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How to Create a Great Resume for Teaching English Abroad

A Comprehensive Guide to Landing Your First Job

By John Clites
6/2016

Teaching English around the world
There are jobs around the world to teach students of all ages, from kindergarten through adults.

So you've decided to teach English abroad. Great decision! Teaching English can be a rewarding and (quite honestly) not-too-difficult way to make a living abroad. Many begin teaching EFL (English as a foreign language) simply as a way to support an extended stay abroad, but find that life as an EFL teacher provides them with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Ah, but how to land that first teaching job?

First, rest assured that there are teaching jobs out there — lots of them. The demand for English teachers is strong around the globe, and continues to grow. People in non-English-speaking countries need English for a variety of reasons, including study, travel, and work with international businesses of all kinds, as well as local tourism, for example. If you are a native (or proficient) speaker of English, there is no shortage of opportunities waiting for you. You just need to prepare well and then market yourself effectively.

In this article, I’ll guide you through how to apply for an EFL position. As with any job search, your efforts will yield better results if you understand a bit about the job market, so that will be our starting point. You’ll also need to craft a resume which highlights your work and education to best advantage, always keeping your market in mind. And just as important, you’ll want a cover letter or email designed to grab attention.

We’ll also take a look at what to do if you aren’t receiving positive responses, and how to proceed when they do start coming in.

A Look at the Job Market

There are different types of teaching positions. Many seasoned EFL teachers prefer to work independently, teaching their own private students. And teachers who are certified to teach in primary or secondary schools in their home countries may want to apply to what are termed “international schools,” which follow predominantly British or American curricula and offer a majority of classes in English.

Teach English privately
Many teachers supplement their income or make their primary income tutoring English privately. Photo courtesy of John Clites.

But for most folks, private language schools (PLSs), provide the easiest way to get a foot in the EFL door.

PLSs are just that: non-governmental, privately-owned schools which offer classes in English and often other languages as well. PLSs may be large chains, franchises, or independents. They most typically are storefront operations in heavily trafficked areas. Some have a targeted focus, such as business English or teaching youngsters, but many offer a variety of classes for different ages and skill levels. They may arrange private tutoring for their clients, often at the client’s home or office, in addition to offering group classes on the premises.

Teach English class in home.
Some opt to teach classes in their own home, either independently or through PLSs. Photo courtesy of John Clites.

Note: Private Language Schools are often not well regulated. Some have better reputations than others. Before accepting any offer, and certainly before signing a contract, be sure to do your due diligence. EFL-oriented chatrooms (explore the forum at Daves ESL Cafe, for example) are good places to check out a school’s reputation. At a minimum, search online for the school’s name. As a general rule, larger, established chains can be expected to be reputable, and you'll have some recourse if problems should arise.

PLSs in different regions of the world tend to have different hiring requirements. Here are a few points to consider as you begin your job search:

  • TEFL/CELTA certifications: In Latin America and in a few European countries, a TEFL certification (see at end of article for explanations of common abbreviations related to teaching English) is nice to have but not a firm requirement for most schools. However, in most European countries, the Middle East, and much of East Asia, a certification will be expected, and residence programs are preferred over online certification programs.

  • Nationality: Schools tend to prefer natives of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, or the United States. If you hail from another country, you'll likely have to sell yourself harder; be sure to create the strongest possible resume and cover letter to demonstrate your English proficiency. For those wishing to teach in Europe, note that it can be difficult for non-EU residents to teach legally within the Schengen Area, where preference is given to those with EU citizenship. However, there are reputable avenues such as France’s Teaching Assistant Program and Spain’s North American Language and Culture Assistants Program.

  • University degree: Many PLSs expect applicants to have a four-year college degree, although the field of study is generally not important. Again, Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia tend to be firmer, while Latin America a bit more relaxed about this requirement.

  • Age: While some governmental programs do have age caps, in general age is not a major hiring consideration, and ESL teachers may range in age from their early 20s, sometimes even younger, into their 60s. Younger teachers are often preferred for teaching younger students, while more mature teachers may be preferred by adult learners.

  • Gender: In the Middle East, many positions are open to men only — although there are also positions for women teaching women and children. In other regions of the world, you'll find both men and women teaching EFL.

The single most important requirements are that you speak English proficiently, and that you present yourself well. Assuming that you speak English fluently, let's focus now on how to put your best foot forward.

