Tuesday, June 15, 2010

First Come First Serve

EPIK is operated on a first come, first serve basis. Unlike JET, which operates by periodically eliminating huge chunks of applicants, EPIK keeps on accepting applications until it overflows with superfluous job seekers, like a clogged storm drain during a flood. And it appears to be storm season.

Here's what showed up on the EPIK website yesterday:

Important Note: Position availability is very limited at this time. Chances of being placed onto a wait list for a province/city are very high. Applicants on the wait list are not guaranteed a position with EPIK.

Although my recruiter has told me I have a very good chance of landing a position, and as long as my papers and such are in order there shouldn't be a problem, this still makes me nervous. I've been languishing on the JET alternate wait list since the beginning of April. I don't think I could stand a repeat of that.

Actually, I tried to anticipate this on my EPIK application. When asked to choose where I would like to be placed, I was given a selection of major metropolitan areas as well as general provinces. I chose the provinces because I knew most people would pick cities first. I came in to this process in the middle of the hiring cycle and knew I wouldn't have as good a chance of getting placed as those in the first wave of applicants. Also, provincial positions pay a little more, which is always a good thing.

Here are my five choices, in order:

1. Gyeongbuk (also known as Gyeongsangbuk), located in the south east part of the peninsula.
2. Gangwon, in the north east on the border with North Korea. Actually, the province is split in two by the border.
3. Gyeongnam (also known as Gyeongsangnam). The southern version of Gyeongbuk.
4. Chungbuk, right in the center.
5. Gyeonggi, the province surrounding Seoul.

As it was explained to me during my interview, after my papers are received by EPIK they are then sent out to my first choice for placement. Assuming there are still positions available and the province board of education likes me, I will be accepted and they will send out contracts. If there are no positions left or they don't like me, my papers will move on to number two on the list, and so on. At this point, the likelihood of my getting a job depends on two things: how popular (or unpopular) the provinces are that I have selected, and how many positions they have left to fill.

Let's take a look at the number of positions available, as posted on the Korea discussion forums on Dave's ESL Cafe by a recruiter from Footprints last Friday.

1. Gyeongbuk: 40 positions (6 already filled)
2. Gangwon: 59 positions (10 already filled)
3. Gyeongnam: 7 positions (1 already filled)
4. Chungbuk: 24 positions (1 already filled)
5. Gyeonggi: 12 positions (7 already filled)

This is good news. My top two have the most positions available in the provinces and are not full (at least, as of last week). Should Gyeongbuk be full, my application will move on to Gangwon, which has a lot of available positions. I like the look of this.

Speed is of the essence right now to make sure my papers arrive at the Gyeongbuk Board of Education before all positions have been filled. There's a lot that could happen to slow down the process though. My papers are on their way to EPIK right now, where they will be triple checked. If anything is found to be wrong, they will be kicked back to me for fixing. They could be languishing at the bottom of a "to be checked" pile while other applications are duly sent on to boards of education. Also, should I be rejected by my first choice, my application re-enters the central bureaucracy and bogs down again before being sent back out.

However. Everyone here is in the same boat. Everyone's papers are being checked and checked again, sent back for reprocessing, rechecked. I have faith in my ability to follow directions and do it right the first time, and to be accepted by my first choice. Let's also not forget that everyone is not trying for these five provinces. There are eight provinces and seven major metropolitan cities with positions.

Hopefully soon I will get an email from my recruiter saying, "You passed at the Gyeongbuk provincial board of education. Contracts are on their way." If not, well, I don't even want to think about it.

*** Update ***

I wrote to my recruiter to try and clarify the EPIK hiring process. I'm glad I did. Essentially, EPIK looks at how many available positions there are in an area and then recommends that number of people. if I'm understanding this right, the "first come first served" part is over and now the positions are being filled by recommendation. Makes sense, right? This is, of course, dependent upon getting your papers in, making sure all of your papers are in order, etc.


  1. The waitlist is preferable to what used to go on: overhiring. Last fall the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education hired too many people, then fired 100 teachers just days before they were supposed to fly out. Making matters worse, instead of apologizing or taking responsibility, they blamed it on unreliable teachers.



    It's probably too late now, and I know you didn't list this as one of your choices, but the public schools in Jeollanam-do are largely staffed by their local school board. The recruiter Canadian Connections handles most of the public school jobs there, so if for some reason there's no opening this fall, you might give that province a try.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Brian. I'll look into Jeollanan-do should this current round not work out.

  3. Hi Adam,
    It's a funny thing going through EPIK, you never know quite where you stand until the first day of teaching.

    The recruitment process, as you have already pointed out, is somewhat strange. I came to Korea with the March batch of new recruits. Which means the next round of EPIK teachers isn't until September, right? Strangely enough, no. A month after I got here there was an April batch who were still EPIK teachers but on slightly different terms.

    In other words, be persistent, expect the unexpected, and keep a positive attitude.

    Good luck.