Bad EPIK Interview

So I’ll cut to the chase – I’m very good at speaking. I don’t have many issues with public speaking and I have no problems carrying a conversation with pretty much anyone. I’m generally likable and convincing. So I have no idea what happened in this interview for EPIK. I write this to prepare others for the “out of the ordinary.” A bad EPIK interview might not be about you…

My Interviewer Never Turned on Their Webcam

This was perhaps the smallest issue I had with this interview, but it was definitely weird. I brushed it off by assuming I had missed something in other blog posts. But no. Most interviews seem to be done with the other person having the camera turned on. My suspicion (and I’ve seen this in some reports) it’s to hide if the interviewer isn’t paying any attention.

Found my “Impressive” Resumé “Concerning”

I put impressive in quotes because I mean my accomplishments are impressive in terms of my qualifications for this job. By this I mean I’ve studied abroad 3 times, one of which was at Oxford University for Linguistics and another of which was at Sogang University in Seoul to learn Korean. I see many applicants who have never even been on a plane before heading over with EPIK.

And yet – to quote him exactly as this line is burned into my mind “I actually find this concerning.”

He went on to explain that because all my study abroad happened during the summer (and hence for limited time periods) I had only ever had the “honeymoon” period while abroad. I hadn’t yet bought sugar instead of salt for the fifth time. <<All his words. He seemed skeptical that I could handle a long term stay. For the record – I got all of my homesickness out when I moved away for college in Florida. I currently live alone in a state I’ve never lived in before. A year in Korea is not a problem for me.

Really Didn’t Seem to Like My Preferred Location

I put Seoul. I understood when picking it that almost everyone puts Seoul. At the time, I preferred Seoul only slightly above any other place simply because I’ve been there before and know I like it. It also has great flights to other countries and obviously I like to travel frequently. Seoul did not seem that out of the question for me as it is known that if you put your application in as soon as possible, there are a few slots for new arrivals in Seoul. It was also in the news that Seoul was opening up as many as 100 new positions.

“Well, obviously, 95% of applicants put down Seoul.” I sort of understand the need to double check that people are willing to work anywhere but I made it very clear I didn’t really care all that much and I’ll “absolutely go wherever I’m sent.”  The interviewer was rather condescending about the whole matter.

The Questions Were Different and Complicated

Before the interview I looked at many different blog posts about what to expect in the interview. All the questions were fairly standard and reasonable across the board, and seemed very consistent throughout the years. The earliest post I looked at dated to 2014, and the latest was from this last intake a few months ago. He didn’t really ask me many of these questions and instead did the following:

Longest question ever….

“I‘m going to give you a few scenarios and you tell me what you would do in each: 1. Your co-teacher sits in the back and doesn’t do anything while you teach and sits answering emails on their computer. The children generally seem to be learning and to be happy. 2. Your co-teacher is very spotty, sometimes they’re taking an active role and other times they’re not. 3. Your co-teacher teaches the entire class and doesn’t let you create lesson plans or interact much with the students. Occasionally you might be asked to produce a certain word in English but otherwise she doesn’t want you to do anything more. What would you do in these situations?”

This entire thing was said all at once and I then had to respond. I said generally that the first one didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. My job is to teach, and unless the kids become unhappy or are not progressing, I didn’t see much of a reason to bother her. If the kids did become unruly, I would then approach her for advice on how to handle the situation. For the second, I would talk with the co-teacher and make sure we are on good terms and she knows I am prepared to work hard, etc. Again, it didn’t seem like something that would warrant any kind of further discussion unless the students didn’t progress or were out of hand despite my efforts. For the third situation, I would talk to her. I would get to know her and let her know that I am a hard worker and I’m willing and able to do more.

It wasn’t over…

He asked, “And what if that didn’t work?” Now I’m getting the feeling that he’s looking for some specific response that I should know. I simply tried my best, on the fly, “Well, I’d keep talking to her, get to know her, maybe look at her lesson plans if they’re available and maybe try to speak up a little more that way she can see that I’m willing to give my best effort” <<I’m thinking maybe he wants me to talk about taking initiative and not be lazy. Nope.

“See, what you’ve given is a very western-centric viewpoint,” and continued to make it out that I had been saying I would overrule my co-teacher obnoxiously in front of the students. He then said I should instead ask her out for coffee and kept saying “I know this is really hard to understand.” What’s hard about taking a co-worker, even one above you in hierarchy, out to coffee? “This doesn’t happen in the west.” Ummmm….Everyone and I mean everyone I know, friends, parents, etc. has taken their coworkers – even higher level coworkers – out to coffee or lunch at least once.

Just one more…

He only asked one other interview-y question, unrelated from the scenarios. After discussing my “concerning” study abroad he proceeds to ask how I plan to handle the 7th or 8th month when things are not so rosy and I have more problems and don’t like the location anymore. (I believe he actually used the words “when you hate it here” as though it were a given O.o)

In response, I told him that I had lived in Wichita in the USA and actually had struggled to adjust because of the weather. My response was that I make sure I go out and start doing more activities “to make myself like it again.” Specifically, I mentioned how Wichita’s cinemas are different and fairly unique to the area and that I went to the movies to start liking the area again. This literally got no response. Whatever.

So What Happened? 

I was accepted into EPIK despite this “Bad EPIK interview.” It is now my belief that this was all an interviewing tactic. I do look very young and sweet, and perhaps that was why he wanted to be harder on me. To push buttons and see how the interviewee handles it – are they strong enough?

Yes, I am strong enough. But that doesn’t mean it is a reasonable thing to do. It’s just rude. Luckily, this interview galvanized me to look elsewhere. In the interim where I was sure I would not be accepted, I found GOE. The pay is better and you have more of an idea where you will be placed. The reviews from people in the program are excellent. The GOE interviewer had some some similar questions, but without the condescension and certainly without the pressure to narrow down my answers to small specifics. So I see this entire situation as my lucky star saying “hey! there’s something better out there!” I am now a part of the GOE program and my documents are already in the mail. I am incredibly excited for the upcoming year. Check out my post on Programs Besides EPIK for more info!

Don’t let your bad EPIK interview get you down.


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