7 common mistakes when applying for an English Teacher job in Thailand

Posted by Claudio on September 21, 2011 in Teaching in Thailand |

There is a shortage of foreign English teachers in Thailand. Nevertheless, one job posting online often results in more than 100 applicants.  That’s some tough competition. And since you never get a second chance to leave a first impression, your initial e-mail to the recruiter is extremely important.

This teacher didn't make mistakes when applying for a job...so he now is happily teaching.

I have helped to recruit teachers for a number of schools and over time have received hundreds of resumés and application letters. This post highlights some of the most common mistakes I have seen people make.  Some of these mistakes may just be minor inconveniences for the recruiter, but some of them may cause a recruiter to delete your application right away.

Mistake #1:
Using poor English

The spelling and grammar you use in your application tells a recruiter a lot about you.  See my previous post How to NOT get a job as English Teacher for an example of a horribly composed cover letter.  Sure, that cover letter is an extreme example of poor English language skills, but as an English teacher looking for a job, you won’t be given too much room for bad English.  You will be judged by your spelling and grammar more than for most other jobs.  Make sure you double check the language in your resumé and cover letter.

Mistake #2:
Adding too many attachments

The purpose of your initial e-mail or online submission is NOT to get the job. The purpose is to open the doors and get to the second step in the recruitment process: the job interview.

All too often, applicants send e-mails with way too many attachments. I’ve processed application e-mails that had a whopping 20 MB worth of documents attached: in addition to the required resumé, they’ve included copies of their passport and even drivers license as well as all their degrees, diplomas, and certificates. In addition, some of those applicants felt compelled to send numerous photos of themselves in various school settings. Not only take such attachments valuable disk-space on a recruiter’s computer, they also slow down incoming mail.

Your first e-mail to a recruiter should only contain your resumé with photo and a cover letter (unless other documents are explicitly mentioned in the job advertisement). If it is compelling enough, you’ll get to the next step in the hiring process and will be asked to show your qualifying documents.

Mistake #3:
Assuming your e-mail and your resumé will stay together

I have seen many resumés that didn’t include an e-mail address and/or a telephone number. This information was only on the cover letter or in the e-mail body.  I can only assume that the applicant thought that the e-mail and the attached documents would forever stay together. They often don’t. Recruiters often save resumés on their hard drive and either archive or even delete the original e-mail (especially if they are several megabytes in size).  If a recruiter later opens your resumé and they don’t find your contact information on it, they will either have to look for the original e-mail to contact you; or worse, they simply won’t contact you.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to include your contact details (phone and e-mail) on your resumé.

Mistake #4:
Attaching your resumé in an uncommon format

Do not send your resumé or other attachments in an unusual format, like Open Office’s .odt or Apple’s .pages. Recruiters often aren’t all that computer literate and if they can’t open an attachment, they ignore your application rather than contacting you to resend it in a format they can open.

Also, do not attach your resumé as an image file (jpg, png, gif). Recruiters sometimes copy information from your resumé and paste it into their database. This is not possible with an image file and a recruiter will have type in your information, which is cumbersome and error prone. In such a situation, some will opt to just ignore your application.

The best format for your document is PDF, because it’s readable across computer platforms (Windows, Mac OS, and Linux). Alternatively, a Word file (.doc or .docx) will work as well. 

Mistake #5:
Not giving your resumé a meaningful name

The most common file names I see for resumés is either “CV” or “resume”.  Recruiters typically save your document on their computer’s disk and this will require them to spend extra time adding your name to the file. A good way to save your resumé is to put your first and last name in file name of your resumé. For example “JohnSmith_CV” or “Resume_JohnSmith” or any other document name that will include your first and last name..

Mistake #6:
Submitting your application repeatedly

Don’t submit your resumé several times for the same job – it makes you look desperate, impatient, and pushy.  Trust that your submission made it the first time.  If you don’t hear back immediately (or at all), your resumé might not have matched the criteria of the recruiter.  If you do want to send it a second time, wait four or five days and then send it to the recruiter again with a note that you didn’t hear back from them and want to make sure they’ve received your resumé.  If you still don’t hear back from them, it’s safe to assume that they are not interested.

