You stand an infinitely better chance of landing a job if you are already in Thailand.
Most schools can't be bothered with the person who ‘arrives in three months' or may sound like the answer to a school's prayers but isn't immediately available for an interview. When a school advertises a position, they invariably need the teacher to start as soon as possible.
The best way to apply for a job is by telephone. Find the number of the school, call up and asked to be passed to an academic director or head teacher.
Most teachers these days seem to be going the e-mail route, but take it from me, it is extremely hit and miss. Very often, the job of handling e-mail applications will be in the hands of Thai administration staff who may not be God's gift to the Gmail inbox, or probably don't feel confident replying to an e-mail using English.
If you are going to apply for a job by e-mail, then spare a thought for the employer's e-mail account. Nothing annoys a recruiter more than getting an e-mail with 10MB of attachments that take ten minutes to download.
Unless the employer / recruiter specifically asks for them, just send your resume and photo. Save the copy of your degree, your medical certificate, your passport and the 2MB photos of your graduation ceremony and you standing in front of a temple in Khorat for either the interview or for another time. Don't send all that paraphenalia with a 'first contact' e-mail unless you are asked for them in the job description.
Might cold-calling be a good way to apply for a teaching position? There are many teachers who luck out by just walking into a school and asking if there are any vacancies. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as the old saying goes.
Interview dress sense
There is some controversy raging about this one, because there are professional teachers out there who say a person should be judged on their qualifications and experience, and not the quality of their necktie. It seems to be Americans especially who adopt this more casual approach to interviews.
Don't believe a word of it! An interview calls for a man with a shirt and tie and whatever women wear when they want to look nice. Thais DO judge a person on first appearance, and a lot of foreign academic directors do too.
You may have an MBA in Linguistics and twenty years experience at the Harvard Business School but a casual approach to an interview endears you to no one.
Schools often get inundated with resumes. Make yours stand out by keeping it to one or two pages.
Schools are only interested in what you've done that's relevant to teaching. Building dry-stone walls in the countryside during a force ten gale might well have been character building, but it needs to be cut out of a resume.
Obviously contact details, and educational background are important, but most schools are looking for teaching experience and whether or not you plan to stick around.
How much is the salary?
Don't go into a job interview with unrealistic expectations. I once interviewed a woman from New York who was interested in a teaching/marketing position. Throughout the interview she kept using the sentence "But in New York, this job would be worth......" So what? This is Thailand, and 42,000 baht with weekends off was as good if not better than what anybody else was offering at that time.
If you come here to save a few shekels and perhaps pay off debts, you could be in for a short, sharp shock. Thailand is not a place for teachers to make lots of money. That said - you need a salary that enables you to survive.
Find out as much as you can on the phone beforehand because you might save yourself a wasted journey.
Does the school provide a work permit? Is there a contract? Is it a twelve-month contract? I put this point in because the 10-month and 11-month contract is becoming more and more common. Many of the government Rajabhat colleges for example, do not pay a teacher for the month of April (traditional holiday time)
If this is the case, are you going to earn enough in the other eleven months to see you through the fallow period? Or alternatively, will your employer be able to find you stuff like summer camp work when the students are all on term break.
If you work at a private language school, are you going to be paid hourly or by salary? If it's the former scenario, how many hours a week are you going to be guaranteed? April, December and January often see a dramatic decline in the number of students studying at private language schools.
Am I expected to work weekends? If so, do I get two days off during the week and are weekend hours paid at a premium rate?
The interview itself
Remember that interviews are a two-way thing. They might want you, but do you want them?
Ask for a guided tour of the school and pay special attention to the teacher's room. If the teachers you meet all greet you like a long-lost friend and shake you warmly by the hand, then that's a good sign. If they are all stuck in their little alcoves and recesses and look at you with that sort of disdain reserved for someone who's muscling in on their territory, ask yourself a question - do you honestly want to work in a place like that?
