How to get hired as a TEFL teacher?
Do you want a teaching job abroad? Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is an excellent way to teach and travel globally. How do you get hired for a TEFL job? How can you find jobs in different areas around the world? How should a TEFL CV/ Resume be structured? How should you prepare for your TEFL interview? What are some of the things that teachers experienced when they were job hunting? In this blog post, we will all answer these questions and more!
How to get hired as a TEFL teacher?
- Do a TEFL course and earn a TEFL certificate.
- Decide where you want to go.
- Contact schools in that country or ask your TEFL school to help you.
- Take the interviews offered.
- Accept the offer you like.
- Send the documents required.
- Book your visa.
- Book your flight.
So these nine steps above are a quick glance at what you have to do to get hired as a TEFL teacher abroad in your dream destination.
The steps are fairly straightforward, so I will only go into detail below on the main steps and hurdles of today’s topic of How to get hired as a TEFL teacher? Let’s do it!
(If you are wondering if you are required to have a university degree, teaching experience, and a TEFL certificate to teach abroad, keep reading until the end, where I will go over that issue and give you a story about it!)
Do a TEFL course and earn a TEFL certificate.
One of the first things to do to become a TEFL teacher is to get TEFL certified if you haven’t already done it. Each school you apply to will ask you to send them a copy of your TEFL certificate before hiring you.
It proves to the school that you are serious about the profession and that you have received formal training on how to teach the English language to EFL students and that you were taught to conduct classes correctly.
The school will also need it to arrange your work permit so you can work legally in that country.
To earn a TEFL certificate, you must take a TEFL course which is offered online, in most Western countries, and countries abroad.
There are many TEFL course providers that you can choose from, but it is always best to do your own research first before signing up for anything.
Decide where you want to work as a TEFL teacher.
This sounds simple, right? But the reality is that the location you choose to apply to will determine how you should approach the interview and what to expect from the job.
It is stricter finding a job as a TEFL teacher in Asia than in Europe or Latin America as they have higher requirements. For example, they only hire people from the 7 native English speaking countries of Ireland, the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa.
It can be an unfair rule at times as people from outside these countries can obviously be fluent in English or grew up in these countries but have a passport from another, which is a shame.
The countries in South East Asia such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines can be very laid back which is great if you are also laid back. It would not suit an overly strict and controlling teacher.
Many schools in SE Asia even told me that having a calm and laidback personality was something they actively looked for in a TEFL teacher.
Since most teaching positions are in language schools that the students attend outside of school hours, they do not want the children to feel the same pressures or be reluctant to participate in the school. People usually learn better in a relaxed environment compared to a stressful one.
In Japan, South Korea and China, you could say they are relatively similar. It is not like they seek out very strict teachers to fill the positions. They, too, just want teachers to carry out their job professionally, which is a fair request.
The work ethic in these three countries is quite different, however. It is not a laidback atmosphere, and much more could be asked of you, and it would not be good to be seen as lazy in countries where your reputation comes above all else. This does not always apply to foreigners, but it is good to know!
The only thing I would do differently if I were to apply to Japan, China or South Korea is not to mention I am a very laidback person as it ould come across the wrong way. Instead, I would stick to saying I’m diligent, conscientious, and all the other synonyms of hard-working that you feel you are.
You can work as a TEFL teacher in most European countries with the exception of Ireland and the UK as they are both native English speaking countries.
European schools are not extremely fussy and have simple requirements for their TEFL teachers. You must be fluent in English and prove it via an exam or video/ phone interview with the school, and you must have a TEFL certificate at the minimum.
The majority of teaching jobs in Europe are with language centres and would pay by the hour.
The gorgeous countries in South and Central America are currently in very high demand for TEFL teachers. This leads to there being very few requirements to teach English abroad here.
You must be fluent in English and also possess a TEFL certificate, that is all.
Your nationality is not an issue here compared to Asia, and schools are very accepting.
The demand for TEFL teachers in Latin America is higher than ever because most TEFL teachers choose to move to Asia and the Middle East for higher salaries. What most forget to consider is the cost of living in those areas is also much higher.
Choosing a lower salary for a much cheaper cost of living can usually be a better option.
Contact schools in that country or ask your TEFL school to help you.
Suppose you got your TEFL certificate from a reputable TEFL school or TEFL provider, then they will generally include job placement assistance as part of the package. Once your course is completed and you passed you can ask them to give you a list of schools to contact or inform you of any job openings in your preferred countries.
If you choose to do your TEFL course abroad in the country you plan to live and work; the process then becomes far easier. Schools will sometimes hire a TEFL teacher that is already in the country before a TEFL teacher that is far away as it makes less paperwork and effort for the school.
