Finding a TEFL job
So how do you find that perfect job? Finding a job is always a pain, doubly so in TEFL where you might be searching across a bunch of countries with different standards, all while trying to dodge the fakes and fraudsters. Let's dive in.
First up, you need to find out what a standard position is, at your skill level, in the country/countries you’re looking for.
The best way to do this is by searching through job adverts and noting down the main features of the teaching positions (salary, accommodation, flights, institution etc.). After 10-20 you’ll get a feel for what is standard.
If you can’t find enough job adverts then try and find the same information from one of the large TEFL employers in your chosen country and use that as a standard.
This baseline will be important later to a. help us spot the genuine jobs and b. stop us from being taken advantage of. Once we've educated ourselves we can look at the three main routes for finding a job.
- Take a TEFL course with a provider who’ll give you a job.
- Work with a recruiter
- Find a job yourself.
The first is fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll focus on the second and third.
Working with a Recruiter
Why would you want to work with a recruiter?
- They know the country you want to teach in.
- They’ll know the job market and what’s available. They probably have a bunch of contacts.
- They’ve done this process many times before and can help you smooth over the details.
Why might you not want to work with a recruiter?
- You might get paid less than if you got the job direct from the school.
- They might only care about filling positions and you could end up in a job you don’t really want.
If you don't have the experience or have no idea what to do, then going with a recruiter may not be a terrible idea.
If you can find an honest recruiter who’ll give you the support you need, both in getting the job you want and then dealing with any problems which might come up down the road, it's extremely valuable. This can occasionally feel like a hunt for a leprechaun riding a yeti, but good recruiters do exist.
Recruiter Reviews - Spotting the good ones
Unfortunately it’s difficult to get an impression for a recruiter without actually using them, so our first tool and probably your immediate instinct is to rely on reviews.
When reading reviews bear two things in mind: firstly, people are more likely to post a bad review in outrage than a good review when they’re happy (sadly rage tends to be the best motivator) and secondly bear in mind the recruiter's point of view.
At the end of the day the recruiter needs good candidates to place, in order to make money. Just as there are bad recruiters, there are also a lot of bad teachers who will waste time, drag out recruiters and then complain about them.
I say this because if you discard every recruiter who has one negative review you will find no recruiters ever. You'll have to use common sense.
Try and get as much background to the reviews as possible. Is there just one negative review, or are there loads? Do the reviews mention the same problems or do they all talk about different things? Read everything. If it's a forum thread try and get a feel for the people (maybe read other posts they've written) and take everything with a giant pinch of salt.
Better still ask around offline. Getting a review off a friend who's character and perspective you know is always going to be the best recommendation you can get.
(A point to remember when dealing with recruiters is, the better the candidate you are (i.e. the easier they can sell you), the nicer they'll be and the better experience you'll have. )
Finally reviews are good but your own instincts are going to be your best guide, which brings us onto the next point.
Contacting recruiters - The most important part
Contacting a recruiter doesn't mean you're committing to a job or anything else. It's just the first step in what might hopefully be a very useful relationship.
If you're not sure about a recruiter after your online research then there is nothing wrong with giving them a call and getting an impression about them that way. Do your research on positions and the jobs available in your industry beforehand (Remember step 1, setting expectations?) and call them.
Then when you talk to them, here's a useful checklist:
- When you’re talking, ask them questions you already know, test their knowledge. Make sure the picture of the industry they paint, is the same as the one you've got. Ask about standard salaries, working conditions etc.
- Ask more technical questions about visas and taxes, it'll help you discover if you're putting yourself into the hands of someone experienced. Honesty and experience is what we're looking for.
- The recruiter will have placed other teachers, get some references you can contact, then Skype them. (I say Skype because an actual conversation is far more useful than an email.) Find out what sort of support they've got since starting their job, how smooth it was getting the job. (You're obviously unlikely to get anyone who hates them, but person to person people can be surprisingly honest.)
Same as when searching for a job yourself, ignore anyone who wants money upfront or who tries to pressure you into decisions. Be wary of anyone who avoids questions, or doesn’t give you enough information.
Everyone in the business understands there are some shady people out there and won’t mind you being careful.
A recruiter can be a really useful way to get a job and a good recruiter can be an important source of support as you start teaching abroad, just make sure you’re careful when choosing one. (And there’s nothing wrong with using more than one.)
Searching by yourself
Where do you start searching for jobs yourself? One word: teflSearch. Is it ok to have a one word knowledge base article, because that’s definitely it. A powerful search, clear job adverts, easy way to apply, what more could you want?
Well I’m slightly biased, but online is typically the best and easiest place to start your search for jobs. Let’s suppose, horror of horrors, that you can’t find anything useful on teflSearch or for some weird reason you don’t want to just use one site.
There are a whole number of useful job sites that are worth checking out, TEFL(.com), The Guardian TEFL Jobs page, International House Jobs, British Council Jobs, Dave’s ESL Cafe, Ajarn (Thailand), Gaijin Pot (Japan).
Once you've found a number of places to look and built up a list of possible adverts, it's time to fish out the genuine adverts. (Some sites are better than others for this, for example: we try to monitor all the adverts that go up at teflSearch and The Guardian adverts are so expensive, that it's very unlikely they're adverts for fake positions).
