Making your resume count
How to get the best from your ajarn on-line resume
I've just spent an hour doing something I very rarely do. I've looked at many of the resumes that we have on-line in the ajarn.com resume database. With approximately three hundred up-to-date resumes on-line, coupled with the fact that more and more employers are using the service, I wanted to get an idea of things through the employers' eyes.
With all that in mind, could I give out a bit of advice as to where I think some of you are going wrong and how to put yourself one step ahead of the game?
Are you a native speaker?
I mean - are you truly a native speaker? Then why when I open up some resumes, are they littered with basic grammatical errors that no native speaker would realistically make? Certainly not a native English speaker who's looking for a job teaching English. Be honest where your native language is concerned or you'll end up wasting people's time - including your own.
Clear out your inbox
If schools want to contact you about a vacant position and their e-mail comes back at them like a boomerang, they won't make a note of it and contact you on another day. They'll move on to the next person and you'll be forgotten. Make sure to tidy out your inbox and leave yourself room for new e-mails. Employers are guilty of this sort of internet crime as well, but I've told them till I'm blue in the face and it hasn't made a great deal of difference I'm afraid. It's yet another good reason not to use Hotmail accounts.....for anything!
Send a cover letter!
One thing that drives many employers mad is when an applicant simply clicks the 'send resume' button on their ajarn resume and their e-mail arrives without any kind of cover letter. This could well fall into the category of 'resume database spamming' and isn't really acceptable. Schools and employers ALWAYS prefer someone who has gone to the trouble of writing a cover letter over an applicant that has just clicked the 'send resume' button and hoped for the best. No one's asking you to write a long cover letter when you send your resume from the ajarn database, but a simple letter telling the employer where you saw their job ad and why you would be suitable for the position will go a long, long way.
The final section of the on-line resume is titled 'employee requirements'. For some bizarre reason, many teachers have seen this as an extra place to list skills and achievements. The 'employee requirements' section is the section where you tell employers what you are looking for in a job.
What is the minimum salary you require?
Are you willing to work weekends or not?
Do you want health insurance?
What is the minimum length of contract you're looking for?
Would you like the school to help you with accommodation if at all possible?
It's no good an employer looking at your resume and then calling you up with an offer of a 40K job when you know yourself you'll only work for 50,000. If the information is not there in the employee requirements field, then how is an employer to know?
First Appearances are everything
As anyone who has spent time in Thailand will tell you - appearance is everything. And every resume click begins with a good photograph. No one says you need the movie-star looks of Omar Sharif or to look like you're part of a boy band, but there are certain rules that are plain common sense. Here is a photograph from the resume database that I think is nigh on perfection!
Mitchell's using a nice clear head and shoulders shot for his resume photo. He's not dressed up to the nines, just a smart clean open-necked shirt. But look at that smile! Is there a Director of Studies or Thai administration officer the length and breadth of the land who wouldn't want to click on Mitchell's resume and investigate further? Thais love their smart, smiley farang teachers - and that's the way it is. Top work Mitch!
So on the topic of photographs, what are the most common errors?
1) Make sure it's a photo of you - and just you! A photo of you standing between your brother and your granddad at your last birthday party only makes me wonder whose resume I'm about to look at?
2) You know the photo of you sitting on Pattaya Beach in skimpy shorts next to a table full of empty beer bottles? Yeah, well save it for friends.
3) Don't post a photo so small that it looks like you're viewing it down the wrong end of a high-powered telescope. Postage stamp size photos mean one thing to an employer - you're no good with computers!
4) Photos shouldn't be provocative. Save the pouting and the hand behind head shot for your mobile phone.
5) Pictures of you wearing an uncomfortable-looking suit and a starched collar are fooling no-one. We know you won't dress like that for work.
6) Whose hand is that resting on your knee? The one with the long purple fingernails and a big sparkler? Photos where you've edited out 90% of the person that you now hate most in the whole wide world are just naff.
7) You being surrounded by a group of impressionable, giggly female students on the last day of term was all part and parcel of that particular moment. It's the students who get to keep the photo.
8) And this photo below says one thing - I'm not sure how I manage to get my shoes on the right feet in the morning"
(Picture not taken from the ajarn.com resume database)
Empty personal statement and employee requirements fields
It's amazing how many people leave both the personal statement and employee requirement sections completely blank. How must that look from an employer's point of view? Well, if you can't be bothered to fill it in, then I sure as hell can't be bothered to find out. Either that or you're not really serious about looking for a job.
Hobbies / interests
We all hate the dreaded hobbies and interests section don't we? Am I really about to type "enjoys reading, going to the movies and playing badminton"? Here's an example of what many people write (and I've left in the capital letters deliberately)
The above says more about an applicant than the rest of their resume put together. Where do you start? Lack of attention to detail? A half-baked approach to doing things? Does the person even know the fundamentals of the English language? Why would anyone want to offer them a job when it would quite obviously be an enormous gamble.