It is Hard for Most Expats to Get A High-Ranking Job in Thailand. Here are Answers.

Discuss about working in Thailand here!

This post is telling you why foreigners are not wanted in demand in the labour market in Thailand even though you have landed your elaborate profile to recruitment/headhunter agencies for high-ranking level positions. It’s fun for me to write something I experience with day-to-day at work. I fear that this post can be as a controversial post as my former one about the Farang Guys and Thai Girls Myth, but I’m nailing the readers in the head again because I’m a pest.

I am currently working in one kind of the human resources consultancy businesses. Yeah, the main role is objectifying a human’s ability to be price tagged and traded for someone else’s need. I am responsible to seek/hunt people working in the managerial level up to the pinnacle level of the corporate’s pyramid. The loss of my appreciation towards human’s talents and their endeavour to success makes me grievous in my self-doubt. The worse thing is receiving calls from job seekers who cannot be presented to my clients just because they do not hold Thai nationality. I end up worrying if the callers would blame me a racist.

Let’s get started with the Number One.
You are lured by our seemingly open-minded job posts.

Big positions e.g. National/Regional Something Manager/Director, Something Vice President, Something Business Partner, Chief of Something Executive, Head of Something Department, are attractive to anyone like flies are attracted to feces. Why flies to feces? To speak impolitely, because their qualifications are not even close to the requirements of the position. Even though English-written job postings do not indicate the preferred nationality, the chances that non-Thai job seekers can land a full-time job is far from possible.

Also, foreign-owned recruiting agencies whose headquarters are from western countries usually follow the default foreign business ethics. We, the working people in the said HR industry, are trained to be politically correct endorse everyone’s inner ability and support the equality in order to get aligned with our headquarter’s regulations. We should never put these following keywords in the qualifications section of the job posts.

Age range
Educational Institutes
Sickness / Disability

Let me give you an example of the reality. A position may require a local Thai man whose age range is around 35-40. The client is not happy to have a Muslim around in the workplace. Rajabhat students are not accepted, but Chulalongkorn is favoured (or it could be the other way around). And people of disability are not welcomed to receive salary from them. However, that is not what we can bring into public. In contrast, we can see all of those taboo keywords put in the job posts right from our client’s website.

We apologise that your profile cannot be proceeded although we badly want to send your profile to clients. We know that your resumes are going to be in the client’s trays for papers to be reused. It is not us who are discriminative, it is our clients.

The most discriminative clients are those from Japanese companies. Some non-bigotry Japanese companies are like Nemo in the Finding Nemo. Nemo is the one unique clownfish out of the other million clownfish-looking clownfish. It doesn’t matter if the candidate I submit to the client is a jerk whose competency is none as long as he or she has a good personality.

I misunderstood the phrase ‘good personality’ for the whole time of my employment. I misinterpreted that it is someone who possesses confidence, communication and interaction skills that capture the audience, and a vibe of not being dumb. No, I was not right. It means being dumb, meek, men-pleasing, not confident to raise a voice or share any suggestion to the boss, and most importantly, GOOD LOOKING.

I have sent multiple candidates whose qualifications were accurate with what the client pointed out that they needed earlier. None of them got a feedback. It’s a Japanese style: not saying anything and keeping you puzzled whilst telling you that it’s pending or in the boss’ consideration. I changed strategy. I sent a woman whose Japanese proficiency was below the abysmal standard. Her email writing was clearly recognisable that she had consulted with Mr.Translate Google. Her speaking was barely mutually intelligible. The only glimmering light escaping from the pitch-back cave I could find in her was her look. I wrote down directly what her actual qualifications were like. A few hours later, an email to call her in for the face-to-face interview winked at me in my inbox. Good, you chose an incompetent employee? Deal with her incompetency then. It’s no longer my problem, it’s yours.

I asked about this phenomenon with a Japanese colleague and he explained.
“It is important for the boss to have a nice-looking interpreter or an assistant around. It is like showing off to other men that he has a cute lady walking beside him. Qualifications can be compromised because client trusts me and I can push the candidate to be interviewed and be placed. Ability is something clients can train but look isn’t.”

I murmured in my mind: “No, look is a thing that can be changed or transformed. We have thousands of surgery clinics. You are talented, then you can earn a lot more money, and you can be beautiful because you can buy beauty later.”

I have declined to take any orders from Japanese companies since then.


Two: In the Business to Business relationship (B2B), most of your clients will be Thai.

Imagine a scenario, you may successfully have landed a job as a channel manager in a multinational company that sells IT products. You were assigned to meet a manager of a big IT mall in order to introduce him to accept your products to be sold in the mall. The IT mall’s manager understands English well. The business negotiation went smoothly during the meeting. At the end of the week, you had received no feedback from the IT mall’s manager. The progresses were going to nowhere. Everything remained unclear and unconfirmed. Do you wonder why?

