What You Need Before You Apply for TEFL Jobs

Putting It All Together

Before you start applying for jobs overseas as a new teacher of English as a Foreign Language, you need to make sure you have everything you need ready, so you’ll be able to field requests for interviews and job offers with ease.

Here’s what you need:

A Passport

This is the number one, gold-star, most important thing you need before you even look for a job overseas. No employer will take your interest in working overseas seriously if you don’t have a passport. Plan this in advance as it may take a few weeks to get a new passport processed. Many job applications require you to send in a photocopy of your passport along with your resume, so get this done first!

Now, some people, especially people who have traveled abroad before and know how vital a passport is, may get cold feet about sending their passport details around to strangers. They worry about identity theft, or that some other kind of scam will result. However, the risk of having your passport details stolen is very slim (passports are hard to counterfeit), and you’ll not be taken seriously by employers if you don’t provide this. It’s a calculated risk, but really, not much of a risk at all.

Passport-Style Photos That Make You Look Employable

For travel purposes it doesn’t matter if your passport photo makes you look like a hobo living under a bridge.  It just has to look enough like you that the immigration officers are satisfied. But, you’re going to need lots of small photos for your job application paperwork, your visa paperwork and possibly for other uses, as well, like staff ID cards and embedding on your resume (you know to do that, right?).  You could try your luck with a pro photographer, or get a friend to try their hand at making you look professional. However, the cheapest, easiest way to get these photos is to put on a nice, collared shirt, comb your hair, and get some more passport-sized photos done. Wear a dark-colored shirt (it shows up best on the white background) and be prepared to get lots more of these made throughout your career in EFL. Ideally, wear your “Sunday Best” outfit.  Shirt, tie, jacket for men.  Professional suit or similar for women.

A Well-Thought-Out Resume

Your resume for TEFL (also called a CV in many parts of the world) should highlight your skills and personality. Even if you’ve never taught English before, you probably have transferable skills from previous jobs or volunteer positions. Take a look at our post on how to write a great TEFL resume.

Certified or Real Copies of Your Diplomas and Certifications

Merely listing your qualifications on your resume will probably not be enough for the hiring process overseas. Even if your employer couldn’t give two hoots whether you went to a community college or an Ivy League university, unfortunately the government agency handing out working visas may want tangible proof of either. This will depend largely on the country that you work in, so do your homework on what’s required. In some countries; Japan and Korea, for example, you’ll need hard, true copies of your four-year university diploma. Other places just need a photocopy or a scanned, digital file. Here’s a good tip—things sometimes get lost overseas, or in a bureaucrat’s office, so you won’t want to take your only, original diploma. Instead, contact your alma mater, pay their fee, and get a “true” copy (a new “original”) sent to you before you start seeking jobs overseas. Also, have photocopies in black and white and in color, and a scanned copy on your computer or saved in your email. The same thing goes for any other important educational certificates and your TEFL certificate.

An Email Address that Sounds Vaguely Professional or Neutral

Most job queries for TEFL jobs are done via email. So it’s important that your email address be one that’s easy to understand for non-native English speakers (as your employer will likely be). YourName@Whatever.com is a good one; KitTiKat785Cute@Whatever.com is not. 

Additionally, it’s good to have:

A Skype Account

Other VOIP services are also good, but Skype seems to be the most widely used around the world. It’s best to have an account ready in case a prospective employer wants to give you a phone or video job interview (audio is usually fine).

Letters of Recommendation

I’d say that most employers abroad aren’t going to pay much attention to your letters of recommendation, unless they’re from previous TEFL employers. However, they can’t hurt.

The Contact Information for a Doctor or Clinic to Give You A Check Up

Some countries (China in particular) will want you to get a doctor’s sign-off saying that you’re in good health and fit to teach before they’ll issue the paperwork with which to get your working visa. This can be expensive, so I’d say to wait until you have a firm job offer before actually getting the check-up, but doing your research ahead of time will save you from scrambling to find a suitable physician while your new boss waits.

