TEFL 101: Skype Interview Success

So you’ve done your research, searched high and low and had some positive responses from your application emails – yay you!

As with any job, you will be expected to go through some sort of interview process before landing yourself a TEFL job.  This interview process will vary greatly from place to place, from vigorous multiple interviews and teaching demonstrations to a more laid back ‘just doing this for a formality’ face to face chat.

Due to the nature of TEFL work taking place across the globe, and that most undertaking a job search are doing so from a different country than their destination of choice, more and more often the go to method for TEFL job interviews is via Skype.

Interviewing via Skype carries its own positive and negative points.  For some, a layer of nervousness is removed by the virtual setting.  For others, the thought of adding the extra potential complications of technology – laptop, webcam, internet – in fact adds another layer of things to worry about.

Time zones

If you are looking at TEFL positions, it is likely that you may be interviewing for a job that is in a different country and therefore different time zone.  Most potential employers will take this into consideration, however it is likely that the interview will need to take place during their office hours, and so you may have to make some compromise.  You may find yourself with an interview in the middle of the night or extremely early in the morning – be prepared for this!  Another point on the topic of time zones – triple check the time difference and confirm the time of your interview in both your local times – you don’t want to end up sat in front of the computer at 9 am your time when the interviewer meant 9 am their time, which isn’t for another seven hours…

What to wear

Just because you are interviewing virtually, it doesn’t mean that you should be any less prepared or should take your interview any less seriously than if it were face to face.  It may seem odd getting dressed up without leaving your front door, but you really should dress just as formally as you would for a regular interview.  Yes, technically you could wear your pajama bottoms and fluffy slipper with a shirt and tie on top, but what if you need to get up to get something, or if the camera slips and your outfit choice is revealed?  Not only will it be ever so slightly embarrassing having your dodgy bedroom attire revealed, but it will also reveal that you don’t consider this interview to be as serious – not the best impression to give to a potential employer.

Location, location, location

You may be more comfortable perched on the end of your bed, but it doesn’t really set the right tone for an interview and you are risking having your potential employer spotting all sorts of things (I’m not even going to go there…) – choose an area of your home that is free from distraction, preferably well lit (near a window for natural light if you can) and that doesn’t suffer from bad internet signal.  If you have pets, shut yourself away from them (a visit from the cat may be cute and funny but could completely throw you if you are feeling a little nervous) and the same goes for people.  I think that most people would prefer to interview alone but if you have an overly inquisitive housemate, politely tell them to get lost and leave you alone!  A sign on the door to warn others away in a busy household will also help you to avoid having anyone burst in unexpectedly.

Double check EVERYTHING

Get yourself set up at least 30 minutes before the pre-arranged interview time.  Make sure that your internet connection is running smoothly and that your computer is ready – Skype installed and updated (the last thing you want is for Skype to start updating when you are expecting an important call in 5 minutes), no task bar full of internet windows and unsaved word documents (this will only slow your computer down and may cause unwanted pop ups or other distractions).  Carry out a few test calls on Skype to make sure that your audio levels are OK, and open up your webcam to check the camera angle and lighting.

Your secret weapon

The beauty of having your interview on Skype is that you can have a variety of things within your sight that can’t be seen by the interviewer.  Do your research on the school and the specific job you are going for  and have some notes to hand – think about the person specification and how you best fit and make yourself a list of things to try and include in your responses when being interviewed.  Try to make your notes using key words rather than full sentences; you want to remind yourself of key points to mention rather than providing yourself with an autocue.


Your computer is all set up, you are in the perfect location free from distractions, at the right time, dressed to impress and with your prepared notes within view – if you have done your research on the job you are interviewing for, all you can do now is be yourself, SELL yourself, and hope for the best.  GOOD LUCK!

Do you have any Skype interview tips that I missed out?  Feel free to leave a comment below – sharing is caring 🙂

Advertisements

TEFL 101: The Job Hunt

With the entire world at our fingertips on the internet, it is completely possible to search for jobs on the other side of the world without even getting out of bed.  Long gone are the days of lugging piles of CVs from place to place or of scouring the newspapers for jobs that had probably already been filled by the time you got in touch.  Now we are able to have immediate access to the most up to date job opportunities out there – perfect for looking for a TEFL position in any destination of your choosing.

Before exploring any of the options laid out below, make sure you have an up to date and relevant CV, a working Skype account and email address, both of which don’t have inappropriate names (sexymama101 might not be as funny to a prospective employer as it is to your friends) or profile pictures.  You may also be asked for scans of your degree certificate and transcript, your TEFL certificate and potentially a criminal record check.  It helps to have all of these things already attached to a draft email so you are good to go without having to run around looking for a working scanner at the last minute.