Apply to a Carefully Compiled List of Schools

The first step in the application process is to narrow down the country and city or cities in which you'd like to teach, and then to collect the contact information for schools in those locales. I encourage you to get organized from the outset. Open a job search folder on your computer and create a spreadsheet into which you will enter contact information and notes. Also create an email folder in which to save future correspondence.

You can begin by checking websites such as Transitions Abroad (job postings section), the previously mentioned Dave’s ESL Café, and other ESL sites for advertised teaching jobs. These sites also will show you where demand is high, in case you haven’t firmly decided on where you’d like to teach. Take note of the precise qualifications schools are requesting in your country(ies) or region(s) of interest.

Finding Schools that are not Listed

Of course, many openings won’t be listed on the particular websites you review, and some jobs may not be posted online at all. (For example, language schools in Brazil don’t advertise positions nearly to the degree as do schools in Asia.)

To find jobs which aren’t advertised, you can pro-actively create a list of schools to contact by simply search online for the city and country of interest while including phrases such as “English courses,” “English schools,” or “language schools.” You may also wish to search using the equivalent phrases in the local language. For example, if you wanted to find work with a private language school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, you could search using the following terms:

  • "Rio de Janeiro Brazil English classes"
  • "Rio de Janeiro Brazil English schools"
  • "Rio de Janeiro Brazil English language schools"
  • "Rio de Janeiro Brasil aulas de ingles"
  • "Rio de Janeiro Brazil escolas de ingles"
  • "Rio de Janeiro Brazil escolas de idiomas"

You may be surprised to see how quickly your list grows! Enter the information gleaned from schools’ websites into your spreadsheet. While this process can be tedious, it isn’t difficult and will allow you to jump ahead of potential competitors who are just scanning the ads.

If you would like to save considerable time and accelerate your job search, the author offers, for a small fee, an online database of private language schools and international schools for major cities in several countries. Listings are searchable by city, and by school name and type. For each school in a listing, the following information is provided: school name, street address, phone number, email address, website, and contact name (when provided online). For more information and a quote, visit www.teachenglishin.com or email info@TeachEnglishIn.com.

Craft a Strong Resume or CV

Next you'll need a well-crafted resume. Your resume contains information about your work history, education, and any other relevant experience or skills. In Europe and some other parts of the world, you more often hear the term “CV,” an abbreviation for curriculum vitae. Both a resume and a CV are summaries of your work and educational histories, but a CV is a bit more detailed and generally lists all specialized training you’ve taken, plus any publications. In business, resumes are more common. In education, CVs are the norm. For the purposes at hand, you can consider resumes and CVs to be equivalent, and I’ll use “resume.”

Although you likely already have a resume, you should review and amend it, keeping in mind that you are now applying for a teaching position. Perhaps you were a superb stereo salesman or the best loan processor in your department. Now, however, you need to highlight whatever skills you can which say with confidence: “And I'd be a great English teacher!” Think about the ads you saw online. What are schools looking for in applicants?

As you may never have taught English before, you may be at a bit of a loss as to how to begin. Actually, you probably have more relevant experience than you might at first imagine. Here are some items you might include in your resume:

  • If you have completed a TEFL/CELTA certification course, be sure to mention that at the very top of the Education section. If you haven’t yet completed the course, you can still include it, noting the planned completion date.

  • Obviously, list any experience teaching English. This experience doesn't have to be classroom teaching. It could even be volunteer work. In my 20s I volunteered for two years teaching English, primarily to immigrants. I added this to my resume.

  • But include any teaching experience, on any subject. Include tutoring as well as classroom teaching, as many PLSs have students who want one-on-one tutoring. Were you a teaching assistant in college? Did you tutor in high school while in the National Honor Society? Pick up spending money tutoring other students in calculus? Teach Sunday school lessons to kids? Did you do any teaching as an adjunct part of your job? For example, I worked for a software firm for several years, and while my principle job was implementation, I also spent a significant amount of time teaching users how to use software; that went into my resume. If you think hard, you've probably done some type of teaching.

  • Do you have a particular skill-set or area of knowledge which might be valuable to a specific group of learners? Be sure to highlight any time spent in business, as many students want classes in Business English specifically. Experience in any of these fields is also highly desirable: health care of any kind, hospitality (hotels, restaurants, even bar-tending), and computers/IT. I have a friend with a private pilot’s license who does well teaching English to pilots and flight attendants, who need a specialized vocabulary for their work.

