For this month's column, I'd thought I'd give folks a bit of an insight into how I screen and select applicants for interviews and job offers. Admittedly, as I manage the selection of interviewees and selection of new teachers fairly autonomously at my school, this process will be somewhat unique. Nonetheless, I share it with my readers in the hopes that some parts of it may be useful in terms of improving your chances to secure the job you are seeking. It may also help folks who are developing or managing programs that utilize foreign teachers in their hiring process.
Let's go through the process step-by-step:
First, I run a detailed and thorough advertisement on ajarn.com and a few other Thai web sites. I do not advertise outside of Thailand, as I do not accept applications from abroad. There are, surprisingly enough, a sufficient number of locally-based foreign teachers from which to hire. The complications of telephone interviews to other countries is simply more than I am willing to engage in, and in my experience hiring by phone in the States, is often an insufficient way to assess candidates' interpersonal skills.
Next, I begin screening applicants within 24 hours of the time the job is posted. Normally, I get 70-100 applications within the first day, so it is important to stay on top of the game. (The last positing I put on Ajarn.com generated 370 applications in 10 days, so it is important not to fall behind.)
Even though I list basic requirements to be considered, I try to at least glance at every applicant's resume even if they do not meet the exact specifications in my posting. Thus, while I am hesitant to say so because it adds tremendously to the screener's work load, it is usually a reasonably good idea to apply for a job you are interested in even if you may not have every one of the minimum qualifications requested.
After the initial reading, I sort applicants into three categories and many sub-categories:
1) Native English-speakers are divided into teaching subjects. This past round, I looked for Math, Social Studies, Drama & Music, and Computer teachers, so those were the four sub-categories. Teachers who can teach any of these subjects are sorted into that subcategory, even if they also could teach English. A fifth sub-categories for English teachers only.
2) Non-native English-speakers are divided the same way as native speakers. I keep these resumes aside, however, as I look first for native speakers to fill my teaching slots. If I have a paucity of applications in any one teaching subcategory, I will look more closely at the qualifications of the non-native speakers who have applied. Should I need a math teacher, for example, and have only one or two native-speaking applicants, I will move all the non-native applicants in this category to the appropriate native-speaker folder. I never consider non-native speakers to teach courses in the subject of English, but I will hire non-native speakers for specialized areas of teaching such as those noted above.
3) Non-local applicants are put into a third category and sent a short e-mail explaining that I do not hire from abroad, and that they should re-apply when or if they reach Thailand.
Now, as a next step, before inviting anyone for an interview, I go through the entire collection of resumes before me with a fine tooth comb. I eliminate people very quickly who send resumes with multiple typos or mistakes, cover letters of one or two sentences or those electronically generated by Ajarn.com (I ask specifically for a thorough and thoughtful cover letter in my ads), applications with 5 or 6 attachments that I did not request, or blind applications that clearly are not tied to the specific positions I have listed at MY SCHOOL. For example, a cover letter that is well-written but closes by telling me that the candidate really would like to work for my "company" or teach "kindergarten" at our Mathayom school is an immediate indication that the individual applying has not done his or her homework before applying to my school. Such an application would be an immediate reason to use the "DELETE" button on my keyboard.
I also eliminate applications from people who make religious references to their lord or god, send me Buddhist sayings, lash into the Thai educational system or the Thai way of life, or otherwise invoke religion, politics or cultural critique in their initial correspondence. I may ask a person about their views on education in Thailand at the interview, but a written job application is not the editorial page of a newspaper, and I do not have the time to interview or work with someone who steps on a soap box of any kind before they have visited my school or met me or any of our other teaching staff.
Then I carefully consider the following qualifications, listed in the order of importance I assign them:
a. Minimum educational qualifications (must have a B.A. from a school I can find a credible website for on the Internet or the candidate is disqualified from consideration)
b. Teaching experience in Thailand (shows ability to handle the conditions we face as foreign teachers in this country)
c. Teaching experience abroad (shows a commitment to and interest in the profession, and an opportunity to practice skills that would be used at our school, even if in another cultural context)
d. Advanced or specific educational credentials (M.A. or PH.D. in any field, bachelors degree in education, or CELTA, DELTA, TESOL, TEFL, etc.)
e. Other skills and experiences (music, drama, computers, first aid, counseling, etc.)
Lists of recommenders, career goals, work experience at retail stores or as a newspaper boy, etc, are not at all relevant. I barely notice them. What is important is the experience and training you have had that is directly applicable to teaching my students.
Finally, I make the first cut. Usually, I eliminate 85% of all applications through the steps listed above. Thus, from the 370 applications I received this time around, I ultimately selected 39 for interviews.
Next month, I will go more into depth about the process of setting up an interview and why I do it the way I do, how I view pre-interview communications (e-mail and telephonic), how I manage and what I look for at interviews, what comments or behaviors by candidates result in immediate disqualification, and what a successful applicant for a job at my school looks like.
Happy job hunting! Hope this is of some help!