Resumes for Teaching English Abroad

Are Resumes and CVs for Teaching English Overseas the same as “Back Home”?

Generally speaking, no.

Get used to the idea that the work scene overseas is very different from the one back home. Employers WILL want to see your photograph. Will ask you about your family. Will ask your age. Will ask if you are married, maybe even why not, if you aren’t.

Okay, not always, but it is not unusual, overseas, for people to ask many questions that would be illegal in many Western countries. In their country they are legal and, in their eyes, legitimate questions.

They Have Their Reasons

Work visas for English Teachers often require that your passport be from a country they deem as being English speaking. Age, is sometimes limited for certain kinds of visas. Men, may not be allowed to teach at a women’s school (Saudi Arabia for example) and on and on.

Get over it

Decide now if these issues really bother you. If they do – you may have some difficulty landing a job – or even surviving in non-Westernized countries.

What to put on your Resume or CV

Traditional resumes are fine, but be sure to put the essential information near the top where your potential employer can see it quickly. Technically, a CV is a much more academically-oriented form and more detailed, but you’ll find the terms resume and CV used somewhat interchangeably overseas. Keep them both to two pages or less, anything more than that is probably not going to get read.

If you are an older person, like me, put a cut off point in time to limit how long your resume will be. Do they really need to know that you worked for McDonalds 35 years ago?

Conversely, if you are very interested in teaching in a particular specialty – Business English, Science English, Hospitality English – be sure to include your experience in that area to strengthen your position.


Most countries will want a photo attached to your resume. Passport size, top left corner. Not everywhere is the same, but not a big deal if you put it on the wrong corner. It is usually okay if you print it on the resume.

Make sure you dress and appear professionally in the photo. You won’t believe the photos people submit when applying for jobs. It is as if all reason hath departed when heading overseas.

Age, Marital Status, Sex, Nationality, Dependents

Get used to it now. If you don’t include this information, and the employer has many applicants, guess where your resume will go. In some countries, if you do not include this information, they will assume you are hiding something.

Get used to the idea that not everyone thinks the way you do or has the same rules or standards. That people and cultures and countries are different is what makes the world all so interesting.

It’s okay to be creative

Avoid templates, you blend into the background as if you weren’t there. Try something creative. Use color, give it shot. Try a Google search for “creative resumes”. But don’t go too overboard.

I once had someone give me a resume in which a guy and his girlfriend were both looking for jobs so they split the page down the middle with his resume on the left and hers on the right. Not recommended.

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Put a professionally taken photograph on your resume with you dressed in formal work attire with a pleasant smile. Many cultures put heavy emphasis on appearances. Appear professional, it will make a difference. Have at least twenty copies made. I promise you will need them.

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Put what the employer needs to know at the top of your resume. Help the employer screen you in by putting your qualifications for the position right at the top. Don’t make them search for a reason to hire you. Give to them right up front – at the top.

Finding a Job Teaching English Abroad #1

The Job Search in TEFL

I hope you already read the previous post about finding a TEFL position that fits well with the skills and experience you may already have. That approach is simple and moves you in front of the pack of people just looking for “any old job” teaching English.

The point I want to make today about the job search, and it was mentioned in the previous post too, is to not apply only to schools that are advertising. In fact, your best strategy is to apply to schools that are not advertising. I landed three of my last four college/university teaching positions at schools that were not advertising at the time

There are many reasons why this is the best strategy, but I will highlight the two most important ones.

Schools often don’t like to advertise and interview candidates.

Schools don’t usually have human resources staff who take this time-consuming task for them. The person responsible for fielding applications, questions and sorting out interviews and hiring is already busy with their full-time job teaching. Other teachers are not usually too excited about being asked to “sit in” on interviews either.

So . . . interviewing and looking for new people is not a favorite task among teachers – at any school. The department head would be very happy to have a qualified candidate walk in the door and present themselves for the opening that may be coming up soon or that already exists. Or have your resume/CV and smiling photo arrive in the mail.

The Numbers Game

I had a friend once who was looking for a job in a language school in a city that had about ten major schools. Most of those schools had about four to eight teachers. Those schools rarely advertised as they were looking for a native-speaking foreigner and most of the schools had no idea how to get one without using a recruiter.

Yet my friend was hesitant to knock on a couple unadvertised doors.

Let’s look at the numbers though. Ten schools with an average of about six teachers each. That means sixty teachers all rotating in and out. That means – on average – one opening every week.

Most people will give a month’s notice for that kind of job and so we have at least four openings that schools know about at any one time. So about a 40% opportunity that any school you go to will have an opening coming up or an opening right now that they need to fill.

And won’t they be relieved that they don’t have to do a load of interviews?

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Don’t wait for a job to be advertised. Beat the crowd and just go get it.

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Schools and especially colleges and universities often know when other schools have openings. If you are polite and conduct your search in a way that reflects well on your – they will often tell you about another school that has an opening if they don’t.

Why fight the competition? Just out think them.

Using Current Skills to Teach English


Find your Special TEFL Skills

Most people just grab the first TEFL job that comes their way – I certainly did. No big deal.

But, the really smart people (I said I didn’t do it, remember?) analyze their previous job experience and try to find a TEFL job related to that.

This is assuming, of course, that you enjoyed something you did in the past.

What you Already Know is Powerful Stuff

Believe it or not, I have taught with, and taught (as a teacher-trainer) petroleum engineers, accountants, lawyers, nurses, ship’s pilots, factory managers, artists, designers, social workers, journalists, travel agents, and many other people from very diverse backgrounds.

All these people had very specialized skills that are needed in the TEFL world. They had in-depth knowledge of specialized vocabulary, processes and procedures that schools and businesses value. You too, probably have such skills.

The Best Way to Market Yourself in TEFL

One very nice way to upgrade where you might teach, is to go and find a college, technical school or university that teaches that special skill your work history has given you.

Wouldn’t an engineering school or tech company prefer an engineer to someone with no knowledge of their field? I know nothing of design and mathematics!

Wouldn’t a nursing school or international hospital prefer a nurse or medical assistant who knows the specialized vocabulary of the field?

Wouldn’t a large international accounting firm prefer an experienced accountant?

Wouldn’t a college or university prefer someone who knows exactly the stresses and challenges their students are facing? Of course they would.

Other Benefits of this Job Search Method

Other than the fact that teaching ESP (English for Special Purposes) almost always pays better than teaching General English, you will also find people with whom you share similar interests and knowledge.

And where better to find friends in your new country?

If you can’t find such a job at first, don’t forget to keep looking. They are out there, usually pay better – and you will enjoy yourself more.

My Good Luck

I’ve had the good fortune to teach ESP classes in every country in which I have worked. They always paid more and they were always more interesting.

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Search the Internet for colleges and universities and large corporations in your target country that specialize in what you already know. Approach them first and be sure you have highlighted your related skill in your resume/CV.

Their students are always more motivated because you are literally there to help them do a better job with their English speaking customers and sometimes even their English speaking boss(es).

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Just because a school isn’t advertising doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for a teacher and/or don’t need you.

Smart people approach schools when they aren’t advertising – and avoid the flood of applicants. It is a way to lessen the competition for that ESP job you want.