Friday, 14 March 2014

Writing a good CV for TEFL jobs

What sort of CV (resume, if your prefer) is going to impress a DoS (Director of Studies) in a language school? Who better to ask than DoS at IH Barcelona, Evelyn Byrne...

"What am I looking for? Someone who's got a good qualification from a reputable place," is Evelyn's immediate answer. She expanded on that: she'd much rather see a Cambridge English qualification (CELTA, that is) and tends to be choosey about where it was taken -- like, at what centre.

"Personally, I'm looking for Young Learner skills -- ideally a qualification and experience, because that's what is the demand is for. Upstairs in Company Training they want business skills but like most language schools we sometimes find it hard to meet the demand for properly qualified teachers for young learners."

A professional looking CV

And as for the CV itself? "Nowadays, most look very professional," Evelyn says. So don't, whatever you do, send off CVs that you hand wrote in pencil on a page ripped from an exercise book (and, believe me, I've seen some!).

"Oh, and don't include a lot of irrelevant professional experience," Evelyn says. Like, if you worked in four different jobs as an accountant, or as a cinema usher, is it relevant? Now, on the other hand, if you coached a football team for 14 year olds, or worked with immigrant kids from deprived backgrounds, make sure you include that (particularly when you are starting out, having just done your CELTA, and are struggling a bit to find relevant teaching experience).

Meanwhile, along at Human Resources...

Along the corridor in the Human Resources Department, head of department Olga Luna agreed with that. "Keep it to one page if possible, two at the most, and I'm really not interested in your school leaving certificate, or where you went to primary school, if you've got a university degree... Or a driving licence, either, if it's not relevant to the position you're applying for". So that's probably one thing you can leave off to keep it down to one page.

What you want is to look like someone the DoS wouldn't mind sitting in a classroom to be taught by.

Olga also likes to see a good quality photograph too (no excuse for that nowadays, either!). A black-and-white image, one that has been reproduced from several early generations of photocopies, one that makes you look like a mad axe man is not going to land you an interview, far less a job.

It's not necessary to be wearing a tie in the photograph, or look like you've just had your hair done for a school prom; what you want is to look like someone the DoS wouldn't mind sitting in a classroom to be taught by.

And up in Company Training...

IH Barcelona also has a Company Training Department, which sends teachers out to companies to do business (and non business) English classes.

Director Bob Flory was someone else who stressed putting where and when you did CELTA, and what grade you got. "Your qualifications are the first thing we look for," says Bob, "so it's not a bad idea to put that section first. And remember to put things from most recent to oldest."

"You definitely need to personalise the CV for the job you are applying for," Bob says. Up in Company Training, for example, that means highlighting what businesses you might have worked for, in what capacity, what real world experience you've got -- because they're really looking for business experience. Four years as an accountant just might interest them -- while it probably won't interest the DoS in the language academy round the corner.

What to include

  • What grades you got (especially if they were good!): an "A" or "B" on CELTA means you stand out. Merely "CELTA" on its own is the minimum expected
  • Any teaching experience, the levels and ages taught
  • Any teaching, training or coaching experience (private classes... ? sports...?) even if it wasn't language teaching
  • Any other relevant work experience, including job titles, your responsibilities and achievements
  • Your language skills -- because your experience of learning languages is something that is relevant to a teaching post


  • Make it easy for the reader to scan -- using bullet points and by minimising the number of words
  • Use the minimum number of words to make the maximum impact
  • Do run a spell check on it (and remember that spell checkers are not infallible!)
  • Get someone else to read over it and make constructive criticism of it.


  • Don't include lots of irrelevant work experience.
  • Don't make handwritten amendments to your CV - retype it!

What makes a CV stand out from the pile

  • Your name is at the top, in a font size 4-6 points larger than the rest
  • It's got your photo on it
  • It's printed on decent paper, possibly very pale yellow or gray
  • It's well-organised

When you have finished writing your CV, ask yourself whether or not that what it says is going to make you stand out in the pile of other CVs from aspiring English teachers; if it's not, go back to the drawing board!

Bob must read literally hundreds of CVs -- a point worth remembering when you start to write yours. A busy DoS is probably not going to waste much time on yours if you've not gone to a certain amount of trouble over it.

See also

Adapting a CV to make it more attractive

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