Websites

Quick, easy and up to date – job sites provide a hassle free way to look for a job.  Here area few websites that I have used myself when looking for a TEFL position;

ajarn.com specialises in jobs in Thailand and lets you search by area and salary

tefl.com has jobs from around the world including online work

Dave’s ESL Cafe has country specific job boards for China, Korea and beyond

Be warned – some schools are notorious for posting ads and then never getting back to the applicant, filling the position in person with a friend of a friend – don’t be put off but be aware that you may not be flooded with responses!  Persevere and over-apply – it’s always better to have a choice of job offers than becoming desperate and jumping into a position just because they said yes.

TOP TIP” be aware of and look out for scams asking for the applicant to spend hundreds of dollars in made up administration/application fees, or dodgy looking positions for phony companies.

Facebook

If you know which destination(s) you are looking at, do a few searches for expat facebook groups in the area.  These groups are not only useful for meeting other expats living in the area but will also be a good place to find local job adverts that you may not find on national websites.

A few good groups for Thailand include Teachers in Thailand, English Teaching Thailand, Thailand Foreign English Teachers Network Group, and more locally Phuket Teachers and Friends (there are similar groups for locations across Thailand.  More international groups include TEFL English Teachers Networking Group and ESL Teachers.  There are countless more groups out there, these just happen to be the ones that I have ended up joining myself.

TOP TIP: Just because you are using an informal platform for your job search, it doesn’t mean that you should treat it any differently to any other enquiry about a position.  Don’t just comment on the post – a well worded private message with a forwarding email to enable you to continue the enquiry outside of facebook is better.

REMEMBER!  Potential employers can and do check out your facebook profile before considering hiring you – so either get those privacy settings on lock down or think hard before posting that picture of you doing shots on the bar on Saturday night.

Agency work

If you find yourself moving to your destination of choice and looking for work, consider working for a teaching agency.  Yes, you should do your research first – ask around, try to speak to people who work for the agency to make sure that they are 100% legit (AKA can get you a visa and pay you a full salary).  Agency work can range from being a substitute teacher to providing maternity cover or doing one off english camps.  Many agencies are linked to a language school and so part-time evening and weekend work can become an option.  It is definitely worth considering even just to make sure you have a bit of income while you look for a more permanent position of your own.

Agency work issue of contention in the TEFL world; many, many people have had their fingers burned by agencies and so tar them all with the same brush.  You will hear tales of non payment, or broken contracts or visa troubles.  I myself was placed with an agency after completing my TEFL Heaven course and I continued to work with them for 18 months with no issues.  If anything, working for an agency meant that I got to void some of the pitfalls of working directly for a school – I was less involved in school politics and I knew that someone had my back if the proverbial hit the fan.  If I had to take a day off sick, all my classes would be covered by the agency.  All of my visa and work permit paperwork was processed by the agency with no problem.  I never had a problem with unpaid tax bills.  Yes, that agency must have been making some money off me but I earned exactly the same amount as my colleagues who were working directly for the school.  Maybe I was just lucky.

TOP TIP: If you are looking at working in the south of Thailand (Hat Yai, Songkhla and around) and don’t mind working for an agency, go say hi to Visions and see if they can help you out.

The old fashioned way

While I don’t recommend rocking up in person at every school in your chosen destination (unless you are prepared to do a lot of aimless wondering around looking for someone who can speak englishand has the time to help you), a little bit of research can go a long way.  Search the internet and find the local schools.  Get an email contact (preferably the HR department) and try your luck with an email including your CV.  Yes, many of those emails will bounce back.  Yes, many of those emails will go unanswered.  But, you may just have some luck.  I actually got my last job doing just this.  I sent out over 20 emails to schools in Phuket and of that 20 I had 3 replies, all of which were the standard we will keep your CV on file.  I didn’t have much hope.  However, 2 of those schools did keep my CV on file and did in fact get in touch when a job position came up.  Having already made the first contact I was already on the minds of the HR department and was told about the job before it had been put on job websites, putting me at an immediate advantage.

TOP TIP: It’s not a good idea to send one blanket email to all 20 schools – they can easily see that your email is completely generic, and this makes it look like you aren’t putting much effort into your job search.  Do a little bit of research and take the time to tailor each email that goes out.  Sure, you can have the same main body but adding in those little details that show you have taken the time to actually think about the school you are contacting will make you stand out from all the other emails they get asking for jobs.  It’s worth a shot!