A Video Demonstration

It’s easy and quick to make a short video of yourself teaching a mock lesson to “students” or at least introducing yourself to the camera. You can post this on YouTube or another service, and provide a link in your cover emails. While of course this video won’t be an accurate depiction of a classroom experience—unless you can co-opt 10 English learners to help you  make it—it will let prospective employers hear what your spoken English sounds like and illustrate that you’re a hard-working, go-get-it kind of person.

A System For Recording Job Applications

Applying for jobs overseas isn’t the same as applying for ones in your hometown. Unless you move to the country first and then look for work, which I actually recommend in most circumstances, you may be spreading your net looking for work over several different nations. After the first five or so applications it can be difficult to remember where you’ve applied, and which school is in which country. Was “English Hope” in Spain or Turkey? What about “A+ English?” A spreadsheet showing the name and location of the school, the email address or other contact information you used to submit the application, and the documents you submitted will help you not only for this job application, but in the future when you’re looking for your next TEFL job.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  If you don’t supply your passport details and other pertinent information asked for in the application, schools are unlikely to offer you a job – how else do they know if you’re really serious about applying?

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Even after you’ve secured employment, keep all these documents handy, especially the scanned copies. They will be useful time and again throughout your career overseas.

TEFL Educator / TEFL Boot Camp

Teaching Internships in China





Where and How to Start your TEFL Career

Finding That First Job Teaching Abroad

Fantastic! You’ve decided you want to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). But, now what?

There are a few more questions you need to find the answers to before you’ll be able to greet your first set of students. You’ve got to decide which country you would like to work in, and make a realistic estimate of how much money you would like to earn, including how much money you need to save.

Balance these wishes with an assessment of your qualifications and how many English teaching positions are available in your target region.

Also, think about the following:

Teacher Training

I always recommend that new teachers do some kind of teacher training course before they begin teaching. It’s good for the teacher and very good for that teacher’s students. When it’s possible, I also recommend taking a training course in the country in which you would like to teach. Even doing the training in a third country may benefit you more than doing it in your home country.

For starters, taking your training abroad affords you the opportunity to dip your toes into what it feels like to live overseas – trust me, it’s much different from the experience of going on a vacation or short trip (or even a long trip) to another country. Secondly, while abroad you’ll network with teachers who are already there and maybe one of them will turn up a lead on a good job later.

Additionally, when you do your teaching practice as part of the training course, it’s a huge advantage to you if the students you are practicing with are similar to the ones you’ll be paid to teach when you land your first job. Knowing some of the particular quirks of a country’s students will give you a head start in the classroom if you’re a brand-new teacher.

Every country’s students have their own different learning problems when it comes to English – pronunciation, grammar, syntax. I’ve taught EFL in four countries, and every one of them had different learner errors. Even experienced teachers need to research and plan for new learner errors when they switch countries.

A final advantage to taking a teacher training course in the country you wish to teach in is that you’ll be on the ground and able to interview in person for the job. In the interview you’ll be more confident, knowing that you’ve been taught what that particular country’s students want, need and expect in the classroom. In different countries, EFL teachers will be wise to take different approaches to how they structure their lessons, for example, in Thailand students love playing English games as a way to learn target grammar and language. However, a similar group of students in Saudi Arabia would not appreciate playing around. This kind of thing is key to know BEFORE you do your interview.

This knowledge will also come in handy if you are asked to do a ‘demonstration’ lesson.  This ‘demo’ is, in some countries, requested as a part of the interview. If you have been trained to know what the interviewers are looking for in the demo, you’ll be way ahead of the other newbie recruit who just stepped off the plane with no idea of for what their prospective bosses are looking.

Don’t dismiss the monetary appeal of taking a TEFL training course overseas, either. Often, it’s cheaper than taking it at home – both in tuition and in the cost of food and lodging during your course.

Headhunters – and Can You Trust ‘Em?

Whether or not you do your training abroad, it’s time consuming finding the right overseas jobs to apply for. So, another major decision you need to work out is if you want to use the services of a recruiter. You will hear a lot of back-and-forth between experienced English teachers over the benefit or harm a recruiter can do you.  Many people believe you should absolutely never use a recruiter because of their own bad experiences. Yet others believe recruiters are in a position to negotiate a better deal with your new boss than you would be able to if you approached the job by yourself.