Let’s say, for example, you do your course in Mexico for four weeks. During the course, the trainers and staff from the school will begin to organise job interviews in local schools in that city or in cities of your choice.
Usually, the case is you give them a list of three cities you hope to work in, and they will focus their attention on finding interviews there.
This can save you a great deal of hassle, and you can trust the schools you are interviewing for are legitimate schools as they will most likely have a past relationship with the TEFL school from previous TEFL teachers sent there.
You will also have a letter of recommendation from the TEFL school, and most of the schools in the area will know you graduated from the local TEFL school, which will vastly increase your chances of getting the job.
If you do a course online or decide to job hunt by yourself, then there are other ways of finding TEFL jobs.
You can search the cities you want to go to on Google Maps and type in schools or language centres, and you will see a list pop up for you to choose from.
From there, you can find their email addresses and begin to reach out to them individually and ask if they are interested in hiring the best gosh darn TEFL teacher in the world… YOU!
Another method is to search for TEFL jobs postings online. Here is a list of the most popular websites to find ESL jobs online:
Your CV / Resume
This is a pretty important part of the process. Your CV is the first thing a school sees about you, so you want it to be as impactful as possible.
Firstly, be sure to include a recent photo of yourself as this is a requirement for many schools.
You should also focus on teaching as much as possible. By this, I mean to include the times in previous jobs where you had to train new staff members or speak in meetings or even if you were part of the debate team in school or coached the local kid’s football team at summer camp. Every little helps!
These aren’t necessarily things you would mention on your CV typically, but you are trying to showcase to the school that you have previously taught or trained people and that you have done public speaking by addressing a meeting room full of people.
If you can speak other languages, it is a great help to share this on a CV. It shows you have an understanding of language, which would make it easier for you to express it to students.
Education is also essential to highlight. Make sure to include many of the topics you covered in your TEFL course and where you excelled. Also, be sure to include the number of hours your course took to complete. 120 hours is the industry standard, and it is what most schools require.
Lastly, do not lie on your resume! While we all may be guilty of puffing ourselves up on paper when trying to get our first job in the local supermarket or restaurant, it is not a good idea to risk it when applying for a job overseas.
You probably would never get caught, but it is still not a good habit to begin, and if it was ever to come to light, then you could find yourself jobless and thousands of miles from home! A white lie to you or me may seem insignificant, but dishonesty in some cultures is taken very seriously.
How should you prepare for your TEFL interview?
Once you start to put yourself out there, you will get some replies and arrange to have a Skype or Zoom interview with a member of staff from the school.
Check out our handful of helpful tips on how to interview to get hired as a TEFL teacher, which isn’t much different from any other interview other than emphasising the skills the school says they require on their job advert:
It seems like a no brainer but showing confidence is important because the person interviewing you expects you to have the ability to control a classroom full of students and to do that, you need to be confident in yourself and assertive but not overly so. If you come across as shy, they may not think you have what it takes to handle 10 or 20 screaming kindergarteners.
This is also very important as your job as a TEFL teacher is mainly to speak to the students. It would be best if you showed the interviewer that you can communicate clearly and non-English speakers will understand you. Do not mumble or talk into your chest during the interview. Try not to speak too fast, also.
If you have an accent, then it may take a bit more effort, I know from experience!
Emphasise the important skills:
Like what I mentioned about the CV, if you have any previous experience teaching, training colleagues, coaching sports, or public speaking, this is the time to bring them up. Interlink those past skills with how they will benefit you as a TEFL teacher.
If you have never done any of the above, do not worry! It is not the end of the line for you. Be honest with your interviewer at all times and tell them that you have never personally had experience teaching or training people but are very eager to learn how.
Sometimes schools will prefer you to have no experience at all so they can train you how to do these skills their way!
Learn facts about the school, organisation and the city:
This is like a standard interview, but it can be helpful to ask questions and start a friendly discussion with the interviewer. A small bit of research can go a long way.
Have a closing question:
Always have one or two closing questions for the end of the interview as you are always asked, “do you have any questions?” and it shows you are interested.
I always ask, “when will you let me know that I got the job?”, it is cheeky but shows confidence and hasn’t failed me yet!
Don’t be nervous:
Many people tend to overthink or get the jitters before an interview, and it is normal. Being nervous can distract you, which is not good. Seeing an interviewer as a higher being or holding all the power can cause these anxious feelings. Aim to make the interviewer laugh or smile, making them feel relaxed, which will relax you.
Pro tip – learn a few sentences in their language. Say you have been practising all day and ask can you say it to them and let them rate your efforts. More than likely, you’re going to make an absolute mess of it, and the interviewer will laugh but respect you for trying. It’s silly, but it will take your mind away from overthinking about the wrong things!
