As you already know, creating a positive first impression is key to landing any job, and nabbing a coveted position to teach abroad is no different. However, if you’ve never applied to an international school before, you may have no clue how to impress a potential employer and increase your chances of nabbing a job offer.
No worries, we’ve got the inside scoop. Follow the tips below to maximize your odds of landing a teaching job abroad—and start a thrilling new chapter in your life!
Let’s start with the resume
Let’s start off with learning how to draft an unbeatable resume. We recommend writing your resume first because it’s essentially the blueprint for your cover letter, as it features relevant work experience, skills, and education. If you try to write your cover letter first, you’re bound to forget some key details!
Now, it’s important to clarify that the ideal teaching resume isn’t a resume at all. Rather, it’s a curriculum vitae (or CV), named after the Latin phrase that means “the course of one's life”.
A CV is longer than your standard resume and it contains a greater level of detail. This distinction is important because newbie teachers often lack traditional teaching experience. Writing a CV, instead of a resume, allows you to expand on the reasons why you would be an exceptional teacher, such as academic honors, volunteer experience, and language skills.
In the United States or Canada, you would never disclose your gender or marital status on a CV. However, other countries don’t necessarily have the same privacy laws or customs as North America, so be prepared to get personal on your teaching CV. Also, factors such as your age, are important in determining whether you would qualify for a work visa so it’s understandable that schools will need to know this information upfront.
Information you may need to disclose on your CV will vary from country to country, but it could include:
- Citizenship and nationality
- Marital status
- Any valid work or residency visas
Certain countries, especially in Asia, are keen to see what their future teachers look like. So, including a headshot-style photo on your CV is a great way to get your application noticed. It’s best to have your photo taken professionally. However, if funds are tight, a friend with a good quality camera will suffice.
Put your TEFL certification first in the “education” section on your CV. Write down the accredited institution that awarded your certificate and how many hours it took to complete.
Next, include your education information, starting with your most recent school. Most international schools require teachers to hold a Bachelor’s degree, so make sure that your education information is clearly noted.
Let’s get into the meat of your CV: your career experience. Start with your most recent position and list your current and past jobs, while clearly stating the employment dates, each company’s name, and its location. Don’t hesitate to include volunteer positions and less formal work—like working as a babysitter, au pair, or camp counselor—especially if you’re in your early 20s and new to the working world. Any experience you have working with children counts!
Go into detail about your responsibilities, along with any accolades you may have earned, with your prospective employer in mind. Shine a spotlight on any information related to teaching, childcare, mentoring, or even working in an international milieu. These details could give you an edge over the competition.
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Skills, awards, and extracurriculars
To further enhance your CV, consider adding separate sections for “skills”,
“awards”, and “extracurricular activities”. Prospective employers, for instance, want to know if you speak any foreign languages, if you mentor children or volunteer with non-profit organizations, or if your academic or personal accomplishments have been awarded.
Any additional information that demonstrates that you are an independent, well-rounded candidate is applicable here. After all, besides having teaching chops, you must be able to navigate the potential obstacles that arise when you uproot your life to move abroad. Show them how ready you are!
Your next step is writing the cover letter
Now that your resume is ready to impress, let’s tackle your cover letter. The following list includes certain topics and information that you should address:
- Lead with the position you’re applying for. In the first sentence of your cover letter, you should clearly state which teaching job you want to be considered for. Don’t make the hiring manager—or your future boss!—hunt around for it.
- Ditch the “Dear Sir/Madam” opening. Never assume gender when you’re writing a cover letter. If you can’t find who to address it to, simply start with “Dear Hiring Manager” and go from there.
- Keep it brief. If your cover letter doesn’t fit on one page, you need to do some editing. A single page is enough space to include everything you need to say.
- Make it personal. Don’t write a generic cover letter with the intention of submitting it to multiple international schools. Recycling a cover letter may speed up the application process, but it won’t give a potential employer the impression you’re enthusiastic about their school or that you have anything special to offer them.
- Don’t get flowery. Keep in mind that the person reading your cover letter may not be a native speaker of English. So, aim to express yourself in clear, concise language.
- Highlight your relevant experience. Ask yourself, “Why am I the ideal candidate to teach at this school?” Lead with your teaching experience, followed by your knowledge of other countries, such as whether you’ve traveled or lived abroad. Then, discuss your interest in teaching and how their particular school could benefit from hiring you. Make them a pitch they can’t turn down!
- State your English proficiency. Be sure to include in your cover letter whether you’re a native English speaker or non-native one. Some schools also like to know what accent you have (for example, British vs. North American).
- Disclose your availability. Let your prospective employer know when you would be available to begin working. For instance, if you’re finishing up your Bachelor’s degree and won’t be done exams until May, make those dates clear.
Putting on the final touches
At this point, your CV and resume should look polished and professional. Follow these three final steps before you click the submit button:
- Check for spelling errors. Carefully edit your cover letter and CV yourself with the help of a spellcheck program. Afterward, ask a trusted friend to read over your application for errors.
- Skip the unusual fonts. If you’ve typed up your application in a non-traditional font, do yourself a favor by pressing CTRL+A and switching to a professional typeface like Arial or even Times New Roman. Trust us, it makes a difference.
- See how your application looks IRL. To ensure your formatting is A-OK, print out your resume and cover letter before applying. Having a hard copy of your application gives you a clear idea of how it will appear to a potential employer. After all, even if you’re submitting online, the school abroad will likely print out the applications to review them.
On a closing note, happy job hunting! With the help of this guide, we hope you’ll soon be embarking on the life-changing adventure of teaching abroad.