  • Consider what categories of students you might teach and if you have experience working with this group. For example, if teaching children interests you, consider what experience you've had working with kids. Were you a Big Brother? Did you volunteer in the pediatric ward at the local hospital? These experiences are relevant to teaching kids.

  • If you happen to have been an English major in college, great! But even if you didn’t major in it, highlight any English and literature courses you took.

  • Be sure to mention any other languages which you speak and could teach. In Brazil, where I live, many people also study Spanish or French, and PLSs often offer classes in these as well as English. If you can teach another language in addition to English, you would be that much more valuable to the school.

  • Do you speak a bit of the local language? Mention that in the Languages or Skills section of your resume. While knowledge of the local language generally isn't a requirement for teaching EFL, it doesn't hurt to mention if you are conversant in the local language.

  • Do you consider yourself to have a particularly good accent? I do, and noted that I have “a neutral, educated American accent.” A goal of most EFL students is to improve their accents. If you believe that you have a good accent, say so.

  • Aside from skills related directly to English and teaching, what would you consider your strengths? Are you dependable, creative, energetic, a self-starter? These could go in the Objective or Summary section of your resume. If you are a bit older, present yourself as a “mature, dependable professional” with “significant business and life experience.” Have you taken public speaking courses? Had experience visiting your targeted country, or other countries? Include this, and any other information which might make you stand out among the other applicants.

  • Finally, if you happen to have citizenship which allows you teach legally in your chosen country without needing sponsorship or a special visa, by all means mention that. I would feature this fact prominently at the top of your resume and also in your cover emails, discussed below. I have a friend who has dual Canadian/Portuguese citizenship. His Portuguese citizenship gives him the right to work not just in Portugal, but throughout the entire Schengen Area.

The Chronological Resume Format

Take a look at the content of your resume and consider carefully how you want to order it. There is no single correct format. Most often resumes follow a chronological format and are organized as follows:

  • Objective and summary of skills
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Additional (languages, personal information, note regarding references)

The Functional Resume Format

However, as most of those entering the EFL market will be either recent university graduates or those looking to make a career change, a resume following a “functional” format might be a good choice:

  • Objective and summary of skills
  • Accomplishments
  • Capabilities
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Additional

The purpose of the functional resume is to highlight those points which should be of most interest to the potential hirer. But if you prefer the chronological format, certainly feel free to use it. Also, there are innumerable formats and templates you might use. Again, there is no single correct format. Choose a popular one which is easy to scan and then focus on content.

The Personal Touch

A note about including personal information: In the U.S. and some other countries, interviewers are not permitted to ask an applicant’s age, marital status, and certain other information which is deemed personal and generally irrelevant to the position. However, when applying to schools abroad, I encourage you to volunteer information which you wouldn’t consider detrimental. As noted, age isn’t generally an issue, so I’d include it (or birth-date with year). I’d include marital status, too. Pasting a photo into your resume is also recommended. It’s also never a bad idea to mention athletics or hobbies which present you as a healthy, balanced, interesting individual. The person reviewing your resume might even share one of your interests!

Remember, too, that you will also be sending a cover letter or email along with your resume. It will provide another opportunity to highlight your strengths and may be a better place to include glowing, self-laudatory adjectives than your resume, which should focus on the factual and be more staid in tone.

Proof Your Resume!

Once you have your resume crafted, let it sit for a couple of days. Then go back and reread it critically, as the person hiring would. Look for the small things: misspellings, abbreviations which might not be understood, inconsistent capitalization and bulletization, etc.

When you are satisfied that you’ve done your best, have your resume proofread by at least two people you can count on to give you honest feedback. Tell them not to spare your feelings. I suggest asking people who actually hire people — they’ve likely read many resumes and know what separates the good from the bad. The ideal reviewer might be the head of a university English department. 

Finally, save your resume as a Word document or PDF. While I often work in Open Office, I've found that a significant minority of people cannot open files in the "odt" format, so avoid saving your resume in this format.

Let’s now look at two example resumes. The first is for a woman in her mid-20s; the second for a man in his mid-40s.

