Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Interview

- "So you can speak French?"

- "Yes, I c..."

- "Have you taught before?"

- "Well...not really as a teacher per se, but I have done some..."

- "Would you like to teach a class and be assessed?"

- "I would yes...yes...when would you like to arrange this for?"

- "Great, I'll bring them in now."


An hour later I am taken to the President of the school board for a 'discussion' accompanied by The Missus, the head of the school's foreign language department, a fluent-English speaking teacher, the Vice-President of the board and the head of administration.

Through translation the President looked over my resume, looked at my university certificate and asked me exactly the same questions about my experience, and then all of a sudden...

- "What kind of salary are you expecting? You will be working 4 days a week here."

- "Well, I can be flexible...[after a long pause, prompting looks from my audience and an awkward, trying-to-be-private glance at The Better Half] about X,000 baht per month."
[a standard amount for other jobs I had seen advertised in the area]

My request is translated into Thai for the President. He is now looking me straight into the eye, then up and down. He doesn't appear to like me much, plus I'm not wearing a tie - bugger.

President converses with the English-speaking teacher.

- "You say you can be flexible, this salary is quite expensive...can you go lower?"

Another awkward glance at The Missus, begin to lose cool...I don't really know how much to take off. Head for a round number near by.

- "Well...I...I could go to Y,000 baht. Would that work for you." [followed by positive glances from The Other Half]

The teacher translates my latest offer to the President, who takes another chance to look at me somewhat disdainfully...

- "Ok, we will have to wait", I am told, "please come with me and wait outside"

We head towards the door, on the way I stop to bow and give my thanks to the President.

- "You WAIT for me" I am told in no uncertain terms.


We wait for 30 minutes or so before the Vice President is called into the Presidents office. He comes back to us somewhat despondent telling me that, although most of the others are in favour of hiring me, the President feels I am too expensive. He has already phone 3/4 other teachers he knows who can do the job for less.

The VP and English-speaking teacher, who are the only two now accompanying myself and The Good Lady, speak in Thai before both heading back into the President's office.

No less than 15 minutes later they reemerge telling me I will find out if I've got the job on Friday. The school phoned the next morning to confirm I got the position.

It seems the last French teacher made such a poor impression that many of the students and staff question whether she even spoke the language.

The upshot is that they've decided to take their chances on this unproven teacher (with great potential) I have a work-permit being processed, a decent salary until February and one less working day (albeit a Thursday not a Friday).

This is not to dismiss the selection process I underwent, because believe me I was assessed (twice in the end) so I haven't just come fresh off the streets, it is more to show the culture of employment and hierarchy that exists in this country.

In my short-ish career to date I've generally done well at interviews, but this process really threw me, particularly the 'name your price' game. Bartering generally takes place after an interview, and in a more descreet manner with time for contemplation and conferring where necessary.

I've already taught one of my three classes, but will begin my new job tomorrow in Lopburi, a town famous for its population of street-roaming monkeys.

Wish me luck in avoiding banana skins...

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