I think both ways can be fine—I’ve done both.

For my first job, I used a recruiter. I experienced some problems, but the recruiter solved them all. Because I was not yet confident and really didn’t know much about the business yet, you could say I was a true newbie, having a recruiter took a lot of the pressure off of my shoulders.

However, there are some recruiters in operation who simply look at you as a way to get their finder’s fee from the school. They’ll stick you in any old job as quickly as possible and won’t care if you are suitable for the school or if the school (and location) are suitable for you.

Whether you use a recruiter or not, it’s a very good idea to get in contact with other teachers who are working at the school where you might teach before you sign the contract. Ask the teachers what problems they’ve experienced and if they are satisfied working there. Make sure to also ask “Why?” if it looks like there are problems or if the teachers are unhappy.

More Food for Thought

Browse through the other posts on this blog and you’ll find a lot of other things to think about before you begin teaching overseas. I hope the blog is helpful in reaching your dreams of teaching abroad.

But quickly, here are another few things to think about when you start looking for a position teaching:

1) What demographic are you interested in teaching? Do you want business people, hotel and hospitality workers, young children or even nursery-age kids as students?

2) Is it important to find the job before you go overseas or is it easier to find a good position from the ground? The answer to this question depends a lot on what country you’re targeting and how much confidence you’ve got in yourself.

TED’s Tips™ #1: When you’re starting out, you should know that there are some countries that are considered easier— more”Newbie Friendly” if you will—than others. For example, the Middle East and Europe are a bit harder going in for the first time. By contrast, China and Korea are easier for newly minted teachers. They often hire from abroad and pay the airfare and accommodation of their teachers as part of the salary package.

A lot of new teachers dream of teaching in Thailand because of the beaches, good food and interesting culture, but it’s not the easiest place to work, and they don’t often hire from abroad and you’ll need to foot the bill for your housing and plane fare.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Make a budget and stabilize your financial situation before you go abroad. You also need to estimate what your financial situation will be in the new country. You wouldn’t want to get settled abroad and then realize that you can’t meet your financial obligations at home if you have student loans or other obligations to meet.

Teaching Internships in China


TEFL Job Options: More than you Know

What kind of TEFL job can I look for?

We have no idea how many types of TEFL jobs exists…more than what we know of, more than we can imagine.

EFL instruction is needed in almost every area of any kind of International business and or industry.

Most non-English speaking countries have big EFL industries to teach English to children and or adults. Their universities have EFL programs for students.  But these are the more traditional jobs.

More TEFL Options

International airlines often need EFL training for their staff, as well as travel agencies and tour guides, resorts and hotels, scuba instructors and just about anyone who is dealing with tourism and hospitality.

International hospitals in major cities around the world hire EFL staff to teach their nurses and staff how to communicate with their patients, who come from around the world.

EFL instruction is even needed in the Army, Navy and Air Force as well as the Police Force in countries and cities where English speaking tourists and residents are common.

This is good news!

This means that as a newbie in the TEFL world you may be able to find a teaching job related to your interest and previous employment. If you have the experience in a specific field you would be considered a natural. You will have the knowledge of the special vocabulary and specific terminology. You willl be the preferred hire.

Keep an open mind

You need to get creative looking for all those job possibilities. They exist but not all of them are traditionally, regularly and widely advertised. The most obvious place to ask about these jobs would be the Internet’s TEFL discussion boards. Be careful though, many of these jobs might are not familiar to the typical poster on the Internet’s TEFL discussion boards and you may hear your question or idea pooh-poohed.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Find a job related to your skills and experience.

Almost everyone has a unique set of skills, talent and experiences in different fields. If your skills are worth anything, exploit them and use them to your advantage.

TED’s Tips™ #2: The best job might not be splashed online

If you are looking for an English teaching job in a specific field, don’t expect to find the job in the traditional ‘TEFL teaching jobs’ section online. It might not be advertised in the usual way. It might not be advertised at all!