Woman creating resume
A woman we will call "Jeanine" compiling notes before creating her resume.

Resume #1:

Jeanine Jefferson
934 S. Maple Avenue
Fairfield, IA 52556
Phone: 641-555-1234
Email: jeanine.h.jefferson@gmail.com

Objective

TEFL-certified university graduate seeking a position teaching children in the Republic of China. Energetic, self-motivated native English speaker (neutral, mid-Western American accent) with experience working with groups of children.

Education

International TEFL Academy, Chicago, Illinois, USA
TEFL/TESOL certificate, September 2016   

  • 150-hour on-site program
  • 30 hours of classroom teaching, the majority to children and teens

Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, May 2013

  • 3.2 overall GPA, Dean’s list sophomore and senior years
  • 18 hours of coursework in English and literature
  • Scholarship recipient from Rotary International
  • Financed 75% of educational costs through scholarship and part-time and summer jobs

Fairfield High School

  • Class vice-president, sophomore year
  • Foreign exchange program, Peru, Rotary International, junior year
  • Yearbook editor, senior year
  • Captain, girls’ swim team, junior and senior years

Work and Volunteer Experience

Customer Service Representative, First National Bank, Fairfield, IA, June 2013 - present

  • Responsible for resolving client issues in a prompt, professional manner
  • Consistently met or exceeded corporate sales and service goals
  • Consistently achieved excellent ratings from customers and supervisor

Cashier, University Bookstore, school years 2010 - 2012

Lifeguard, YMCA, summers 2009 – 2012

Volunteer, Pediatric Ward, Jefferson County Hospital, November 2013 – present

Children’s Sunday school teacher, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, July 2013 – present

Additional Skills

Good computer skills, including Microsoft Office.
Speak and write Spanish at an intermediate level.

Personal

Born January 17th, 1991. Single.
Non-smoker, excellent health.
Enjoy swimming and water polo, cycling.

References

Available upon request

Comments on Jeanine's Resume:

While Jeanine’s work experience admittedly is still limited, and she doesn’t yet have an EFL teaching assignment to add to her resume, she has created a resume targeted toward a particular goal (teaching children in China), and highlighted her related experience and skills. She also presents her academic background first, as she feels it to be fairly strong. A few points to note:

Jeanine is targeting a job teaching children in China. She appears to have done her homework, as this is a hot market in China. And she is a young woman, which will likely work in her favor for such a position.

Jeanine’s academic background is fairly strong, and while her degree is in Psychology, she does note that she has a significant number of credits in English and literature. She was also editor of her high school yearbook, implying that she has writing and perhaps organizational and leadership skills as well.

She notes her work teaching children’s Sunday school, indicating that she has some experience teaching children, even if it wasn’t paid work. Her work in the pediatric ward shows further experience with children, and she also comes across as a caring individual.

Jeanine worked during her time in college, both during the school year and summers, and notes proudly that she paid for the majority of her college education herself. Industry and self-reliance are always positives to highlight in a resume, regardless of the position being sought.

Overall, Jeanine comes across as a solid, hardworking, active individual. If she combines her resume with a strong cover email, she should find the type of position she is looking for.

Man creating resume
A man we will call "Fred" compiling notes before creating his resume.

Fred W. Richards

1944 Waco Bend Drive
(281) 239-1606
Richmond, TX 77406
fredrichards46@gmail.com  

Summary and Objective

Organized, mature, dependable individual with a demonstrated track record in manufacturing, banking, and software consulting. An excellent communicator and presenter now seeking to apply his skills in a second career as a teacher of English to other business professionals.

Professional Experience  

USX ERP Software: Partner Services Manager (2009 - 2015)
Oversaw the implementation, training, and support activities of 10 partners servicing a client base of 600+ accounts across the United States

  • Liaised between USX and the partners
  • Monitored partner performance and customer satisfaction
  • Served as troubleshooter, calling on troubled accounts and assuming project management as required
  • Developed and tracked training plans for partners

ABC Software: Project Planning and Estimation Manager (2006 - 2009)
Led pre-sales and post-sales project planning sessions with prospects and clients

  • Served in sales-support role, helping to close numerous deals
  • Assisted in creation of implementation teams and developed client training plans
  • Estimated consulting, training, project management, and programming costs

ABC Software: Senior Consultant and Project Manager (2002 - 2006)
Implemented logistics-suite software at large and small accounts

