As part of one of my jobs teaching EFL in Thailand, I used to work with the Thai administration going through resumes (CVs) from other western teachers applying for jobs at the school. What struck me at first look was how many of these western EFL/ESL teachers had no idea how to write a resume or what to include to make sure that dream teaching job was theirs.
With basic resume writing skills necessary for any job nowadays, if you’re looking for an EFL/ESL teaching job in Thailand or anywhere else overseas, they’re even more important. In many countries, that resume is the only chance you’ll get to make a good impression as, unlike the US, many schools only interview a couple of people for the job as they hate to waste time. Make sure, if you want that job, you’re one of those people interviewed. Here’s how to write the perfect EFL/ESL resume to get there.
Personal Details – Along with the usual Name, Address and Telephone Number, for any job as an EFL teacher in Thailand you should also include your Nationality and a photograph.
Nationality is important as, in some countries, the school can only get a work permit for certain nationalities who wish to teach in the country (usually only those from countries where English is the native language – the US, England, Australia, Canada etc). If you don’t put your nationality then they find out you’re from Belgium, it’s a waste of their time and yours if, with that country’s laws, they can’t hire you.
A photograph is also important as, unfortunately, in many countries the way you look is 75% of getting the job. If you’re covered from head to foot in tattoos, are over age 60, are enormously overweight or, in some countries including Thailand, black, your chances of getting a job teaching EFL fall to about 10%.
As unfair, racist or bigoted as that is under American and European standards, it’s unfortunately a fact of life teaching EFL overseas in many countries. So why, again, waste their time and yours when you walk through the door and you’re 70 years old, there’s no chance in hell they’ll hire you? After all, look at it this way. If you do include a photo showing your tattoos, your ethnicity, your size or your age, and the school calls you for an interview, you already know there’s no discrimination at this school and they’ll hire you if you’re a good fit.
As far as the photo, I always included one of myself smiling. There’s nothing more pleasing to schools in many countries to see a probably very happy EFL teacher wanting a job at their school. Imagine how lovely they think you’ll be working for them.
Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation – Over the time I looked at EFL/ESL resumes, I lost count of the number that included blatant grammar, spelling or punctuation mistakes. Think about it. That school is hiring you to teach their students correct English. If you can’t even be bothered to check your grammar, spelling and punctuation before you mail your resume, why should they bother interviewing you, let alone hire you?
Highlight Your Teaching Experience – While you may have worked for five years at a local 7-11, or built communes in Argentina, unless your experience is directly relevant to teaching English as a Foreign Language, leave it off your resume.
A school in Thailand, Japan, Spain, Mexico, or anywhere else in the world, that’s hiring EFL/ESL teachers is looking for experience directly relevant to how well you’ll do your job teaching EFL for them. If your job building communes in Argentina included teaching English to local farmers, or shows you can live in difficult circumstances overseas, leave it on. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. It’s not relevant and won’t help you get your dream EFL teaching job.
Also, don’t forget any volunteer work you did that falls under ‘teaching’ or ‘I can survive in a foreign country’. It may not have been paid but it is relevant.
Make Your ‘Interests’ Look Active – For many overseas schools, they worry about getting old, unhealthy men as EFL/ESL teachers who may not be able to do the job they’re paying for or who may take too many sick days.That’s why it’s particularly important if you’re over the age of 40, male or female, to highlight interests on your resume that make you look active.
Walking, hiking, playing tennis, scuba diving, tennis, even golf are more likely to pacify a potential employer than reading, watching movies and eating at local restaurants.
Don’t Forget About Your Degree – If you have a university degree, say so. Which university did you earn it at?What year did you graduate? What was your major (and minor if you have one)?
If you do not have a university degree, do not lie and definitely do not buy one of the ‘fake degrees’ online. Many overseas schools are now checking university degrees with the school you say you graduated from and, if they find out yours is a fake one, not only will they not hire you but, in some countries, you can be arrested and deported for using illegal documentation.
Final Points – Lastly, your resume shouldn’t be more than 1-2 pages, they don’t need a novel. It should be nicely laid out, look professional, include a professional-looking photo at the top and always include a cover letter mentioning the specific job you’re applying for.
Finally, double check that your phone number is correct. You may be surprised to learn how many EFL teachers I’ve called only to find out they’re not at the number listed on their resume and they never were. That one incorrect digit could cost you the job.