Just Who ARE You? Put It On Your TEFL Resume
Ready to get a TEFL Job? Great! But before you start sending out applications for a job in your new career teaching English as a Foreign Language, it pays to craft a great resume. If you’ve ever had a job before, you’re familiar with most of the aspects of a decent resume. But, there are a few points you’ll need to consider when you look at sending out resumes to jobs overseas.
A Resume By Any Other Name
First of all, we call that sheet of paper with all your vitals and work experience on it a “resume” in the States. But in many countries they call it a CV, short for “curriculum vitae.” In the US, a CV and a resume are two different animals—CVs being longer and more detailed and academically oriented, and resumes being short and sweet. But when you’re perusing job listings for first-time teaching jobs, when you see a CV is required, rest assured, they want your resume.
All Your Deets—Name, Age, Sex and Nationality
Secondly, resumes for TEFL jobs often incorporate some information that you wouldn’t ordinarily put on a resume in many Western countries. Where we shy away from including photos, age, gender, place of birth and nationality on domestic resumes, when you apply to a company overseas, they’re usually looking for this information somewhere handy where they can reference it. I recommend putting all this information up top on the resume’s header.
A lot of first-time teachers from the West feel uncomfortable about adding a photo to their resume. But, look at it this way. The school you’re applying to overseas will probably hire you without an interview at all—or possibly only with a phone interview. It’s unlikely that they’ll meet with you face to face, so they’ll want a photo to help remember who you are and be able to recognize you when you do get hired. They also want to see if you look presentable—do you have facial piercings? Did you bother to find a photo that makes you look professional? While it’s illegal in some countries to discriminate based on appearance, unfortunately in many countries where TEFL jobs are located, it’s expected that they will take how you look into consideration.
Age, nationality and gender are also important additions on the resume, for practical reasons. Some countries, like China, have age restrictions on the visas for foreign teachers. It makes sense that schools know your age up front so that they know right away if they can get you a visa or not. Nationality is important for the same reason. The institution may be restricted by local laws to hiring certain passport holders. And gender, while there are fewer restrictions regarding this, might be a necessary factor for your employer’s consideration when you are applying to all-boys or all-girls schools, or in certain countries in the Middle East. Also, people who speak English as a foreign language (e.g. your new employer) may not know just from your name if you’re a man or a woman.
What You Did and Where You Did It
On the bottom part of the resume, you’ll be expected to write your education and your relevant work experience.
If you’re a true newbie and have never taught TEFL before, you might be worried that your resume looks a bit sparse. That’s OK. If you don’t have any teaching-related jobs to put down, I recommend listing your education or training experience before you detail your work experience. If you’ve completed a TEFL certificate, be sure to list it prominently and write in the description how many hours it took and if you did it, how many hours of observed teaching practice. You can describe the kinds of observed teaching practice that you did, too. (Young learners, one-on-one, etc.) Don’t forget to put all of your higher education down as well on your resume, even if your degree or training programs were not related to TEFL. A bachelor’s degree or higher is necessary for getting some working visas, so it’s a good idea to list it, even if it’s in molecular biology or something else completely unrelated to teaching English.
You can also include any coaching or mentoring experiences you’ve had in the past in different jobs or volunteer positions, because while they’re not strictly TEFL related, a good boss will recognize that the skills cross over.
For the work experience portion of your resume, highlight jobs that had to do with coaching, training or mentoring, and leave off long descriptions of irrelevant positions. You may be proud of your 14 years in retail—and rightly so—but the people hiring at a language school are mostly interested in the fact that you held a job for that long, not in the ins and outs of what you accomplished while on the job.
Try to keep your resume to one page, or two at the most. For this reason, most TEFL resumes I’ve seen leave off unrelated bits that we sometimes see on other kinds of resumes. Skills, hobbies, conferences and other bits of bio-data are not necessary to include on your TEFL resume unless they’re somehow teaching or language related. Do include a section about your foreign language abilities, if any.
Include references if you have enough space to do so. If not, just note that they are available on request. Surprisingly few employers actually follow up on references even though they really should, but that’s a different story.
So there you go . . . Good luck and happy job hunting!
TED’s Tips™ #1: Keep your resume short and sweet, but if you have relevant coaching, mentoring or training experience, don’t forget to include it
TED’s Tips™ #2: Cultivate and include references who can speak to your mentoring, training or coaching abilities, even if they’ve never seen you in an EFL context.