  • Superior on-time and on-budget track record
  • Conducted software training classes, consistently receiving superior evaluations
  • Served as ongoing client manager for live accounts
First Citizens’ National Bank: Performance Analyst (1997 - 2001)
Industrial engineer for a super-regional bank

Merrick Machining Company: Plant Manager (1995 - 1997)
Plant manager for privately-owned machine shop

Blue Bunny, Inc.: Plant Engineer (1992 - 1995)
Industrial engineer for a large clothing manufacturer

Education

TESOL Certification — TEFL International, 4-week residence program, Costa Rica, 2015

Bachelor of Science (cum laude) — Psychology, Duke University, Durham, NC, 1992

Master of Business Administration (magna cum laude) — Concentration in Finance, University of North Carolina at Charlotte (NC), 1998.

Additional Skills

  • High intermediate Spanish and Portuguese (Latin American).
  • Strong computer skills, including advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office suite
  • Certified Project Management Professional, Project Management Institute, 2008.
  • Excellent presentation skills

Personal

  • Born May 23rd, 1970. Single.
  • Excellent health. Non-smoker.
  • Hobbies include travel and photography. Have visited 25 countries to date.
  • Strong commitment to volunteerism. Five-time volunteer with United Way’s Big Brother Program. Volunteered two years teaching adults to read (Laubach Method).
  • Five-year member of Toastmasters International (public-speaking clubs).
  • Neutral, American “TV newscaster” accent

References available upon request

Comments on Mr. Richards' Resume:

Like Jeanine, Mr. Richards is also clear in his objective: He wants to teach business English to professionals. Accordingly, he didn’t need to tailor his resume dramatically, but kept it essentially business-oriented, while highlighting his teaching experience and presentation skills.

This resume shows experience in manufacturing, banking, and software. He could be expected to know business terms and processes, which will be a definite plus for teaching business English. Richards also had real-world teaching experience at ABC Software.

Richards’ MBA should stand out. He attended good schools. Adding in his new TEFL certification, Richards has a strong educational background.

In addition, Richards has experience in public speaking, and his personal information appears positive and makes him seem like an interesting individual.

This is an appealing resume for any school with students needing business English.

Create an Attention-Getting Cover email

After finalizing your resume, your next step is to create a template email which will serve as a cover letter; you will send this email, with minor revisions, to each school you apply to, attaching your resume.

I believe the cover email to be just as important as your resume: If your cover email doesn't spark interest, your resume may never be read.

So what goes into a cover email? Generally your cover email should follow this format:

  • Greeting
  • Statement that you are seeking a position teaching
  • Summary of your relevant work experience and attributes which qualify you for a job
  • Closing

Comments on Email:

  • Address the email to an individual whenever you have a name, otherwise, “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Dear Director” followed by a colon.

  • If you are applying for a specific position, for example, one advertised online, be sure to note the specific position and where you learned of it. If you can name drop (“Our mutual acquaintance, James Garvey, who used to work at your school, suggested that I contact you.”), do so here.

  • Don’t try to recap your entire resume. After all, it’s attached. Instead, highlight a few points most relevant to the position you are applying for.

  • Important: As many schools prefer to meet applicants face-to-face before extending an offer, be sure to note if you already in town, or when you plan to arrive.

  • Ask for an interview. Don’t just present your information and leave it at that. Ask for an interview. If you don’t yet have Skype, get it, as it’s the de facto standard for online interviews.

  • Always thank the recipient for her time and consideration. Also, it never hurts to work in something complementary, such as how you’ve always wanted to know more about their country, or that their school has an excellent reputation.

  • It's common for people to adopt an informal tone when corresponding by email. Guard against that. You should write in a formal, businesslike style. Don't write as if you were merely shooting off a quick email to a co-worker you already know well.

  • Unless an advertisement specifically requests transcripts and references, don’t send them at this point.

Here are example cover emails, one for Jeanine and another for Mr. Richards:

Dear Mrs. Chen:

I saw your ad on Dave’s ESL Café for a teacher to teach English to children and would like to apply for the position.

In September this year I earned my TESOL certification from International TEFL Academy and I’m eager to begin teaching English abroad! As you can see from my resume, in addition to my TEFL teaching experience, I have taught children’s Sunday school classes for 3 years, so I know a bit about how to keep kids interested and learning. I also volunteer in the pediatric unit at our local hospital, which has given me additional experience working with children.