Mistake #7:
Assuming recruiters won’t look at your Facebook profile

Try this experiment: enter your e-mail address on Google as a search term.  You might be surprised at all the results you’re getting. The top links often include a link to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ profiles. Now imagine that a recruiter is doing the same thing when they receive your application. Whenever I’m recruiting teachers, I do a quick search for all the candidates that have made it to the short list.  I’ve just recently removed a candidate from the short list and added their resumé to the much larger stack of rejected applications because they listed their languages on Facebook as “English, Drunk, and Gibberish”. This just sends the wrong signal to a recruiter. What may be funny to your friends may be a red flag to a recruiter.


Whenever you are looking for a job, prepare your documents and then step back and look at them through the eyes of a recruiter. Put yourself into their position of having to sift through hundred(s) of applications and do anything you can to simplify things for them while at the same time putting your best foot forward.

Good luck on your search for a suitable home for your teaching talents!

And please share your experiences during your job hunt for an English teacher job in the comments below. Did I leave out any big mistake you have made or seen?



  • Deborah says:

    Wow, this is really interesting! I never though it would be the same to apply to a English Teacher in Thailand. Of course, I know we need to make more focus and stuff but didn’t know how to do this..
    Thank you so much!

    • Claudio says:

      I’m glad you found the article useful, Deborah. Here’s a another tip for your job hunt: if you do get to an interview, send a thank you letter right after the interview, outlining your strengths and list reasons why you’d be a good fit for the particular job.

      I’ve interviewed about 20 English teachers last month and was surprised that none of them took this extra step. Sending a thoughtful thank you note to the recruiter will most definitely set you apart from your competition.

  • David says:

    Claudio – submitting photos of you drinking a beer in Thailand, or in a bar.

    Submitting photos of you obviously in a night spot in Thailand

    CC.ing the school, with a mass email to all the other schools.

    Sending a letter addressed to the wrong school.

    Not reading the requirements and applying for a role that requires a PGCE or BEd, not just a TEFL

    • Claudio says:

      Spot on, David! I have received some of these as well. Sometimes I really wonder what people are thinking when applying for a job. Thanks much for sharing your list. Especially the CCing other schools seems to be an extremely common one. It’s in the same category as mails that have been forwarded numerous times, making the recruiter have to scroll through a long list of ever increasing indents before getting to the resume. Demonstrating such laziness is actually a service to a recruiter.

  • Amadou Bah says:

    Dear Claudio,
    I’ve read your post . And let me tell you that, I really liked it. And i it inspired me a lot. I’ve learned something new.

    Best regards
    Your A.B.

  • mark flores says:

    Dear Clausio,

    This article open up my mind while applying a teaching position here in Thailand and give me more idialistic process on how to apply..thanks you so for this article to broad my knowledge.

  • Mark says:

    I’d love to use my life skills to teach, but I fear that my age (53) poses a huge hurdle. Do I have good reason to believe that my age is a problem?

    • Claudio says:

      Age can be a hurdle. Many job ads list age ranges between 20 – 45 (or so), demonstrating some level of age discrimination. I believe this to be a problem not only in Thailand. It may just be a bit more covert discrimination in other places.

      It is a shame that some people in Thailand, where seniority typically is valued and respected, have such a bias toward young foreign teachers. I recently had a discussion with the head of the English department (who is close to 60 herself) about a teacher who she considered too old. All I could say is: “But look at him teach…he’s brilliant and his level of energy matches that of any of the younger teachers at the school. And he controls the classroom way better than many other teachers.” She didn’t have an answer to that.

      In general, there may be a preference for young foreign teachers. But there are schools that value experience over appearance. My recommendation is to approach any school in a way that your enthusiasm for teaching is obvious…and do not let those schools who prefer younger teachers let your spirit be affected in any negative way. I wish you much success finding a great home for your teaching skills!

  • Mark says:

    Thank you for your reply.

  • Marie says:

    Thanks for this helpful article.

  • Jefferson says:

    Dear Claudio,

    How can we know if the employer are interested in my application after we sent our resume to them?
    In usual potential candidates selection for the job an employer will takes about how many days to process it before I know the result of
    selection for the job in Thailand?
    Thank you

    • Claudio says:

      That depends on the recruiter. Some respond very quickly, while others take their time. If you don’t hear back from them after a 4 – 5 days, your resumé might not have matched the criteria of the recruiter. It seems to be an exception when recruiters let you know that they are not interested. Most will simply not respond.

  • Rafael says:

    It sounds simple but it is indeed a big help!


  • ambreen says:

    Thnku very much sir.This really will help me a lot and i ll keep all of this in my mind before sending my resumè.

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