How to Interview for a Job in Thailand
Getting Ready to Interview
So, you've read my blog about finding a job in Thailand and think you've found one that suits you. Once you send in the information they require in the job posting (CV, photo, copy of your main passport page, and degree/certificate copies are common requests), if the employer is interested, they'll contact you to setup an interview.
Most places in Thailand still prefer to conduct interviews in person, though they may be using Skype more since I started interviewing here seven years ago. Don't be discouraged if you come across employers that will only interview you if you can attend an interview at the school. This is still the case with the majority of employers, and if it's not practical for you to attend in person—though I highly recommend visiting the school before starting work—you can simply move on to one of the countless other opportunities. It's the nature of the beast that foreign teachers come and go, as we are far away from our families and life can throw all kinds of curve-balls our way.
Dress for Success
Appearances are everything in Thailand and teachers are expected to dress formally. Even for the most casual English conversation teaching job, you'll want to have a button-up shirt with a necktie (not black as that is for funerals). In most cases, a jacket is also a good idea. If you are interviewing inside Thailand, a shirt with high cotton content is recommended due to the heat and humidity in most of the country. As always, be rested and well-groomed.
Be Prepared for a Demonstration
Don't be afraid to ask about the interview format ahead of time. Often, you'll be expected to do a teaching demo. Sometimes you'll be provided materials and other times, in true Thai style, it's "up to you". Either way, make sure you follow a structured lesson plan with some academic backing. If you don't already have a TEFL or TESOL certification, taking a certification course can help you a lot in this area. Be ready to explain your lesson and answer any questions the interview panel may have. Interviews can range from 1 on 1 to interviewing to large groups.
Be on Time
Thailand is famous for "Thai Time" and that may mean schedules have a lot more wiggle room than you are used to. However, this doesn't apply to interviews. The employer will expect you to be punctual. If you are traveling to the school, plan your route ahead of time and account for traffic (and lots of it if you are in a major city).
Wait Patiently for the Job Offer
Once you complete the interview, you may politely ask when they plan to make a decision. They may need someone to start yesterday, or they may be considering hiring someone for the coming months. Decision-making when it comes to hiring is a case where "Thai Time" often applies. Don't be surprised if the quoted timeline is off by a few weeks, a month, or longer. While patience is a virtue, there is no harm in following up to see where the employer is at in the process.
Reviewing an Offer
Once you receive an offer, you'll want to make sure you work out any details that weren't already discussed. Read the contract carefully and pay attention to your salary, if there are any strings attached to the salary (performance-based pay, probationary periods, etc.). Are you paid when school isn't in session? How about paid holidays? Do you need to report into the school office during breaks? These are all questions you want to make sure you have the answers to. Other considerations are accommodations or stipends for accommodation, travel costs, end of contract bonuses, and the penalties applied should you need to get out of the contract early. I've seen contracts that penalized the teacher two full months salary for a breach. Please do the entire industry and teachers everywhere a favor by not agreeing to such extreme terms.
You will need a work permit to work in Thailand. This is not optional. While plenty of employers will be willing to put you to work without one, this is illegal. If the authorities find out, the employer barely gets a slap on the wrist with a 10,000 baht fine. The foreign teacher, on the other hand, can be penalized up to 400,000 baht and may be banned from the country for a period of time. You need to have the work permit before you start working. Insist on this.
Before you get the work permit, you'll need a Non-Immigrant B visa. Unless you are coming to Thailand with a Non-Immigrant B, you'll have to travel outside of Thailand to apply at a Thai Embassy or Consulate (Vientiane, Laos and Penang, Malaysia are popular destinations for visa runs). Be sure to clarify with the employer who will be responsible for the visa and work permit costs.
- What are your scheduled hours and days of work?
- Will have any responsibilities outside normal hours?
- Are you responsible for any special events, clubs, etc?
- How many students will you have in a class?
- How many contact teaching hours will you have?
- How many office hours will you have?
- Will you have "gate duty" and be required to greet students in the morning?
- What curriculum will the classes follow?
- What materials and equipment will you have access to (in the classroom and the office)?
- Are the classrooms and office spaces air-conditioned?
Accepting an Offer
With all these details sorted out, you'll be in a much better place to make a decision about accepting an offer. Of course, ask any other questions that might apply in the case of your particular employer and position. Every position has its challenges but getting off on the right foot can help assure you'll enjoy your work experience in Thailand. Happy interviewing!