I would love very much to know China, a country of the past and also the future. I lived in Peru for several months when I was in high school, and truly enjoyed the experience. I’m sure that China will be even more exciting!

My resume and a recent picture are attached, and I can provide a copy of my transcript and references upon request.

I can be available for work with a minimum of notice.

Please feel free to contact me at jeanine.h.jefferson@gmail.com if you require more information or would like to arrange an interview by Skype. My Skype name is jeanine.h.jefferson.

Sincerely,

Jeanine Jefferson

Comments on Jeanine's Cover Letter:

Jeanine’s cover letter notes that she has her TEFL certification and highlights her experience working with children. It does not mention nor apologize for her lack of experience, but instead underscores her desire to begin teaching as soon as possible. She indicates that she can be available for an interview by Skype. She might reconsider the use of exclamation points, but otherwise this cover email presents her in a positive light.

Dear Ms. Fernandes:

Recently you advertised an opening for an English teacher with a business background on the website Transitions Abroad. I would like to be considered for this position.

I recently earned my TESOL certification from TEFL International. During my lengthy business career, I taught innumerable classes and conducted countless presentations, and also trained new hires one-on-one. In addition, I achieved the level of Able Toastmaster-Silver with Toastmasters International, winning many speech contests.

While I am new to EFL instruction, I have much to offer you and your students, including:

* More than twenty years of business experience in diverse industries, from manufacturing to banking to software consulting
* A Master's degree in Business Administration
* Knowledge of business terminologies, processes, and manners
* Extensive experience in preparing and delivering presentations
* An educated, neutral U.S. accent
* An excellent command of grammar (My mother is an English professor.)
* Superior writing skills

I love Brazil, and have visited there 15 times. I plan to arrive before the end of October. Could we meet when I arrive? I can also be available for an interview by Skype at your convenience; my Skype name is fredwrichards.

I am attaching my resume and a recent picture. Copies of transcripts and references are available upon request. Please feel free to contact me at fredrichards46@gmail.com.

Regards,

Fred W. Richards

Comments on Mr. Richards' Cover Letter:

When you have a lot of experience, sometimes the question is what to highlight and what to leave out. Richards’ cover letter shows a strong background, and an abundance of confidence. He already has a knowledge of his destination country, and a more or less firm arrival time. He should receive many positive responses (and in fact he did).

  • Tip: You may want to attach your resume to the cover email but also paste it into the body of the email itself below your name. Some recipients will prefer to have the attachment which they can print out, while others prefer not to have to open one. Also, occasionally anti-virus software may strip your attachment or prevent its being opened.

OK, you have your resume, a cover email, and a list of schools to contact. How you just need to set aside some time, copy and paste, …and push that SEND button!

What Do You Do If You Aren’t Getting Responses?

Hopefully you’ll begin to see some positive responses shortly. But what happens if time passes and you aren’t seeing interest? Here are a few things to check:

  • First, don’t expect an immediate reply. People from other cultures don’t always reply to emails right away. In the U.S. the typical response time may be one or two days. In other countries, a week or more is not uncommon.

  • Ask someone else to review your resume and cover email critically. Again, someone who does hiring will probably be better able to assess your resume.

  • Are you focusing on an attractive locale, and perhaps facing stiff competition from more seasoned teachers? Spain, for example, is extremely popular and schools receive scads of applications. Middle Eastern countries, with their high pay scales, can be very selective. Perhaps you need to cut your teeth in a less competitive market. Don’t worry: There is no shortage of desirable locations!

  • Recall, too, that schools in Europe tend to prefer EU citizens. If you are from the US or Canada and want to work in the EU, try government teachers’ assistant programs for North Americans, or contact schools with “American School” or “Canadian School” in their names.

  • Are you perhaps targeting the wrong type of work for your experience? For example, if you are right out of school, perhaps you don’t have the credibility to teach business English.

  • Could it be simply a matter of poor timing? Schools in different countries hire in different months. Double check whether you applying at the correct time.

  • What can you do to strengthen your resume? Should you reconsider and get a TEFL certification? Could you volunteer with a local literacy program? Volunteer work is typically easier to find than paid work, while still giving you valuable experience — and something else to add to your resume.

