We’ve all seen them, the Facebook groups that start overnight and soon swell with thousands of active members. In these groups are an overload of beautiful sounding positions. Vacancies are listed with an equally diverse range of spelling and grammar mistakes as the reputation of the recruiters that advertise them. Simon in Dalian can offer you an incredible 250k salary in a new kindergarten. Meanwhile, Lin from Guangzhou can throw in a free luxury apartment at a top training centre. With such seductive positions, what have you got to lose? Everything. These positions are potential death traps for job seekers and here’s why they need be be treated with extreme caution.
Many positions are illegal
Working in China requires an official work visa. The Chinese authorities term working visas ‘Z’ visa’s and these are only available from officially licensed employers. Licensed employers undergo rigorous school checks, ensuring schools have the facilities and ability to provide consistently good working conditions and support to their foreign staff. For instance, licensed schools provide medical insurance for their teachers by law. Consequently, ensuring your school provides the official work visa is the number one way to ensure that your school employer is legitimate.
All other positions not offering a Z visa are illegal and this constitutes a huge swathe of the positions on job Facebook groups. With the current TEFL industry in China the market is booming and many less reputable businesses posing as schools are eager to bend the rules to acquire their own foreign teachers without getting a license. Schools employing foreign English teachers can charge more for English lessons than their Chinese counterparts. Unreputable schools or their recruiters post adverts on these facebook groups with misleadingly large salaries and conditions. They then assist and encourage candidates to come into China on a range of illegal visas; from business visas to tourist visas. These illegal visas put the teacher at risk of deportation and imprisonment in China.
Working illegally gives you no legal protection against your employer
A key danger of working on an incorrect visa is that your employer suddenly has complete control over you as an employee. Knowing that you do not have the legal protection of official employees in China, employers can stop and cut your pay at will and request unreasonable working hours and duties. In the even that you refuse, your employer can threaten to report you to the authorities and have you arrested or deported. Therefore, it is essential to only consider a Z visa and ensure that your employer guarantees this in writing prior to accepting any position.
But what if I don’t qualify for a work visa?
If you do not qualify for the official working visa but still want to go to China. Such as if you are a non-native English speaker then consider another travel opportunity. Working illegally is ethically wrong and not worth the risk or danger that you will put yourself in. Instead, there are opportunities in China for non-native English teachers such as studying in a Chinese University.
Many job offers are simply referrals from part time recruiters looking for a finders fee
Nowadays it seems that every man and his dog are looking for the ‘get rich quick’ scheme of recommending a teacher for cash. While this entrepreneurial act isn’t in its own right a bad thing, the problem occurs when people value the monetary reward with no regard for the teachers welfare or suitability for the position. This is where the classic capitalist shortfall of money outweighing ethics, combined with lack of personal accountability has brewed a perfect storm in the China TEFL recruitment industry.
That said, agencies and individuals offering a position on behalf of an employer client are not always unreasonable. After all, recruitment is a booming industry. According to recruitment-international.co.uk the global recruitment industry turnover in 2016 was €491 billion and provides much legitimate and practical value. Chinese employers use recruitment agencies to connect with candidates in the west that they otherwise would not have access to. Moreover, these agencies can bridge the gap in both cultural and language barriers and mitigate the application process for candidates. The issue is that as with all positions, some agencies are more reputable than others and these Facebook groups are a haven for the worst.
Why are these Facebook groups a haven for the worst jobs?
It’s ironic that the features that make Facebook groups so useful and convenient make them so dangerous for China job posts. Facebook groups are free to join and free to post to a large number of people. Suddenly anyone with a Facebook account can post any job vacancy they like to thousands of people. The position needn’t be verified or peer reviewed. Moreover, recruiters needn’t worry if their vacancy adheres to global employment best practices or advertising regulation, it doesn’t even have to exist!
By setting up a fake Facebook account, recruiters can have the reach of a huge organisation with non of the accountability. There’s nothing to stop anyone from self proclaiming themselves as a recruiter, offer a job that they know nothing about and simply pass any candidate unlucky enough to fall for the vacancy to any random schools offering a fee for hires. If the school then hires the candidate, they pay the recruiter for the referral and that’s it. Does the teacher like their school? Are they being looked after? The recruiter has completed their job and consequently has no more reason to care.
