can be problematic if you have any questions or if you are trying to clarify anything before accepting a position. Even worse, if you have any expectations that you would like to be communicated or negotiated before you arrive abroad it can be an absolute nightmare.

A good teaching recruitment company can make sure that these expectations are communicated and may even be able to help you with negotiations. Though, that last part may be asking for a bit much. It will depend on the school, the agency, and your level of qualifications and desirability and how much leverage that gives you.

What can go wrong working with an agency?

A lot!

This is the problem that most people have with teaching recruitment agencies. Even though they can provide a valuable service the less than reputable ones out there have the ability to ruin a teachers career if only for a little while.

You Don’t Recieve Your Visa

Have you ever wondered what the inside of an immigration detention facility looks like? This can be a reality if you work with the wrong recruitment agency and don’t receive the proper work permits and visa.

There are countless stories to be found on the internet about teachers who accepted a job through a recruitment agency that promised them a job with a visa and permit. However, after arriving in the country to begin working they do not receive the visa and continually are given excuses from both the agency and the school about delays and issues and how it will come next week.

Before the teacher has the opportunity to leave they are being confronted by immigration police who have come by for a check (often it is the same schools and agencies that do this so they know where to go) and who are now asking for documents. As the teacher obviously doesn’t have them they are arrested and sent to a detention facility until they can be processed and blacklisted before deportation.

The Pay or Benefits are Wrong

Just as recruitment agencies will lie or not fully come clean about work visas and permits, so too can they lie about the benefits or the pay that a teacher will receive at a job.

It has happened too many times to count that an ad listing from a recruiter will promise amazing benefits and pay and an unsuspecting teacher will accept the job and sign a contract without a second thought. After they get abroad and begin teaching they notice that the benefits promised to them aren’t being delivered or that their pay is short each month. The problem is, once they are abroad, it’s too late.

The thing to remember is that the recruitment agencies are there to make money by finding teachers. For the teaching recruitment agencies that are less than scrupulous, this can mean lying and promising things in order to make that happen. There will be no repercussions to them short of some potential bad publicity online. However, even this can be difficult as most of these recruiters don’t have websites or other online presence.

Misleading Work Hours

It’s a sad reality but many teachers are experiencing it. The pay was correct as well as the benefits and everything was as expected. However, while you were promised no more than 25 hours each week you are in fact putting in closer to 45 or 50.

This is because the teaching recruiting agency wanted to make the position more attractive and they knew one way to do that was to lower the number of hours worked to make it look like a better deal for the pay. What’s worse, your contract actually says that you are only supposed to work 25 hours each week, but, the country you are in doesn’t have good labor laws and the contract does more to help your employer if you try to quit early than it does to help you when your employer lies.

Do you need an agency?

The answer to this question is that it depends on what you want. In some countries, such as China, it can be almost impossible to avoid agencies as they are how most schools find teachers. Even if you don’t realize it, you are probably working through an agency in these situations.

They can also be great for finding some of the higher paying jobs in the industry as some of these schools will employ headhunters to find top quality talent.

However, for the average teacher, it is most likely not necessary to use a teaching recruitment agency to find work. There are a number of sites out there where teachers are able to look for work and where school all around the world go to post jobs. You can easily find a job through one of these sites and, so long as you make sure to look over the contract before you sign and talk to other people before accepting a job, then you will be just fine.

Teaching recruitment agencies, in situations other than the above listed, should be a last rescort for teachers looking for employment overseas. They do certainly have there place in the industry. However, widespread access to the internet for both schools and teachers has made them largely useless in most cases.

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