Is It Looks That Count?

This article from the People’s Daily Online – which I’m looking at as more of a starting point for a discussion than as the basis for a debate on its own merits – caught my eye, in part because it’s unusual to see EFL teachers presented in such a light in what I expect to be relatively mainstream media. That’s not to say that there aren’t EFL teachers who get “up to no good” more than they should, but just that it’s not a common topic. It also stood out to me, though, because it illustrates, through a real or constructed example, the problems that can develop from the practice of hiring “faces.”

Many job posts today request a recent picture, and as an American used to a certain culture of political correctness, this just strikes me as not okay. To be fair, your appearance is not a secret when you do a face-to-face interview, as you would with most jobs at home, and it’s not totally unreasonable for an employer who may hire you based on emails and a phone interview to want to know what you look like. But there is a difference between requesting a photo immediately prior to the interview, after an applicant has been assessed based on something more in-depth than appearance, and requiring one with the application.

I certainly believe that EFL teachers should act with a level of professionalism consistent with their work, but I question whether schools can really be surprised if people they have hired on the basis of their appearance turn out to be unprofessional. And while a TEFL certificate is hardly the be all and end all, using it and other qualifications as the criteria for hiring teachers is without a doubt a step up from basing the decision on a picture.

So what can you do if you don’t want to submit a picture? In short…you can choose not to apply. As with many things in TEFL and in general with international travel, it’s take it or leave it. If you don’t send a picture, plenty of other teachers will. Perhaps eventually schools will come to the realization that photos are not the best way to pick teachers…but until that day, if you want to work in a place where this is common…smile and say cheese.