Just Who are You? Your TEFL Resume-CV

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.

Teaching Internships in China




How to Write a Teaching Resume CV

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.

But, Why?

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.

Say “Cheese!”

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.

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Resumes and CVs for Teaching English Abroad

Things are different now. The work scene is not the same as back home. Employers will most definitely want to see your photo and they will ask a bunch of questions . . . questions that might be inappropriate, strange or even illegal back home.

They will ask about your family. They will ask your age. They may well ask if you are married and if not…maybe they will ask why not? In their eyes and in their country these are legal and legitimate questions.

Every question has a reason

When you need a working visa it is often required that you need a passport from an English-speaking country, or a country they see as English-speaking. Amongst the other questions you’ll find reasons such as the fact some visas have an age limit or even, for example, in Saudi Arabia, men may not be allowed to teach at a girl’s or women’s school.

Build a bridge and get over it

If you have a problem with these questions and issues now, you should know that you may have some difficulty finding a job or even surviving in a non-Western country. Will it bother you?  Can you get over it?  Make the decision before you decide to make the move.

What should be on your Resume or CV?

A CV is technically a more detailed and and academically-oriented form, but overseas it will often have the same meaning as a resume.  Make sure to put the most important information near the top so that your employer will see it easily at first glance. Keep your CV/resume two pages or less.  If it is more they most probably won’t read it.

If you are a little bit older, like me, decide where to stop in time. Including working for McDonald’s 35 years ago will probably make your resume too long.

Add your experience working  in specific job areas if you are interested in teaching in a specific field such as Business English, Science English, Hospitality English – it will better your chances and strengthen your position.


Most countries will ask you to attach a photo to your resume. Generally this should be a passport size photo, attached to the top left corner, or it is usually okay to print it on your resume. If you put it on the wrong corner it is not such a big deal, don’t worry.

Age, Marital Status, Sex, Nationality, Dependents

You should get used to providing this information – if you don’t, your resume might end up in the trash. If your resume is without this information they will assume that you are hiding something.  A language school will want to know right away if you have a wife (or husband) and six kids who will need to live with you in the tiny studio apartment they provide for their teachers.   There are reasons for everything that you can’t quite understand – yet.

You are going to a different country with a different culture – you won’t think the same or have the same standards as them, get used to it and enjoy the difference.

Be creative

If you make your resume creative – like adding color – you will not just blend in, you will stand out. Find some creative resumes on Google. Give it a shot, but don’t go overboard.

I once received a resume in which a guy and his girlfriend were both looking for jobs so they split the page right down in the middle, with his resume on the left and her resume on the right. Not a good idea and not recommended.

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Have a professionally taken photograph ready to add to your resume, dress well in work attire, be neat and show a warm smile. Appearance is an important aspect in a lot of cultures, be professional – always. Make at least twenty copies, you will need them.

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Put all your important, must-know information, on the top of your resume. If you put your qualifications for the position right at the top, you will help your employer with the screening process. Don’t make them go on a hunt for a reason to hire you.  Just give it to them by making it visible.

Teaching Internships in China