Getting along well with your teaching colleagues is so important.
Tricky interview questions
How long do you intend to stay in Thailand? You'd better be up for at least a year. Where are you staying now? Say Khao San Road or Banglampoo and you may as well rip up the application form there and then.
How would you explain the difference between a separable and inseparable phrasal verb? Don't know? Then you'd better find out. Actually, it's rare to be given a grammar test, but never say never.
I've been to interviews where they've asked me to stand up at the whiteboard and demonstrate how I'd explain the present perfect continuous to a group of lazy teenagers. And why not? As an English teacher, it should be meat and drink.
Checklist (provided by Teacher Steven)
Here are the most crucial bits of information to get. Any waffling or refusal to give a straight answer means unless you're all trussed up and ready to be jerked around like a chicken on a string, you should be outta there:
1. What is the salary?
2. How many months is the contract? [the correct answer is 12, including pay during school holidays].
3. Do you (can you?) sponsor me for all paperwork, including teacher's license, work permit, and visa extension? In the past, a "no" answer meant you had to evaluate your risk. These days, I'd recommend running on a "no"
4. How soon can you get this paperwork processed? The correct answer is soon, with a promise to pay reasonable compensation for any visa trips necessary while the employer dawdles.
5. If the job is less than say, 40,000 a month, you will of course pay for all these visa / work permit fees, won't you?
6. How many hours will I be teaching?
7. What kind of insurance is on offer, considering that I am not on the 30 baht Thai government scheme (try to ask this one with a straight face) If there is no insurance, naturally you will be paying me more so I can purchase my own private insurance?
Assuming the school passes the bare facts of life stage above, it's time to estimate the bulls**t level at the school. There will always be some BS - it's inherent in many schools.
Everybody has his own level of tolerance for such things, so I can't tell you exactly when you should cut and run but if your school gives the wrong answer to most of these kinds of questions, you might put them a bit lower on your list:
1. When are the starting and ending times for work? Are these the real starting times, or will I be sitting around drinking coffee while the parents watch their kids doing yoga and singing the dorky school song?
2. About how many events a month are teachers required to attend outside normal working hours - teachers' meetings, parents' meetings, school festivals, seminars, brainwashing sessions, etc
3. Does the school have / provide books or is it an unwritten job description that I make / photocopy my own? Will I be getting extra pay for this work?
4. How many management signatures / days distance am I from permission to make my own copies for my students (especially if you don't have textbooks) Naturally, you don't expect teachers to pay for the copies for their students, do you?
5. Does the school have whiteboards or chalkboards, and does the school have markers and chalk for them?
6. Does the school have "special" rules that may seem unusual to outsiders, such as:
a. Air-conditioning is not allowed during select times of the day.
b. Entrances and gates are locked and monitored so that you, too, will have the feeling that you are in prison.
c. All 20 people in your teachers' room must do all their paper work on your one computer (without a printer)
d. Teachers are judged by administration on their clothing, by their students on how much of a clown they are, by the parents on how easy they are to walk all over, and by the tests on how well the students do. Despite the possibility that one or two of these may get in the way of three or four of the others, failure to achieve the desired level in any may result in immediate dismissal without explanation.
e. That "one old guy" can abuse anyone he likes and get away with it without being fired, but no one knows why.
7. Are we required to attend such things as "summer camps" in the middle of our holidays in cold, mountain cabins with a bunch of snoring Thai teachers?
8. Is there a discipline policy? What is it? Who will back me up on it when the inevitable snivelling loser of a child goes home crying to his parents after I prevent him from knifing the guy sitting at the next desk?
9. Of course, all the students pass- it wasn't even a question - but am I allowed to engineer the way they pass or there some officially desired result? If so, what is it?
10. Is there a curriculum or am I making that up, too? If there isn't one, who will tell me what I'm supposed to be teaching? If you won't tell me, then will you at least not blame me later for not teaching what I was supposed to?