One of my jobs is to look after the foreign teachers at our school. It is also my job to read any e-mails that might come in from people applying for a job as an English teacher. What I thought I would do today is give you some tips on how to make your application stand out from the crowd. I will also give some advice on not what to do!
* Always do some homework before you write your letter. Many schools have their own web sites or Facebook pages on the internet. Find out the names of some people and include them in your letter. Compliment the school on how beautiful it looks on the web site. Include any information that makes it look like you know their school already.
* If the school is asking for a native speaker then make sure you are a native speaker. Many schools are run like a business. They have to bow to consumer pressure. If parents insist that they want their children taught by teachers from the UK or America then the school has to provide these native speakers. It doesn’t really matter if a teacher from The Philippines or India is more qualified. (In my experience, teachers from The Philippines are often better qualified to teach.)
* Include all the relevant information in the covering letter. If they are asking for degree holders, TEFL certificate, native speaker, a woman etc. then make sure you make it clear you are fully qualified straight away. Then go into more details later. Not everyone will be fluent in English and might be put off by long letters. Also, don’t forget we receive many applications so we usually only read the first paragraph and skim the rest of the letter!
* Don’t send a blank email with just attachments. We get that so often. Always take the time to introduce yourself. In fact, being friendly is key to getting a job. If you are turned down, make sure that you reply to thank them for taking the time to reply. You never know, they may change their mind if you can show how sincere you can be.
* If you don’t receive an answer from your letter after a week then follow it up with another. It is possible that your first e-mail went missing.
* Don’t worry if you don’t have a TEFL certificate. Most schools will prefer if you have had some real classroom experience. If you have already taught in your home country or inside Thailand then consider taking an online TEFL course instead. It is much cheaper. Most schools won’t know the difference. Anyway, some schools won’t even care you don’t have a TEFL.
* If they ask for a degree then make sure you have one. To work legally in Thailand you need a work permit. To get a work permit you need a degree in any field. Some schools might not ask for a degree but then they won’t be employing you legally.
* If you are just interested in making lots of money then you are coming to the wrong country. You would be better off visiting one of our more affluent neighbours. Thai teachers have a starting wage of only 10,000 baht per month. People with more experience get about 15,000 baht per month. I know some foreign teachers who only get 25,000-35,000 baht. However, if you work in Bangkok you can expect 35,000-90,000 baht per month. But your cost of living will be higher.
* Don’t send your letters as BCC – spam filters are very sensitive and will probably just put your application into the junk box. The chances are it won’t be seen. Also, try to avoid sending it by CC as well. We don’t really want to see that you are sending the exact same letter to other schools as well. We like to think that you have personally chosen our school and that we are the only people you are talking to!
* Don’t write to a normal Thai school looking for a job as a Geography or Math teacher. What makes you think you can teach Geography better than a local Thai teacher? Can you speak Thai fluently? Unless you have skills that a local person doesn’t have (i.e. you are a native English speaker) then you won’t get the job. If you insist on teaching something other than English, then apply for a job at an international school or somewhere that has a bilingual programme.
* Include a photograph of yourself. A smart appearance is very important. If you are a man, make sure you are clean shaven and don’t have a beard. If you are a woman, don’t wear a spaghetti strap top in the photo. Also don’t have any visible tattoos in the photo.
* Make sure your grammar is correct and that you haven’t made any spelling mistakes. It is surprising the number of letters we receive from people who make some clumsy spelling mistakes. Many word processors come with a spellchecker. Use it!
* A number of people suggest you shouldn’t visit the school unannounced. Personally I wouldn’t object. I would meet the person and give them advice of where to go if we couldn’t offer them a job. You never know, we might be looking for someone the very day you come knocking on the door. We would much prefer to give a job to someone we know that can speak English clearly than to someone who wrote a letter 1000 miles away.
* If you are going to visit a school, don’t turn up with someone who looks like a “bar girl”. This may seem like common sense, but we have had several people do this. The school directors can be very conservative at times and won’t give you a second chance if it looks like you visit go-go bars. Anyway, schools and government offices have strict dress codes. The “girl friends” that came into our school were wearing spaghetti strap tops and short skirts. Looks like they had just stepped out of a night club.
* One of our main worries when we receive letters is whether that person can speak English clearly. If you are in Thailand, telephone the school. If the person that answers the phone doesn’t speak English then they will quickly transfer you to someone that does.
* If you have the skills, make a mini web site about yourself. If you have some pictures of you teaching children, then show them. It would also be cool if you could upload some video or sound clips so that we could hear you speak. We once hired someone just on his video clip alone. He was the only one who had sent a video clip that year and we were impressed with both his accent and teaching ability.
* If you are on holiday in Thailand and not ready to start teaching yet, then offer to teach at a school as a volunteer. If they like you, then they are more likely to invite you back in the future to teach fulltime. Certainly they would take you more seriously if you later write a letter saying you want to come back to teach in Thailand. We have hired teachers that way before. In fact we often have visitors to our school who come for the day.
* Schools will Google your name for sure. They will also search for your name on social media. We were about to invite someone in when we came across his posts on a Facebook group for people wanting to teach in Thailand. His posts were so rude and arrogant and just full of complaints and bad remarks about his fellow teachers and the administration at his old school that we immediately decided not to employ him. In addition, if your Facebook page is full of pictures of late nights out at bars it might be advisable to make it private while you are searching for a job.
* Finally, if you are replying to a job advert, make sure that you read the qualifications section carefully. If they ask for a female native speaker, then don’t bother applying if you are a man from Nigeria. I know it sounds funny, but people do just that. It shows us straight away that they didn’t bother to read the advert properly. Or maybe they are not very good at English comprehension.
Anyway, good luck. Maybe one day we will be able to work together here in Thailand.