Arranging an interview
Getting your foot in the door
Hi again folks! Sorry for missing a month. This month it's time for a very discrete, but extremely important, subject. Through my first two columns, I have talked about initial e-mails and cover letters. For this month, I will focus on what should be a very simple task, but seems to turn into a monumental feat here in Thailand - arranging and arriving at the interview!
I am largely skipping over the subject of resumes at this point, because Phil was gone most of July and that was when I had planned a resume column! Too bad! No, seriously, I feel everyone should really know how to write a resume on their own. If you don't, there are more than enough websites and books out there to help you. And if you really are having a hard time, pay someone else to do it for you.
In short, a resume should be short but inclusive (1 page if early in your career, 2 pages if you are more experienced), error-free, and 100% honest - we won't even go there in this country because so many teaching job seekers are falsifying credentials. In my opinion, that makes you about as bad as they get. You are cheating yourself, and worse, lying to people - usually children -- you are supposed to be educating. I am not saying a degree makes people good teachers, but lying and saying you have one when you really do not, by definition, makes you a no good liar who has no business educating our youth.
(By the way, I am starting a network of English Program managers on the Thonburi side, and one of our primary areas of focus will be on falsified educational credentials. We probably won't make much of a dent, but we are going to try. Lying about your degree has a huge impact on all of us involved in the real pursuit of quality education, and any of us who take our roles as mentors and role models seriously ought to be concerned about it.)
Anyway, to finish up on resumes, they should be neatly presented, well-organized into 5 main areas (Name/Address; Professional Experience; Education; Other Affiliations or Experience; Skills and Interests), and reflect only experiences related to the career track you are interested in. In other words, I really don't need to know you were a pizza delivery boy 12 years ago. And, cut out the career objectives! They go in the cover letter. Objectives or job goals on a resume became obsolete 15 years ago. Stop using them! They are unnecessary, as your goals are implied in your application for a specific job. Clarification of these goals, or amplification of how securing a job fits into your life plans, should be in the cover letter.
Now, let's get to the nitty-gritty of setting up an interview. First, if you are seeking a job, you make yourself available whenever and wherever the EMPLOYER indicates it would be convenient to meet. If you have such a hectic schedule that you cannot work yourself into the employer's interview plans, then you are not showing sufficient interest in the job.
Of course, the employer should be reasonable also. Too often, employers in Thailand ask you to come for an interview the next day at 8 AM, when you already have something scheduled. Declining hastily offered times is perfectly acceptable, but the organized employer will offer you ample advance warning and a variety of times to come for an interview, so to decline in such a case will often disqualify you for consideration.
Once an interview is scheduled, KEEP YOUR APPOINTMENT! You put yourself in a bad light by canceling an interview, or even changing the time, unless you give ample notice and have a very good reason for doing so. Changing your appointment time with a prospective employer even once is unadvisable; do it twice and you have effectively killed your candidacy.
Now, should you have to cancel or change the interview, notify the employer as soon as possible. Anyone who does any hiring in Thailand has had the all-too-common experience of waiting for someone to show up, and waiting, and waiting, and finally realizing you have been stood up. Needless to say, but this is the most unprofessional conduct in which a candidate for a job could engage. (It immediately disqualifies you for future consideration if you do it to me.) There is simply no viable reason, aside from death or major catastrophe, for missing an appointment time without calling the person you are supposed to meet.
Now let's get real. I realize Thailand, with its traffic, rain, iffy taxi-drivers, confusing directions, and the like, is THE place for missing appointments. But we are also in a country where a used mobile phone costs 1000 baht and there are pay phones everywhere. There is, as I said, no reason not to make a call if you'll be late or miss the appointment entirely. Folks who cannot even do this really do themselves a disservice in a country where the foreign teaching community is really quite small, and where names get around. (The same is true for falsified degrees...your name will get around if you are caught...I have taken no less than half a dozen calls in the last 6 months from prospective employers about people who I know have fake degrees.)
In the interest of full disclosure, I recently made an appointment with 4 candidates for 2 positions at my school - all at the same time and place...or so I thought. I met the four, and turned off my phone to take them off to my school. Oops! There were supposed to be 5! By the time I got to school, the fifth candidate had left me half a dozen messages to find out where I was, and it was too late for me to do anything but reschedule. He had gone a long way to be on time and at the right place (though as it turned out he was not really at the right place, but was a floor below where he was supposed to be, albeit in the correct building), and I was at fault for being unprofessional in that case. We are all human, and there are exceptions to every rule. But by and large, there is, for the third time, virtually no reason to miss or be late for an appointment for an interview without a phone call.
As for getting places in Thailand - it is YOUR responsibility to find the way there. It is also your opportunity to show your confidence, your initiative, and your adaptability to a new environment. Take the opportunity and find your own way to the interview. There is nothing wrong with asking directions or bus numbers, and the employer should be able to help you with that information. Beyond that, it is up to you. I am amazed at how many people have asked me to meet them at Siam Square, a BTS stop, or even their hotel to take them to the school. (I do meet all my candidates at a local shopping mall to facilitate the process, but at your hotel, come on!) Employers do not have the time to do this, nor do they want to employ such a seemingly helpless candidate.
Finally, to close the column on setting up the interview, I will address the issue of attire briefly. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Business attire for the first interview - ALWAYS! Remember the refrain about first impressions, because it's true. I remember at least a handful of times where a candidate showed up in shorts and sandals, and I can tell you, I never hired on of them.
Alright, that's enough for this month. Happy job hunting!
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