Finding an English teaching job abroad always starts with your resume and in this post we’re going to show you how to craft a solid TEFL resume step by step. In addition, we’re going to explore the most common mistakes that job candidates make in their resume and how you can avoid them.
Let’s get started!
The anatomy of a TEFL resume
First, let’s begin with what a TEFL resume should look like. In general, your resume will be divided into the following three sections:
- Contact information
- Work and volunteer experience
Let’s get into more detail what each section should include.
This section of your resume should have general information about yourself. For example, you should add your personal contact information, your overall objective and a photo of yourself.
- Your personal contact information will be your current mailing address. This includes your name, city and postal address. Make sure to add your email address to your resume because this is the most common form of communication during the application process.
- Your objective describes the intent of your resume. The main purpose of it is to identify your professional goals in the position you’re applying for. If you’re sending your resume to several schools, then you should customize it according to the job posting.
- It’s common to affix a photo of yourself to your resume. If you don’t send one and it’s required in the job posting, it’s almost an automatic way to get screened out. In the employers perspective, they just want to put a face to the resume.
The education background section of your TEFL resume is where you summarize any of the degrees and certifications you’ve obtained.
- For college and university degrees, you will first add the type of degree such as a Bachelors or Masters program. In addition, you will include the name of the university and the period of time you attended.
- Employers abroad often prefer candidates who have certifications such as TEFL, CELTA or TESOL. If you have taken a certification course, be sure to lay out the program you were enrolled with and how long it took you to complete it.
Work and Volunteer Experience
- The work and volunteer sections are where you can showcase your professional teaching and non-teaching experience. In general, your most recent work experience is at the top and oldest is at the bottom.
- For your work experience, you will include your job title, the company name and the period of time you worked. It’s common practice to add bullet points that summarize all of your roles and responsibilities.
- Volunteer experience is just as important as your professional work experience, especially if you are a recent graduate. Similar to your work experience, you will list your title and the volunteer organization. Then, you can include your duties in point form with bullet points.
If you don’t have any direct teaching experience in a classroom, be sure to read below for tips on how to “transfer” your skills from your past employment.
Common TEFL resume mistakes
Cater your resume to the job posting
When you find a job posting you want to apply for, you should rewrite it according to the criteria needed for that specific job.
If the company decides it’s important enough to be a required qualification, then it should be important enough to add as part of your resume.
First, highlight each job qualification one-by-one. After you’ve reviewed all the necessary qualifications, you can describe your relevant skills. Now, you can rewrite your resume using the job posting like a checklist.
I understand that it takes more time to do it this way. But if you do, your resume will match the specific criteria required for that job. Only this way, you can guarantee not being screened out as an applicant.
Stay consistent with grammar and punctuation
The most common mistake that I see in TEFL resumes is that the verb tense, punctuation and grammar points are inconsistent. This commonly happens when candidates list their work experience.
For example, I often see verb tenses are inconsistent when they are in bullet point form. If you use past tense, then you have to stick with it throughout. Try not to alternate between present continuous (-ing), present simple or any other verb tense.
For punctuation, you should finish your sentence with a period. Oddly enough, they’re easy to forget on job resumes. Try not to mix periods with semicolons or ampersands.
Finally, when you’re finished writing your TEFL resume, have someone else look over it. Does it sound natural? Is it grammatically correct? Does it flow well?
What about work experience?
It’s all about transferable skills
It’s rare that any candidate has all the necessary skills laid out in the job posting. This is especially true if you’re new to the industry – after all, everyone has to start somewhere. So, if you are missing some of the requirements, it’s all about transferable skills that you do have.
For example, teaching often requires standing and speaking in front of large groups of people. When was the last time you presented in a work setting? If you speak at conferences or lead groups of people, this is your transferable skill set.
Have you ever trained anyone in the job? This in itself doesn’t make you a teacher but it’s definitely a transferable skill that you can add to your TEFL resume.
Volunteer for work experience
If you don’t think you have any transferable skills, then volunteer to gain those skills. Because the more you think of it, the more you realize that volunteering is a win-win situation.
It’s a win for volunteering organizations because they can fill in the gap with a capable teacher like you. Literacy groups, churches and community clubs are always accepting ESL teachers. Just ask around.
It’s a win for you because you gain valuable work experience for your resume. And not only do you volunteer your time to help a cause, but you get a preview of the teacher setting you’re seeking.
Don’t forget that volunteering has different levels of commitment so go at your own pace. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for you to get your foot in the door.
Take a TEFL certification course
The result of obtaining a TEFL certification is two-fold.
First, you can brush up your English grammar skills. Even though we use English everyday, we forget the technical aspects and underlying grammar points. Most TEFL certification tests your proficiency in this respect.
Secondly, TEFL certification often gives you teaching experience. You often create a lesson plan for a specific grammar point. Then, you implement it and get relevant feedback from others in your class.
Overall, TEFL certification can give you a big boost on your resume. But I can’t recommend it to everyone – especially if you already have a teaching degree.
More ways to help your TEFL resume stand out
Beforehand, try to build a set of ESL worksheets or lesson plans that you can use in the classroom. If you do land an interview, show them to your potential future employer. It shows that you’re eager and serious about becoming an ESL teacher.
Hiring managers are most impressed by a candidates website. If you’re serious about getting hired, your own personal website may be the best way for you to really stand out from other candidates. Moreover, it gives you more exposure than a single page resume.
Tutor in school
Even if you’re still young and you want to become a teacher, try tutoring at your school. Not only does it help you become more proficient in a particular subject, but it helps you build confidence in yourself.
Age is just a number
Teachers come in many different ages. It’s never too early to plan your teaching career. On the other side of the coin, it’s also never too late to be a teacher too. Teachers range in all ages – from college graduates to retirees.
Final thoughts on TEFL resumes
Today, you’ve learned how to craft the perfect TEFL resume – if you follow these steps, you can significantly boost your chances of becoming employed.
Did we miss anything? What’s your favourite TEFL resume tip we missed?
Please let us know with a comment below!
Thomas Berg is a retired ESL Teacher from Japan and South Korea and author of AllESL.com, a website for ESL teachers and students of all ages.