Some of the stranger folks I've come across during interview procedures
I've been using Ajarn.com to recruit teachers for over a decade and in this time, I've probably recruited over a hundred good quality teachers for schools in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I only ever use Ajarn.com and to be honest, I really don't know what I would do without this superb website. But for all the great teachers I've met and interviewed, I've also met my fair share of peculiar applicants who have made the process of recruitment that little bit more entertaining.
One applicant that I won't forget was a certain Mr G. Glitter who applied for a primary school homeroom teacher position in 2006 and claimed to 'love working with kids'. The application came complete with a picture of the glam rocker in full 1970s rock regalia. At the time the real Mr. Glitter was enjoying the hospitality of the Vietnamese authorities but what did alarm me was news that this hoax applicant had actually been offered an interview at one of Bangkok's well established Christian schools.
Hoax emails aside, some of the applicants I've encountered have been just as colourful as ageing rock stars. Here are a few that have made me smile:
Everyone exaggerates or bends the truth a little on their CVs. That's just the way of the world but some applicants take it a little too far. Three of my favorite exaggerators were the Zoologist, the Builder and the Maths Teacher.
The Zoologist had a degree in Zoology and looked great on paper. He applied to be a primary school science teacher but during his demo lesson his lack of scientific knowledge quickly became clear. He was unable to correctly identify plant cells or animal cells (fortunately the grade 5 students were able to assist). Then at the end of the lesson one of the students asked the teacher why plant cells look green, The Zoologist looked lost and fell silent but once again one of the students came to the teacher's rescue and answered the question on his behalf.
The Builder was another applicant with suspect qualifications. He gained an NVQ in Construction in 1990 and then in 1992 he graduated with a Master's in English Literature from Oxford University (possibly via distance learning - Kao San Road)
The Maths Teacher went one better by gaining a qualification before it had come into existence. He had managed to get 10 GCSEs at grade C and above in 1982... impressive stuff considering the first GCSEs were set in 1989!
Applicants that fill their covering letter with complaints about their current school make an interesting read but act as a warning sign to future employers. Some of my favorite quotes from complainers include;
'After spending 3 hours at the visa office I was eventually told that the stupid b---- from the school office hadn't provided all the correct documentation'
'Being asked to stand at the front gate for 30 minutes in the morning is degrading and completely lagging professionalism' (lagging???)
The longest covering letter I've read was a 1000+ word essay/rant detailing the difficulties of life in Rangoon, again an interesting read but an unusual way to introduce yourself to future employers.
I presume that The Demanders were Premiership Footballers in their previous existence, judging by the way they introduce themselves to prospective employers.
'I will not teach more than 4 periods on any given day'
'I do not teach teenagers or children below the age of 7'
'The weekends are my personal time and I do not expect to be required to work or teach on these days'
'I am an atheist. Do not ask me to take part in any ceremony or activity with religious overtones'
Arriving a minute or two late for an interview isn't the end of the world, especially if you've been travelling across Bangkok. But when is too late? 1 hour? 1 day? a week? One latecomer arrived an entire week late for an interview. He knew he was going to be late, he had been held up ‘taking care of business' on Kao San Road. After missing the interview, he had decided that the best thing to do was just turn up at the arranged time on the same day one week later....
The Inappropriate Photos
Every term a few applicants email inappropriate photos with their application. These pictures are usually just amusing and include;
- half dressed men and women on beaches or in waterfalls
- people on a night out, beer bottle in hand or propped up against the counter in one of Thailand's many infamous bars
- large groups of people with no indication who the applicant is
- people wearing helmets or masks
- once I was sent a picture of a guy holding an assault rifle with what looked like a dead buffalo in the background
- but my all time favorite is a picture of four guys in a smoke filled living-room with seriously blood shoot eyes, sitting wasted on a sofa, looking more like extras from The Hangover than The Educators!
Without emails from these colourful applicants, recruiting teachers in Thailand would be considerably more mundane. These applicants make searching for the right teachers more interesting and entertaining and so I'd like to thank all of those who have been in contact over the years.
Varee Chiangmai School
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The 1st gcse's were in 1987, not 89
By Tony, Kanchanaburi (26th July 2013)
To supplement what Stephen had written a few months ago, yes it's true about candidate selection based on image. I'm an American (but of Hispanic decent with a crystal clear accent) and cannot tell you how many times, no matter how unfair, I was scrutinized, looked upon suspiciously, and inevitably rejected from many job offers simply because I was not white though they never actually said it to my face.
