People often ask if there any difference between the resume they’d use at home and the one they should use overseas.
My answer is – yes!
As a newbie to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), you should embrace the idea that the hiring processes and requirements abroad can be very different from in the West.
For example, most employers will expect to see a current photo of you. They’ll ask you to be candid about your family situation, your age, your marital status (and maybe even—if you’re single—why that is so).
You personally may not be asked all of these questions, but it isn’t unheard of for overseas bosses to put their nose into business of yours that would be considered illegal to ask about in many Western countries. But, in many cultures, these questions are not only legitimate to them, they’re legal.
One reason that they may ask for some of these sensitive details is because they want to make sure they can get you a proper working visa. There are countries that only issue work visas for English teachers who are from a specific list of nationalities. Other countries have age maximums and minimums to adhere to. There are yet more stipulations, of course—for example, in Saudi Arabia men are not allowed to teach at women’s schools. It goes on.
Go with it.
If you’re going to have a harmonious working experience overseas, you may have to decide not to let this kind of delving into your personal life bothers you. If it is a big deal, then perhaps you need to look closely at your resolve to go abroad to teach.
So, how do I write the darned thing?
You should format your teaching resume much as you would a resume for another job in your home country. However, I’d urge you to put the essential information topmost so your potential employer won’t have to spend more than a few seconds finding it.
A CV is generally more academic and more detailed than a resume, but both the terms “CV” and “resume” are in common use overseas to mean basically the same thing. Whichever you use, it shouldn’t go over two pages.
If you are, like me, rich in life experience (ahem, older…), then you don’t need to list every last job you’ve had since graduation. Include only the more recent years of your work.
On the other hand, if you have the chops that will earn you a specialized position—in a kind of English for Specific Purposes, perhaps—then of course you need to clearly relate your experience in that area, even if it might have been long ago.
For the photo, you don’t need to submit a portfolio of glamorous fashion snaps, but you shouldn’t put just any old photo on your resume either. Most countries’ employers are used to seeing resumes/CVs with passport-size photos printed at the top left corner of the first page. Some countries may prefer the right corner, but it shouldn’t matter too much.
What does matter is that you’re nicely dressed and groomed in the photo—that you look like a professional. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen plenty of bad examples from people who generally had brains and should have known better.
Your Particulars: age, gender, nationality, single or not, children or none
It might seem strange at first to include this information on your resume, but you’d better get used to it. If you haven’t included these remarks, then you’ll go to the bottom of the pile if the potential employer has a wealth of teachers applying for the position. In fact, depending on the culture, if your resume doesn’t clearly state your age and other statuses, your employer may think you have something to hide.
Not everyone in the world has your same mores and standards. It’s truly because people have different perspectives on things like this that the world is such an interesting place to travel and live in.
Out Damn Template, Out!
If you use some old template that came with your word processing software to make your resume, you can be sure other teachers have done the same. So kick out the designs that will make your CV look like just another piece of paper and try for something more creative. Google some examples of this, or experiment with colors and fonts. But, don’t go crazy. You can do yourself harm if you make your resume too outlandish.
For example, I once saw a resume in which a couple were looking for jobs together—so they put his details on the left and hers on the right. I wouldn’t recommend something like this.
Ted’s Tips™ #1: Let your resume photo make the best first impression you can. Have it professionally done, wear formal business clothes and a friendly smile. If you appear professional it will make all the difference in getting you a good job. Also, get a lot of copies of this photo printed—at least 20. You’ll need them. Sooner or later – I promise!
Ted’s Tips™ #2: Don’t make the employer read all the way through the resume to see if you have what it takes to do the job. Put all the relevant information up at the top—this will help him/her screen you in, rather than out.