You've Gotten a Nibble! Now what?

What should you expect as a response to your queries? In large part it depends on the country you are targeting.

In East Asia, the Middle East, and many European countries, a contract is likely to be offered before you depart home. While you will no doubt be excited, be sure to read it over carefully before signing on the dotted line and heading for the airport. Double-check online regarding the school’s reputation. Is it pretty good, or have numerous problems been reported?

If you applying to a school in Latin America or Spain, you’ll likely find that while a school may express interest, they will want to interview you in person before extending a contract. While this can put you in the uncomfortable position of arriving at your destination without definite work, if you have several schools interested in meeting with you, you can feel more comfortable. Before arriving in Rio, six schools showed definite interest in meeting with me. I interviewed with all six within the first several days of my arrival, was offered work by all of them, and accepted four of the offers, teaching one or two students for each initially.

How much can you negotiate with schools? In my experience, not a lot. If you’ve researched to determine what schools in your desired destination generally pay, you’ll have a good idea if the offer is fair. If you think the offer a tad low, you could ask for a bit more, or perhaps for a transportation allowance.

Another good strategy is to ask for non-monetary perks. You could ask for assistance finding housing, for example. If the school offers classes in the local language to foreigners, ask if they could offer you free or discounted classes.

List of Resume and Cover Letter Don'ts
  • Send a generic application, especially one that has been sent to 100 schools before!
  • Forget to proofread the application for grammar, spelling and punctuation, especially if you are after a job teaching English!
  • Make your CV or Cover Letter overly long!
  • Forget to brush up on your grammar before the interview! We have interviewed many candidates who could not tell the difference between the simple present tense and the present progressive/continuous
  • Go to an interview unprepared, particularly not knowing aspects of classroom management.
  • Forget to write a teaching philosophy and speak about it at the interview (such a document can be requested, but needs to be drawn upon in the interview, especially in describing what sort of teacher you are).

* Advice thanks to Dr. John Goodyear, Director of Studies of the Academy of English, the largest lifelong center of English in Oldenburg, Germany.


Making Sense of the Alphabet Soup of Terms

In your job search, you are certain to encounter several abbreviations, which you may find confusing. Here are some of the more common ones:

  • EFL = English as a foreign language and refers to teaching English in a non-English-speaking country.

  • TEFL = Teaching English as a foreign language. Same as EFL. This term is often used when referring to a teaching certification. Note that it doesn’t this is a general term and does not pertain to one single certification program.

  • ESF = English as a second language. While strictly speaking this refers to teaching English to non-native speakers in an English-speaking country such as the U.S., in practice it is used as a synonym for EFL.

  • TESOL = Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. An inclusive term which encompasses both EFL and ESL.

  • TESL = Teaching English as a second language. Same as TESOL.

  • ESOL = English for speakers of other languages. Same as TESOL.

  • CELTA = Certificate in teaching languages to speakers of other languages is a certification offered specifically by the University of Cambridge. It is the certification preferred by some schools.

Job hunting always contains an element of luck, and it’s a bit of a numbers game. But this is a game rigged in your favor. English teachers are in high demand around the world. Follow my advice, keep after it, and you will land that first job.

And the next one will be that much easier.

John Clites is a U.S. citizen who first visited Brazil in 1993. He immediately fell in love with the country’s incredible natural beauty and its warm, welcoming people. John traveled Brazil extensively before finally giving up his career in software to move to Rio de Janeiro in 2008. John now has permanent resident status.

John divides his time between teaching English, writing about Brazil. His first e-book, Teaching English in Brazil, is available at www.ComeTeachEnglishInBrazil.com. He recently published a second book, entitled Live Well in Rio de Janeiro: The Untourist Guide, which is available on Amazon. In his free time, he enjoys photography and hiking.

If you would like to save considerable time and accelerate your job search, for a small fee John can provide a listing of private language schools and/or international schools for most cities in most countries. For more information and a quote, visit www.teachenglishin.com.

Related Topics
Teaching English Abroad
Creating an International Resume
More Articles by John Clites for Transitions Abroad
Teach English and Living in Brazil: Now is the Time to Go
Living Abroad in Brazil as an Expat
Is Teaching EFL Abroad for You?
The Many Types of English as a Foreign Language Jobs
Requirements for Teaching English Abroad
 
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