On one training development session I took part in a few years ago, I couldn't tell you how many people did NOT belong teaching merely by appearance:tattoos on their neck, arms, and not even adhering to the formal dress code and strolling in in jeans and t shirts. THESE are the people Steve was talking about! I would really not consider taking on these kind of applicants but yet schools, in all their haste to stick to the unwritten 'image first policy', would more than likely hire all these guys before selecting me. Guarantee.
By Jeff, (10th May 2013)
Good blog Dan.
I recognize many of those applicants in your descriptions. We even employed a few when there had been no better options.
By John, Chiang Mai (21st March 2013)
But take note! Some Thai schools' HR personnel have the temptation to consider these applicants just because they're white-skinned no matter how worthless. Something unfair we have to endure. It destroys education's quality here and might be better to just go back home. Not to be racist though.
By Stephen, (20th March 2013)
if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks quacks like a duck...(fill in the blanks)
By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (18th March 2013)
@ Joe Warner
" isn’t calling someone a “nutter” somewhat insulting? "
Not if they are nutters and let's be honest some of them are complete nut jobs.
By Ben Dee Wire, Bangkok (18th March 2013)
Thanks for this, Daniel. I met a few of these in my TEFL course and hope and pray they went back home. I will look you up in a year after I have had my second one in Fang, just a bit north of you.
By Roy, Fang Thailand (18th March 2013)
Everything and everyone eventually outlives their usefulness and are promptly disposed on in the trash can. Even more true here than anywhere else. Remember this.
BTW - isn't calling someone a "nutter" somewhat insulting?
By Joe Warner, Thailand (18th March 2013)
I know your personal fav is:
"is a picture of four guys in a smoke filled living-room with seriously blood shoot eyes, sitting wasted on a sofa, looking more like extras from The Hangover than The Educators!
However, mine is the following:
" ... of a guy holding an assault rifle with what looked like a dead buffalo in the background
Thanks for the laughs!!
By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (18th March 2013)
I have just completed a year in a school near to Rangsit and I swear all of the above were employed there. I have no desire to go back as the school seems more than happy to employ teachers who are late, drunk and drugged up. Why? because they are handsome and smart. You can understand why teachers get a bad name but on the whole most do try their best to be teachers and others just show why they are here escaping their failed lives and careers in their native countries.
Harsh but true.
By Ben Dee Wire, Bangkok (18th March 2013)
"Ha ha ha! But what about the ones who seem completely normal in an interview, but then turn out to be complete nutters?!"
Been there a few times as a teacher recruiter. "What a great guy" you're thinking to yourself in the interview. Two weeks into the job, and you're sat in your office with your head in your hands as the valid student complaints just get louder and louder. A wonderful interview performance is followed by three lates and a sickie in the first week and the uncanny ability to rub up every other member of staff the wrong way.
By philip, (18th March 2013)
Ha ha ha! But what about the ones who seem completely normal in an interview, but then turn out to be complete nutters?!
By Jane, Jantaburi (18th March 2013)
I received the one about Rangoon. What a read???? Needless to say he didn't get an interview let alone the job . I just love it when people send you an email regarding a job you have on offer and they start by saying - Hello. What ever happened to being professional. and polite To the people who are out there reading this -the best way to ensure that your email application is not answered is to mass mail it.
I have been employing foreign teachers, along with Thai and Filipino staff, for 15 years in Thailand and I totally agree with the author- well written.
People - Use your common sense after all you are applying for a position as a Teacher not a road sweeper.
By James Saville, Chonburi (17th March 2013)
Love this stuff! I never fail to be amazed at some of the strange people looking for teaching jobs in Thailand. My own personal favorite was the guy who came to see me for an interview carrying two large bags of shopping.
"I thought I'd pick up a few things on the way and kill two birds with one stone" he said as he sat down panting and out of breath. He then plonked the two carrier bags on the table.
Just as I was about to begin the interview, one of the bags spilled its contents and across the table rolled an apple. Then a couple of cooking onions. Then an orange or three.
We spent the first five minutes of the interview walking around the room and looking under the table for stray fruit and veg!
By philip, (17th March 2013)