South Korea is a popular destination for expats looking to relocate abroad. It's a major technology hub and has thriving cities like Seoul. There are many job opportunities in South Korea such as teaching English as a foreign language. This guide will help you navigate the interview process in South Korea so you can land that new job and move overseas.
You need to thoroughly prepare for a job interview in any country. This means learning about the company and the job responsibilities. Check the company’s website for more information on the company’s:
- Mission statement and values
- Organisational structure and other employees
You’ll also want to create a Korean resume if you haven’t already. This is called an ee-ryuk-seuh. It’s similar to an Excel spreadsheet and you attach your photo to the top of it.
Additionally, arriving early to the interview is important, so you’ll want to map out the route to your interview ahead of time.
If you’re applying for a job in South Korea, you might be asked to conduct a Skype interview before interviewing in person. In a Skype interview, you won’t have to worry about the formal physical etiquette that goes along with in-person interviews in Korea. Still there are certain protocols you should follow, like:
- Doing research on the company/position
- Preparing to answer questions about your application and your background
- Looking presentable
- Logging on to the call on time
- Conducting a test-call ahead of time to make sure your headset, microphone, and internet connection are working smoothly
Culture and tradition are important to South Koreans and you’ll likely get interview questions that will ask you to discuss your loyalty, humility and respect. These are important qualities that your interviewer will look for in the way that you answer questions and act during the interview. You should be prepared to answer common questions like:
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Do you think you have leadership qualities?
- Do you speak Korean?
You might also be asked personal questions about your friends, family, and marital life which you can answer to the level of your comfort.
If you’re interviewing for the English Program in Korea (EPIK), you may be asked questions about your educational background and your teaching experience such as your educational philosophy and how you manage your classroom. You could also be asked about how much you know about the country and its history.
It’s important to ask questions at the end of your interview. You can use this time to get to know anything about the job or company that hasn’t previously been discussed. Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the position, so make sure you have some good ones in the pipeline.
Most people ask questions that are related to the role and associated skill set. Avoid asking any questions specifically related to the salary of the job until you're offered the position. In a society like South Korea where hierarchies, politeness, and humility are important, asking about salary too early in the process is seen as rude.
If you’re interviewing for an English teaching position you might want to ask things like:
- What’s a typical class size?
- Where are the classes held?
- What kind of training do you offer teachers?
Looking your interviewer directly in the eyes is considered disrespectful in South Korea. The interview will be very formal, and you should show respect to your interviewer. Don’t interrupt your interviewer, and speak modestly, in a quiet tone of voice.
You should arrive at your interview at least 15 minutes ahead of time. When you first meet your interviewer, stand in front of them and bow your head and state:
- Your name
- Your age
- Where you're from
Don’t reach out for a handshake unless they reach out their hand and initiate a handshake first.
You should look smart for your interview in South Korea. Most people wear suits, but the tie is usually optional. As with interviews in other countries, you should keep your accessories to a minimum and ensure that your hair and makeup look natural.
Salaries are discussed in South Korea after you're offered the job. Your new employer will offer you a salary but you're welcome to ask for something more if you want to. If you have experience in the position already this might put you in a better place to negotiate. For example, English teaching positions in Korea will likely offer a larger salary to people with teaching experience. Before negotiating the salary you should also consider the benefits that were offered with the position as well. For example, some teaching jobs may cover some housing costs and that might have a factor on the salary level.
Once you accept the job offer the next step you might take is to open a bank account in South Korea so that you can get your finances in order. There are several options to choose from, but banking in South Korea might be complicated while you’re still living abroad. Plus, moving your money overseas can be expensive when you use international money transfers with traditional banks.
You should consider using TransferWise to help you move your money overseas. TransferWise doesn’t charge international banking fees because when customers move money with TransferWise they make domestic money transactions so money never crosses borders. Even more, TransferWise uses the the real exchange rate - the one that you find on Google or XE - not some marked-up exchange rate that you might see banks or other service providers using.
You’ll need a visa to work in South Korea. English teachers specifically need a E2 Teaching visa. You should discuss your visa needs with your new employer and check with your government, the South Korean embassy, or consulate in your home country for more information.
At the end of the interview you should bow to your employer. Just as in the greeting, don't offer a handshake unless they offer one to you first. You should remain formal until you leave the interview.
South Korea has many cultural formalities that can make interviewing for a job difficult for foreigners. But if you prepare ahead of time using this guide, you’ll impress your interviewer and be one step closer to your new job in South Korea.