Although I’m not as experienced as occasional Ajarn writer Curt Crossley, this month I’m going to give you my two satangs on how to land the teaching job you always wanted. It won’t be an in-depth course on how to get your dream job, but rather an overview of the basics. As a head teacher, I go through a number of CVs and cover letters every month in search of finding the best teacher for the job. The amount is limited because our Director of Studies axes the rubbish and only forwards me the better ones. Still, most of these so-called better ones are still crap, pardon my French. Hopefully people who read this article will think twice before sending a letter without even bothering to proofread it first.
Now let me first of all give you a review about what being a good teacher involves. Theoretically speaking, a teacher should possess a number of qualities in order to be called a good teacher. A teacher ought to be well-qualified, clever, dynamic, flexible, experienced, friendly, creative, enthusiastic, patient, have a good sense of humour, and so on. People who’ve done a TEFL or CELTA course probably discussed this at length during their training. I’m well aware that it’s next to impossible to find someone possessing all these qualities, so I’ll settle for a couple of them.
What are the most important qualities? For a language school, it is very important that teachers are punctual, flexible and reliable. Teachers who are versatile and popular, who can cope with unexpected situations, go into a classroom and do their thing without having to hold their hand held are also high on any head teacher’s wish list. If you point out your strengths in your CV or cover letter, it’s always a good idea to give an example. Anybody can write that they are flexible and creative. Why do you think you are what you write? Okay, let’s move on to some more painful inadequacies.
To whom it may concern
Well, I can tell you one thing. When I read a letter addressed this way, the last thing I feel is concerned. If you can’t even bother to personalise your cover letter or use a dear sir, madam, why write a cover letter at all? Probably because you want to send it to scores of potential employers without having to change anything at all, you lazy bugger. Do you really think that will make a good impression? And do you really think it’s a good idea to send your CV to more than a dozen employers at the same time? Only send your CV if you’re really interested in the job and don’t go wasting people’s valuable time by applying for every job you come across.
It may seem incredible, but lots of applicants don’t even bother to put their address in their CV or cover letter. CVs – esp. the online CVs - often only mention the country where the applicants live and are extremely vague concerning the job the person is looking for. Stuff like “Currently living in Thailand and looking for a job in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam or China” isn’t exactly useful to an employer, is it now?
Also, when mentioning your address, make sure to include your full address, “living in Bangkok” just isn’t enough. Bangkok is huge, so if you’re applying for a job, it’s vital to know in which part of the city you live (Silom, Bangna, Lad Prao etc.) Also, if you’re willing or planning to relocate, don’t forget to mention it. By the way, it doesn’t make sense to apply for a Rangsit job if you’re living in the Sukhumvit area, unless you relocate. Are you really going to commute three or four hours each day?
Keep it short and simple. I don’t think it’s a good idea to bore your future employer to death with overly long cover letters and CVs full of irrelevant details. I couldn’t care one bit about you having been in charge of implementing Peoplesoft software version 7.1 in your previous job, or having been responsible for purchasing fine wines in your capacity as Food and Beverage manager for some fancy hotel. CVs should be relevant and list your experience as a teacher, esp. if you’re applying for a teaching position.
Call me shallow, but I like to see a photo of the job applicant. It’s not that looks matter that much, I just like to see who I’m communicating with. It’s not about the young teacher/old teacher or handsome/ugly issue, I just get a bit suspicious if people don’t send their picture and I start thinking they’re extremely ugly.
By the way, if you do send a picture, use a recent and decent one, not one where you are seen in Hawaiian shirt in the company of questionable individuals or lots of beer bottles.
Don’t forget the other essential information, like many people do. It’s very useful for an employer to know your age, nationality and availability. How old are you? It might come in handy when assigning classes. It’s probably not a good idea to teach full-time kindergarten when you’re over seventy. Where do you come from? If you don’t put your nationality on your CV, I’d automatically assume that you come from Zimbabwe. Again, although most of this might seem just common sense, you’d be surprised of the sheer number of applicants violating these basic rules.
If you are already employed but would like to change jobs, don’t forget to mention your availability. You’ll probably have to give a few weeks notice, or were you just planning to do a runner?
Please pay a little attention to the layout and organisation of your CV. If you’re CV looks absolutely disorganized and sports seven different fonts, there’s a good chance that you’re a disorganized and schizophrenic person. Have someone proofread your CV and cover letter before sending it – or use your spell checker if you’re a hermit – because it’s really a bad idea to send such an important document stating that you’re definately (sic) the right man for the job.
Don’t call us, we’ll call you
If you send your application and don’t get a reply, it means that you didn’t make the shortlist. It’s usually useless to call the employer and try to find out why you weren’t contacted. There a big chance the employer found someone more qualified for the job or maybe you didn’t meet the job requirements. By the way, having a Master’s Degree doesn’t automatically qualify for any position. I found proof of this in a telephone conversation I had last week. I’ll give you the rough transcript to end this month’s article (the sentences between brackets are what I thought, not what I said).
Job applicant: Hello, my name is “X” (it’s too embarrassing to mention the real name, which I’ve already forgotten anyway) and I’m calling about the teaching position.
Head teacher: Okay, what would you like to know?
Job applicant: Well, I sent my CV last night and I haven’t heard anything yet. I have a Master’s Degree you know.
Head teacher: Well. It is only 10 o’clock in the morning. Is there anything else you’d like to know about the job?
Job applicant: Yes, there is. I’m living in Nakhon Nowhere now. How can I get to Bangkok?
Head teacher: (How the hell did you get there? Just take a bus in the opposite direction). Well, you could take a bus to Morchit or Ekkamai bus station.
Job applicant: I see. Is it far where you are?
Head teacher: Well. We’re on the outskirts of Bangkok, but it is far from Nakhon Nowhere. I assume you’re planning to relocate (or commute 12 hours every day).
Job applicant: Yes. Are there any apartments in the neighbourhood?
Head teacher: Yes, there is a lot of choice, ranging in price from 3,000 to about 10,000 baht per month.
Job applicant: Is that with air-conditioning? Don’t you have anything cheaper?
Head teacher: (I’m not an estate agent, mate). Well, non-air-conditioned flats are probably a few hundred baht cheaper.
Job applicant: I see. What about the classes? I can teach maths and science.
Head teacher: Well, we are a language school and hardly ever need maths or science teachers. 99% of our business is English language courses.
Job applicant: But I don’t like to teach English, I prefer maths and science.
Head teacher: (Why the hell are you applying for a position in a language school then?) I repeat, that’s not an option, it’s English or nothing at all.
Job applicant: But…
Head teacher: (By the way, I’d like my teachers to be able to read and have a minimum of common sense. You’re applying for a job in Bangkok while you’re living more than 100 miles away and you don’t seem to have any idea how far Bangkok is. You’re applying for a position in a language school but you want to teach maths and science. Now who’s time are you wasting on this lovely Sunday morning? Yes, that’s right, both yours and mine.) Sorry.
Job applicant: I see.
Head teacher: Goodbye.