Asian nations have words like “One of Us” that implies the exclusiveness among Asian-Asian that helps boost the business negotiations to be mutually agreed. You, therefore, are excluded from this known privilege. Imagine something worse, you may have countless chances that not everyone of your client’s sides understand the English language at all. They will be your daily sore thumbs.

Four: Your end-users or customers are Thai.

Similar to number three, a person to be hired in the high-ranking positions should be a jack of all trades in technical, organisational, management, financial, marketing, sales, etc. You may be a candidate with impeccable technical knowledge. Do you think you will become a boss without in-dept understanding of commercial and consumer’s behaviour? Management skills require you immense cultural understanding. You are cut off to the next round, sorry.



Five: To be good in a high-ranking position, you need to be versatile and compatible with people of each different level.

You may argue that you don’t care about the said Asian exclusiveness. You will just assign your subordinates to deal things for you and get things readily prepared on your desk. You are a retard. All right, you can do that but you won’t earn respect. Think about it, when emergency comes, for instance, a sudden governmental or bureaucratic thing requires you to take charge on signing something critical and you fail to decide about it. You are not all-around about the local circumstances and processes. You may argue that you can just hire consultants in the specific expertise and do it. Again, you are successful in  being a retard for not even trying to get a glimpse of how things work here. To be good as a boss, you cannot just shut yourself from interacting with small people and only limit yourself with a few people who understand what you say. You have to be good at management in both micro and macro scales. It is often assumable that a foreigner is not acquainted with what’s going on here and the company doesn’t want to waste half of their year waiting for your adaptation period.

Five: Your past industries, or products, or services, are not related.

Suppose that your previous employment was relevant to manufacturing industry of automotive parts product. You landed your resume for a position that requires you to have business connection with automotive manufacturers. Read the job description carefully. The position may produce products that are not automotive parts but they want to sell it to clients that produce automotive parts. This is a BIG difference. That means you were from the manufacturing industry of automotive parts product but you were not from the relative products with the company you are applying for.

I understand that nobody has time to google about what the company is doing. More than 80% of the applicants are rubbish to be thrown off because most people randomly apply. That’s why HRs in many corporates need us to help screen out unwanted profiles and approach the right people.

Six: Why pay more when the company can pay less and get more?

Getting a local candidate who has been in the right industry and products for a reasonable period of time is wiser than hiring a foreign candidate who knows very slightest about the local competitors. Local candidates not only often provide the new employers about the market know-hows, but they also bring the connections. I could say that more than half of my job orders right now are focused on salespeople in high managerial level. Asian culture, for the most essential parts, is more reliant on personal relationship than the systems and factual details. Oh, your product is better because of blah 1, blah 2, blah 3? No, it doesn’t matter how good the product is. It is WHO sells the product that matters. People of other companies may have already overheard about the niceness of someone in the similar industry. Those people may grow admiration for that said person and stay loyal or trust that person for whatever s/he does. If Mr.Poochit is moving to a new company and selling different products, Mr.Poochit can still be a top sales manager/director because the prestige that he has formerly accumulated makes him able to close the deals with whomever he meets. For an expat who lacks long experiences in building business relationship, you should not be wasting your time to randomly apply for a job.


Seven: A foreigner can be hired, but only one for every 100 Thai employees at the company.

Hey, aliens.
Who? Alien, who?
Yes, you are an alien. Turn around, I’m calling you.
You alien come read this news and the Working of Alien Act B.E.2551 (A.D.2008). (Caution: TOO LONG)

Enough said.

The only aliens that the Kingdom of Thailand is really in high demand are aliens from countries that signed the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). To simply put, people from Myanmar and Cambodia are welcomed in manufacturing industries. These people can rise high in the operational level and work in the office environment. To the lesser extent, people from the rest of the ASEAN nations are having more chances to work here than non-ASEAN citizens. Currently, Thailand is still considered a big buddy for the CLMV (Cambodia-Laos-Myanamar-Vietnam) nations. Someone who holds a big position in Thailand can be big in CLMV countries, too. These people will be assigned to help expand  business from Thailand to CLMV’s markets and become the Regional Something Director.

The likelihood to get a job is getting assigned to be located in Thailand.
Most expats I know who hold a high-ranking position are assigned by their headquarters or foreign offices to be in Thailand. To help you get a picture, Mr. Naaktgeboren (Mr.Bornnaked) has been working at FrieslandCampina (a dairy product manufacturer) based in the Netherlands. Mr.Bornnaked’s current career path is in a transition from a senior management level to a top management level. One day, Mr.Bornnaked jumps into an opportunity to be a Southeast Asia Director for his current employer FrieslandCampina. The difference is he will be based in Thailand. Mr.Bornnaked applies for this position and finally gets accepted.

The patterns of the likelihood to get a job is like what’s explained below:
1) You have been working in a company headquartered in a first world country
2) There is an open position to be located overseas
3) Check if Thailand is in the list
4) Read all loads of the responsibility that you will have to encounter overseas
5) Apply and get prepared for the further selecting processes

Have any questions or need help?
Feel free to drop me your email and leave your personal questions here!