One of the best examples is the Resort and Hospitality Industry. Many major five and six star resorts don’t advertise their job openings because they will get swamped with eager applications from eager applicants wanting to get a “dream job” in a resort setting. If you have experience in the hospitality industry (waiter/waitress, hostess etc), take the chance and call the resort to present yourself, even if it is unexpected.

An example from the past: A few years ago LeMeridien Resort on Phuket Island advertised for an English Teacher. Sixty people applied, but only twenty were willing to travel to Phuket for the interview. In the end only three showed up! If you have the specific industry experience and if you know what and how to teach, you have a huge advantage!

TED’s Tips™ #3: If you want to work in an “outside the box” occupation like TEFL, it is good to consider conducting your job search in a non-traditional manner. There are some quite unusual settings for you to work. More options than you can imagine.

Teaching Internships in China

Getting your First Job Teaching English Abroad

Nervous about landing that first Job?

Don’t worry about it . . .

Welcome to a new world where the job search and even interviews very rarely have that dehumanizing and degrading aspect that we are all so familiar with from job hunts in our Western world.

Yeah . . . the demand for EFL teachers worldwide is so great that you will find it surprisingly easy to land your first job offer.

They are looking for YOU – not the usual other way around.  But take your time, find the right position and make sure you will be happy.

Whether thinking about a two-year “lark” teaching overseas – or if you would like TEFL to offer you a long-term career – give this website a good read. No, we don’t really have all the answers, because the answers are as individual as each person thinking of entering the field.  But we do have about 100 posts to help you learn more and get yourself up to speed.

If you are interested in trying your hand at teaching English overseas, but don’t yet want to commit to a one-year contract, go over to
TEFL Temp where information about short-term TEFL positions is posted. Some are as short four months and sometimes even include airfare and training. Hard to beat that!

TEFL Newbie was written by a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana from 1989 to 1991 (me!) who designed the site with the complete “Newbie” in mind and answers just about every question you might have about Teaching English Overseas.

Once you land that first job – put what you have learned on this website to work!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Like finding a job in any industry, that first job may not be perfect – nor the one of your dreams. But it is a start. Just because you are heading overseas, don’t let your head get stuck in fantasyland. It is still a job, things are still required of you and your new employer will expect you to deliver. It is all part of growing up – even if you are already in your 60s.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Go on over to TEFL Boot Camp and give that website a good read too.  Much of the content on that website is FREE.

Teaching Internships in China


Apply for that Job: Cover every Angle

Recently a reader asked:

This might be a weird question but one thing that I have been wondering is if I should straighten my hair for my resume picture. I am mixed, although you couldn’t tell with my skin, and have extremely curly hair.

My hair doesn’t look bad or anything it’s just often times curly hair can be looked at as “crazy” or “wild”. This may not seem like something that employers actually look at but I know from experience that it is. So what do you think?

That was a good question – so here it is featured as a post and my answer was:

Your question is not so weird. It is good that you take an analytical look at things and try to find the best path. Sometimes the fine line between making the cut for a job and not making it can be pretty subjective, especially in many countries where just about any kind of discrimination is legal.

I can’t tell you what is best for you, but I certainly – when applying for a job – minimize anything about my appearance that could distract an employer from finding out that I could just be the best teacher they ever hired. That means I usually cut off my beard for a photo shot and leave it off for the interview and it slowly drifts back . . . It also means that – since I am “mature” in age – that I have the picture “Photoshopped” to take a few wrinkles/years away.

I wouldn’t suggest doing anything that so dramatically changes your appearance that your employer won’t recognize you on the job, but anything you can do to tilt things in your favor – do it.

If you have a goal, do everything reasonable to make it happen. My beard is not so important to me that I would give up the potential of a job I really wanted. People who get all self-righteous on such things often minimize the possibilities in their lives.

TED’s Tips™ #1: You are more than smart enough to decide what will work best for you!
Go get ‘em!

Teaching Internships in China