If possible, contact the job directly instead of a recruiter. The recruiter is a middleman who provides very little real value but has incentives to lie. Not all do, but generally, try to find a school yourself. In China, echinacities.com is a excellent site for that, they have China news and guides too. Seriousteachers.com is great for China and other countries. Dave’s ESL is the classic site, specializing in Korea but also China, the Middle East, and anywhere. Websites can be very country specific. In Taiwan, tealit.com is a good place. Japan has their own sites as well: http://www.ohayosensei.com. Eslteachersboard.com is a great site, not only do they have jobs, they have forums for people to say which schools are good or bad. Other job boards that have forums like that are heavily censored. Checking out a school is very important. There’s a lot of scammers out there who won’t pay you or lie about working conditions. Some just suck to work at. When talking to a school, whether online or in person, ask to speak to current teachers alone. This will tell you more than anything about the school. Make sure they’re not just managers posing as teachers. Checking out the school online is good too of course, but in my years of experience, I’ve learned that online reviews need to be taken with a big grain of salt. People are far more likely to post something negative than positive. Some of the people who go out of their way to post seem halfway crazy, or just intensely angry about something. I’ve read reviews for schools that I had worked for and been amazed. When reading the review, does it pass the smell test? Does it sound plausible or like some angry person trying to smear a school’s reputation? Look for specifics! Are they posting a list of vague adjectives and insults, or specific actions? Try to find recent reviews. Schools can change, and it might even be a different school with the same name. Even schools that have branches may have wildly different working conditions.
The job hunt can vary a surprising amount by country. In some places (South Korea) it’s almost impossible to get a job by visiting on a tourist visa and then visiting schools in person and changing your visa in country. This is by design, the Koreans got sick of backpacker teachers. In other places (Vietnam), the opposite is true. A few schools advertise online (ILA has a reputation for preferring to hire teachers from abroad and not those already in Vietnam), but most don’t. You have to go there in person and apply, oftentimes doing a demo. Most places are in the middle though. More and more, all countries are moving toward the first model, mainly due to visa constraints. The last few years have seen regulations tighten up everywhere, it’s getting harder and harder to just fly in and start looking for a job. China has gone this way. If you arrive on a tourist visa and get a job, you have to leave the country, or at least go to Hong Kong, to get a work visa. Arriving on a tourist visa and just looking for jobs on foot can cost you serious time and money, but it has the advantage of being able to check things out before you get there. There are more than a few scammers and bad bosses out there. Being able to talk to current teachers away from prying ears is a huge plus. If you must find your first job online though, ask for three current foreign teachers’ emails and phone numbers. If they refuse or the contact info seems suspicious, you just saved yourself some serious trouble. Taiwan still seems to be more like Vietnam than Korea in this regard. But it depends on location and the type of job. For better jobs, jobs teaching more than ESL, and jobs up north, applying from abroad is more common. Of course once you land in the country you can start checking out places to work for next year.