Members can abuse your data
Is the prospect of a self proclaimed John Doe passing on your application and documents to a school not enough? Then what about if they misuse your data and pass on to other unethical parties? With such lack of accountability recruiters have the option to horde your personal data and misuse it for financial gain.
We’ve come a long way recently with awareness of our personal information. Current data protection legislation gives us more control of our data and helps ensure companies treat our data with respect. The problem with Facebook job groups is that a free-for-all of job advertisements from non professional individuals all over the world creates the problem of unaccountability and danger. Untrained recruiters handling job applications have little to no accountability of how they treat the data that users provide when applying for positions.
Rouge recruiters have the ability to hold on to applicants resumes and personal information and recommend to multiple schools without the candidates prior consent. Worse, your personal data could be sold on the black market. Compare this to a reputable, established company. If a registered company misused your data, then you as a job seeker can certainly use the power of the law to hold violating companies to account. However, if you pass your details to a private individual, then it can be very difficult to track the guilty party down and hold them to the same laws.
So how do I know it’s a safe, reliable job opportunity?
Checking to see if a job posted by a direct employer is reputable is pretty straightforward and there are numerous ways to research a job. Here are a few questions to ask when verifying positions:
- Is this vacancy for a specific school clearly named in the advert?
- Does this school have a website and valid postal address?
- What results show when Googling this school?
- Can I find satisfied previous teachers from this school?
Reputable schools and recruiters will have supportive reviews across the internet. If reviews for a company seem too good to be true, then check the reviews for signs of foul play. Do they sound genuinely written? Or does it sound Chinglish? Fake reviews often sound generic and fail to mention the specific thing being reviewed. Check that the review clearly mentions teaching english in China and talks about the assistance that the recruiter provided. For example, if its a comment about a new screen protector, then its a fake review and not to be trusted. By checking for good reviews, you can help understand the company behind the job advert.
China School review blogs such as ChinaTEFLer.com help combat fake reviews by having reviewers write a story of their experience with lots of references, links, photos and pictures of them in China. The sheer depth of information drawn from a wide range of sources ensures that fake reviews cannot be fabricated. By reading reviews from sites such as this, you can get a good feeling of the real working life for teachers at that school in China.
Positions offered by recruiters are not always suspicious. Research your recruiter and get as much information about them as possible. Look at their Facebook page and add them as a friend. Find independent reviews on the internet and ask for contact details of previously hired teachers who can recommend her. When assessing the reliability of a recruiter ask yourself these questions:
- Can she provide a full name and address for herself?
- What is her connection to the school?
- Does she have a professional profile? E.g. Linkedin
- What results show when Googling this person?
- How is she awarded for referring you?
If a recruiter is legitimate, then you should be able to build a good picture of the individual and find a decent track record. Alternatively, if any of this is not forthcoming, then you can be safe and walk away.
Here are some Facebook groups to be aware of
The following is our pick of ‘Teaching jobs in China’ Facebook groups. This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, it should be a good start to get a taste for spotting a shady job offer. Use them, but be careful of them when looking for jobs:
Use a reputable agency
The best way to find a reputable job in China is to use a reputable agency. Unlike going direct to a school, going through an agency provides an additional layer of assistance and communication completely free of charge to you.
There are some very good agencies out there that are accountable and reliable. These agencies entire business operates by providing quality employment positions for candidates. Providing satisfied customers is actually the most cost effective way for China recruitment businesses to grow and build business. However, building a good reputation of happy teachers takes years of persistently good service. This is something that just cant be done quick enough for short term gain hungry companies and individuals.
Our agency Noon Elite Recruitment has built up years of consistent reviews and satisfied candidates over time. By using a UK based agency such as ourselves with a proven track record, you have an additional layer of protection and negotiating power with the school. Furthermore, in the event that you have any problems with your employer, Noon Elite Recruitment can help quickly resolve disputes with your school and ensure that you are fully satisfied and supported in a safe, reputable school. You can view our current Teach English in China programme here.