Thousands of westerners move to Thailand every year to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Some are prepared for job interviewing for an EFL teaching job and some aren’t. Going for an interview for an EFL teaching job in Thailand is different than interviewing in other places, but these tips will help you be prepared for the interview and maybe even get the job.
What to Wear for an EFL Teaching Job Interview in Thailand – Surprisingly, there seem to be a fair few farangs (westerners) that have no idea what to wear for a teaching job interview in Thailand. I’ve been at several interviews where farangs have shown up in shorts, t shirt and flip flops or in sweat-stained clothing they’ve obviously been wearing for a couple of days. What you wear in Thailand is absolutely paramount to how people treat you and, going for a teaching job interview, you need to look perfect.
For men, for an EFL teaching job interview, you should wear a clean, pressed pair of dress slacks, a long-sleeved shirt (no short-sleeved shirts, please, they’re not acceptable in Thai schools), a tie (something subdued and not with wild cartoon characters on it) and polished dress shoes. Carry a briefcase or a satchel for the documents you will need for the interview, and make sure that’s clean too.
For women, you should wear a skirt that’s at least knee-length, a dress shirt (for women, short-sleeved is acceptable but I’d recommend three-quarter sleeve as it looks more professional for a job interview), and full dress shoes (no sandals, as in most schools in Thailand, teachers are not allowed to wear sandals to school). Jewelry is fine, but not anything big or ostentatious. Also make sure you are carrying a professional-looking bag to hold the documents you will need.
What to Bring for an EFL Teaching Job Interview in Thailand – In the last two years, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has become much stricter on what qualifications are required for teaching jobs in Thailand. Many schools now are asking you to bring your original BA degree, original transcripts of that degree, and your original TEFL certificate. Make photo copies of your BA certificate, degree transcripts and TEFL certificate so you can leave those with the interviewer at the end of the interview.
Do not leave your originals with them, even though so will ask you to. And, be warned, many schools now are checking with universities in western countries to verify your degree before they will hire you, so if your certificate is fake, don’t even bother taking it with you. You are likely to be found out.
How to Behave in an EFL Teaching Job Interview in Thailand – In every interview I’ve had in Thailand, I’ve been interviewed by the Principal of the school, the Assistant Principal or the owner of the school. In Thailand, anyone in a position of authority is treated with great respect, so make sure you are polite and respectful to the person interviewing you. I act like my normal self (I’m always friendly, polite and smile a lot) but am a little more subdued than in my normal life and a more deferential to the person interviewing me. Of course, being deferential isn’t the western way, but to be successful in Thailand, you have to be.
I hear far too many westerners saying they won’t be deferential to people in positions higher than them in Thailand and my question is always this. “If you’re living in a culture you don’t approve of, why are you staying? Why not just go back home?”
The most successful teachers I’ve seen in Thailand smile a lot, are friendly and helpful, are relaxed when things go wrong (as they do on a daily basis in Thailand) and treat the higher-ups with respect. The ones who don’t do this don’t seem to last long in any job and are constantly complaining about Thais and Thailand.
What Questions Will You Be Asked in an EFL Teaching Job Interview in Thailand? – I’ve been asked tons of questions about my family background and jobs back in the US, what was the latest book I read and how do I like Thailand? Mostly though, you’ll be asked about your teaching background, what work experience you have and often about your BA degree and TEFL (they’re checking to see if you’re qualifications are likely real or fake). Some schools will even ask you some grammar questions so it does pay to bone up on some English grammar before you go for the interview, although that has only happened to me in one out of 15 job interviews in Thailand.
In Thailand, it is perfectly legal to ask if someone is married, what religion they are, about their family background, weight, height etc. So don’t be surprised if you get asked some pretty personal questions.
What Questions Should You Ask in an EFL Teaching Job Interview? – First of all, always sound positive and upbeat about the job and the school. Ask about the students. How many will you be teaching? What are their skill levels? Can they speak English well or only read and write it? (Thai students are notorious for very poor English speaking skills even after years of study). How many hours a week will you be teaching? Will you only be teaching English or other subjects? (At my first school, I taught Geography and Health also). Will you be able to participate in Thai cultural activities? (I figure, if I’m in Thailand, I might as well learn about the culture while I’m at it!).
Don’t forget to ask about the salary (these can differ widely from what has been advertised in the job ad), vacations, health insurance, sick time etc. But leave this until the end of the interview, so you don’t sound like that’s all you care about.
Job interviews in Thailand are actually easy. I’ve had 15 of them in the 10 years I’ve been here and I’ve been offered 14 of the 15 jobs (I wasn’t qualified for the 15th job and I knew it when I went for the interview – good experience though!, and it didn’t take much effort on my part to get them.
Thai employers are looking for a teacher who is clean, dresses well, acts politely, understands a little bit about Thai culture, is qualified and who treats people with respect. If you are all of these things in a job interview in Thailand, you should have no problem getting a teaching job in a good school.