It’s not what you know…

If you have already relocated and are frantically looking for a job, go and make friends with other teachers NOW.  Not only will they be able to tell you which schools are best to be avoided, the teachers already on the ground will be the first to find out about job positions as soon as they come up and will be able to put in a good word for you.  This is certainly the case in smaller communities where it really can be a matter of knowing the right person that will put your chances ahead of the rest.


Do you have another tried and tested method for finding a job?  Please share in the comments below…

TEFL FAQs: Getting a working visa for Thailand (Part 1)

What kind of visa do I need to work in Thailand?  How do I get a working visa before I leave my country?  Can I arrive on a tourist visa and change to a working visa?  These are some of the questions that I am asked time and time again.  I am no visa expert but I am able to tell you how I got my visa.  I have had to split this into two parts as I have now had two very different visa experiences.

Part 1 – Gaining a non-immigrant B visa in my home country

Part 2 – Changing from a tourist to a non-immigrant B visa – AKA the visa run

Read on for part one…

TEFL FAQ visa part 1

When I first decided to come to Thailand, I signed up to a TEFL programme that promised to hold my hand every inch of the way, from the interview right through to job placement and beyond.  This meant that the visa process was completely issue free for me, I just had to send the right documents with the correct form and it was all sorted before I had got on the plane at Heathrow.

A letter (in both English and Thai) confirming my upcoming employment was provided by the TEFL agency, and together with my passport, degree certificate and transcripts and police check, this was enough to get my non-immigrant B visa in my home country, trough the Royal Thai Consulate in Hull.  Aside from the wait, and the ever so slight worry that the good old Royal Mail were going to lose my documents, it was a completely stress free process.

That isn’t the end of the process however.  You are usually issued an initial 3 month non-B visa which you then need to get extended to the full length of time required (up to one year).  To do this you need to get a work permit.  Luckily for me I was was with a teaching agency who once again arranged most of this for me.  I had to provide them with a copy of my teaching contract, my TEFL certificate and I had to go and have a 20 baht medical check which consisted of the doctor asking me in broken English if I had any diseases, to which I said no, and was on my way.  Once I had my work permit in hand, I was able to go to immigration in the city I was living in and was granted an extension of stay, extending my initial three month visa to an almost-full year (up until the end of my contract).

OK, so I have my visa, I have my work permit.  I’m done!

Not quite, that still isn’t the end of the process.  In fact, the process doesn’t ever really end…

Once you have your work permit and your non-B visa has been extended to enable you to stay working in country until the end of your contract, you are now required by law to report at immigration every 90 days (note: some people on non-B visas have to leave Thailand and come back every 90 days – check which you have).  This has to be done on a work day and so involves arranging a morning off (some schools will do this all for you if they have a big cohort of foreign teachers and a member of HR staff who understands the visa process – I wasn’t quite so lucky).  You just have to go in to immigration and fill out a form confirming your address, and they staple a piece of paper into your passport confirming that you have reported.  It’s just to keep tabs on your whereabouts and to make sure that you are still in the city you are supposed to be working in.

You may have noticed that throughout this whole process, I didn’t have to leave Thailand.  But what about the infamous visa runs that teachers are always going on?  That is because I had my visa approved in my home country and was lucky enough to have my work permit issued and my visa extended before the initial three months granted were up.  Some are not so lucky.  Some come into the country on tourist visas and then have to leave the country to apply for a non-B once they gain employment (in fact, it is possible to have your visa changed over if you go in person to immigration in Bangkok and you have a contact with the know-how – so this rarely happens).  Some don’t get their work permit sorted in time and have to leave and come back on a tourist visa and start the whole process over again.

Every situation for each person can pan out differently and this is just my experience.  What I would say is common among many is that the process can take a while, so it is most definitely recommended to arrive in Thailand with some sort of visa – whether that is a pre-approved non-B like I had, or a 60 day tourist visa – don’t arrive with nothing and think that you will have everything sorted within the 30 day visa exemption you are granted on arrival – it probably isn’t enough time and with the current clampdown on visa runs you might have a pretty stressful time sorting it out.  Save yourself the worry!

If you have any more questions, here are some useful websites that may be of help;

For UK residents applying for a visa in your home country – The Royal Thai Consulate, Hull

For more information on different types of visa in Thailand – The Thai Embassy English language website

For discussions on visa issues check out Thai Visa – but be warned, some of the forum users are bitter old expats who are angry at everyone and everything – you have been warned.

Check back for Part 2 – Changing from a tourist to a non-immigrant B visa – AKA the visa run.