A couple of weeks ago, we received a flurry of e-mails from a number of teachers.
Their concerns related to two separate job ads placed on Ajarn by two entirely separate recruiters. One was a private company looking for online teachers, the other a Thai government school recruiting for its regular English program. As it turned out, both cases required further investigation.
At Ajarn HQ, we pride ourselves on our ability to sniff out the obvious con artist. It's a skill we've honed over the past twenty years and we can usually spot a bogus job ad the proverbial mile off, however, occasionally, a teacher scam will slip through our net.
The job ad in question (which appeared on our jobs page for several days) was placed by an online teacher recruitment company using our paid service. We have been unable to confirm as yet whether payment was made by using a stolen credit card but suspect that might be the case.
The job description was brief but didn't arouse suspicion, and the online teaching positions came with above average pay rates, without appearing ridiculously generous.
A link in the job ad led to a professional-looking website. In fact, we got a website design expert to take a look at it and he said "what's surprising is that this is not some off-the-shelf, $20 template or a Wordpress job. The website has actually been hand-coded for the most part. In fact, I'm stunned that someone with such a high level of technical ability would stoop so low and get involved in such hanky panky"
The bogus website even had its own section on 'how to spot job application scams'. How about that for a nice touch? If there is such a thing as an 'elaborate scam' then this operation surely qualified.
Several teachers contacted us to say they had applied for the job and been accepted straight away without any kind of interview. That in itself was enough to set off alarm bells but the major red flag was when the teacher was asked to send 2,500 baht to cover the cost of a criminal background check.
Foreign teachers in Thailand are generally a street-savvy bunch and even new arrivals learn things quickly. But good advice is always worth repeating - one of the golden rules of applying for TEFL jobs is never to pay for anything in advance. And as several teachers commented, those with existing CBCs were still being asked for the 2,500 fee. The job ad was clearly a scam.
We contacted the advertiser to ask firstly, why they were charging for the CBC and secondly, how they had arrived at that figure. Predictably, we received no reply and so the job ad was removed.
The Thai government school
The second job ad we received complaints about was posted by a relatively well-known government school.
Teachers applying for the vacant positions were being asked to send a 200 baht 'application fee' as part of the recruitment process.
This was certainly not a scam of any description but we were intrigued as to why an employer - given how difficult it is to recruit foreign teachers at the present time - would put such an unnecessary 'obstacle' in the way. The whole thing just smacked of nickel and diming job applicants at the first opportunity.
It also raised another important question. Was this request for a 200 baht application fee even legal?
We contacted the school to get their side of the story and credit where it's due, their HR department couldn't have been more accommodating.
They told us that the practice of charging an application fee (or a 'testing' fee) is perfectly legal in Thailand. Furthermore, they (the school) charge an application fee for all professional positions, regardless of whether the applicant is Thai or Foreign. The 200 baht fee is only excluded when the position is for a manual job such as a gardener, a maid, a handyman, etc.
The HR department went on to say that this practice is common among many other government departments, not just educational institutes, and is considered an acceptable way of firstly screening acceptable applicants and secondly covering the costs of the "test" that they actually do require applicants to complete in addition to the standard interview.
To further clarify matters, the school sent us an official job advertisement (in both English and Thai) where the job description clearly mentions the application / testing fee. The job advertisement is also signed by the school president.
Ajarn is not disputing any of the above, but it was the first time we had heard of such a practice. The school for their part, was happy to edit their current job ad to state clearly that an application fee of 200 baht would be applicable and has promised to include this information in future job ads too.
Moving forward, Ajarn will now request that all advertisers charging an application fee must mention it in their job description so that teachers have all of the information they need before applying for a position.
Some teachers have called for us to ban such advertisements but we feel that this is a step too far given that no laws are being broken.