We've separated this into its own knowledge base entry because it's quite a large article. You can find it below.
How to spot TEFL scams and bad employers online
This section of the knowledge base covers what to look for online to make sure a job posting is genuine and how to filter out bad employers. Click here to read it.
Contacting schools by yourself
Now hopefully you’ve got a short list of jobs in which case it’s time to start firing off applications. However if you haven't found anything through adverts, we need to start contacting schools individually.
Our school database is a good place to start and I’d also recommend the one over at Oxford Seminars. (You have to pay to unlock the contact details I’d just recommend Googling the schools name, trying to find a website and going from there.)
For teflSearch we've had to reach out to a number of schools and we've had a pretty good success rate of them getting back to us. We also received a number of job offers too, which was a little peculiar seeing as we were trying to promote a website.
When you're emailing foreign schools, unless you’re 100% sure you’re emailing the person who deals with recruitment, just send an email asking who to talk to about teaching English. There's an example email shown below. If you don't get a response in a week you should follow it up later because emails get lost or forgotten very easily.
Subject: Teaching English at "Blank"
I was wondering if you could help me, who would be the right person to talk to about teaching English at "Blank"?
So hopefully you’ve got either a bunch of adverts or a bunch of schools who you can apply to. What’s next?
Writing a TEFL CV & a TEFL CV Sample
First here’s an example CV in case you need a layout. You should re-arrange it so as to highlight your strengths.
Tailoring a CV with no experience teaching English
If you’re just out of university and are trying to put together a targeted TEFL CV with no experience, then you’re going to want to keep the focus on extracurricular experience and your education.
The biggest problem you need to solve, is how to take what you have and apply it towards teaching. What are some good targets for this?
- The obvious choice is anything involving leading/positions of authority. A teacher has to be able to control and direct a class. Leadership experience is easy to apply to teaching.
- Organised study groups are great as well, doubly so if you organised them. Study groups are spent teaching and helping each other out, which is easily applied to teaching. (Because it is teaching...)
- Any sort of performance or activity which involves speaking in front of people can be applied, for example: drama, debating clubs etc.
- Learning languages. If you're learning a language then you understand both sides of the classroom. Also if you're learning the language of where you want to teach, that's an excellent reason for wanting to go. The school will want reasons why you're not just going to disappear.
If you’ve got a couple years’ experience then you get the opportunity to cherry pick a little more (still keep it to a one page CV) and highlight all your accomplishments. This is quite difficult to comment on as it's so personal.
It's nearly always good practice to keep a CV at one page (you can often shrink the margins to get more room), unless you’re applying for highly skilled positions which genuinely require the detail. Recruiters and schools get large numbers of applicants and even two pages is a lot when you're wading through 60 resumes.
Some sections you might want to add to the sample layout CV which I left out are: Professional Development (perhaps you've attended multiple seminars and are a member of teaching organisations), publications (if you’re going the academic route) and references.
Here are some useful other resources for tailoring your CV to teaching English
This is by far the best resource for TEFL CV advice, it's full of practical advice on what to highlight from your experience and what stands out in a job application. Go through each section of your CV with the checklist. Click here to read it.
While not quite as good as the above article, the top post in this Reddit thread has some really good summary points about what you should be fitting into your CV. Click here to read it.
There are two parts to getting ready for an interview.
The first is making sure you’ve got a list of everything you want to know (the top of which should be talking to some teachers who are already there.).
It's always better to fire off those questions now rather than after you've been offered a job. Have a quick read through the living abroad page, this should prompt you for any things you should be thinking about with respect to living conditions.
As with a lot of these things, the devil is in the details; find out the size of your apartment as well as just if you get one, find out when you'll be paid your airfare reimbursement and any conditions on it. Make sure to check those details!
Alongside all the living and organisation details, you should also ask any other questions you have about your teaching job and make sure you know all of your responsibilities. And as good as a vocal reassurance is, remember there's nothing better than having it written down.
Finally remember you're still on the lookout for bad employers. We covered it in the recruiter section but it's just as important with a school. If they attempt to pressure you into a decision, if you feel they're not providing enough information and don't know what they're doing feel free to stop the process here. The interview works both way. Remember to get the contact details of current teachers to talk to, because they'll be your best source of information.
The second part of interview preparation is being ready for their questions. Below are useful resources to help you prepare for possible questions. Again you might not be asked the questions word for word, but these questions cover enough ground that you should be able to twist the answers to what you face.
The one thing missing from most of these resources is the country specific questions. For example there's an excellent, somewhat old article on Quirky Japan Blog about Japanese interview questions. It talks about large number of them focusing on cultural issues and making sure the writer will fit into a Japanese company. So as well as making sure you're prepared for the teacher questions (below), make sure to research country specific ones!
Another great reddit thread. This is a list of common TEFL interview questions and answers for them. Not all questions have answers, but plenty do and it's still a great resource for questions. Click here to read it.
This is from the Kent University TEFL careers page. Although the questions are aimed at JET candidates, the first section will work for any position and if you're applying for JET then all the questions are good! Click here to read it.
This list of questions is from the University of California, San Diego. Although it's aimed at teaching not specificallyTEFL, it's still an excellent list of possible interview questions a teacher might get. Click here to read it.