Can I get hired as a TEFL teacher if I don’t have a university degree or teaching experience?
If you have a TEFL certificate, teaching experience, and a degree in any field, you are a school’s dream candidate and will have no problem finding a job abroad.
Not everyone has this trifecta of accolades to their name, however.
A TEFL certificate is the only constant of the three. If you have a degree or teaching experience, you will still be required to provide a TEFL certificate to prove you are a TEFL teacher.
If you have a TEFL certificate but no university degree or teaching experience, then you will be able to find a job as a TEFL teacher; however, your list of locations will be smaller than those with a degree.
Do not let this discourage you and keep pursuing this fantastic career!
A vast majority of TEFL teachers in the world have a TEFL certificate and no degree or former third-level education. This certainly does not take away from their professionalism or ability to teach students the English language.
You meet snobby TEFL teachers abroad that say people without degrees should not be allowed to teach English abroad as they wouldn’t be allowed to teach in their home countries.
This, in my opinion, is directed to the 19-year-olds that go abroad to teach English as part of a gap year and abuse the system, don’t work hard or have any idea of what to do, and are just there for a good time.
The mature adults who never had the opportunity to attend university but still want to have a respectable career, travel and use their skills are more than welcome because they take the role seriously and life experience often trumps higher education.
- Long-winded story coming up, to skip ahead, click here –
It reminds me of a school I worked for in Thailand. We gained two new TEFL teachers a few weeks apart. One was university educated, attended a private college to earn his TEFL and CELTA certificates and was quite arrogant about his abilities. The other was none of the above, never attended third-level education and earned his TEFL certificate from an online platform for a fraction of the price of the other teacher and was known a bit of a party animal in his free time.
I could spend all day comparing them both, but I don’t want to bore you. I will just tell you this, the party animal was loved by all his students, they scored exceptionally well in their exams, and we were always polite and under control. The highly educated teacher couldn’t control his class. The students were always in charge. They would turn the lights off and run around the hallways screaming while he sat on the floor doing nothing. The other teachers had to come in to control the situation constantly. As a result of his lack of ability, his student’s grades suffered, and he was shortly replaced.
So the essence of that longwinded story is that qualifications are not always as essential as most people think. Just because you may not have them does not mean you cannot succeed in this profession, and don’t let it make you feel inferior when you see TEFL jobs require XYZ.
We spoke to TEFL teacher Molly about how she got hired as a TEFL teacher:
“I must admit my experience was quite easy and straight forward and I didn’t have to do much of the work. I did my TEFL course in Mexico, you see, and the trainers had organised interviews for all of us the week after the course. There were nine of us in the class, and we all got hired within two weeks of the course ending!
Another girl and I asked to go to the same school, and somehow we both got in. It certainly made the whole experience better for me personally because I felt like I already had a friend, and we were able to explore together, which was really lovely.
I would recommend doing the TEFL course in the country you plan to work in because it took all the stress away, and I was able to enjoy the course and have a little vacation afterwards before I began working. It was my first time doing this kind of thing and I’m glad I did it this way because I loved my school, the kids were the best, and the staff were really friendly!!”
We spoke to TEFL teacher Aaron about how he got hired as a TEFL teacher:
“It was very easy, in my opinion. I got my TEFL certificate online as I was working full-time to save up to move abroad. My friends had taught English abroad before, so they told me the best websites to go to, and I had three interviews set up on the first day. I was shocked, but it was good to know there is a demand.
All three interviews were for China and offered great salaries and benefits. They even offered to pay for a flight which I was not expecting. The interviews themselves went well. Of course, at the time, I thought I screwed them up, but two of the three schools got back in touch with me to offer me a job.
The advice I’d give to someone starting out on their TEFL journey is to believe in yourself and contact as many schools or job postings as possible. There are so many TEFL job openings out there that you will find a job 100% but just be sure to choose the one that’s right for you and also be sure to use a website with a good reputation before you accept a job and move to the other side of the world because I have heard some horror stories from other TEFL teachers I have met and they could set you back financially!”
We spoke to Matt about how he got hired as a TEFL teacher
We spoke to Matt about how he got hired as a TEFL teacher:
I worked as a TEFL teacher in Spain for six months. I found my job through a TEFL course that I took in Barcelona. The school was looking for native English speakers to teach beginner English classes, and it turned out the classes were in the same building as the TEFL college! It all seemed like fate when I found out about them through a teacher who had recommended me for one of their positions before she left.
The interview process for this job wasn’t much different than what you would expect in America. The interviewer asked me ten questions about my TEFL course and then five or six questions about myself, which were surprisingly easy to answer. I think that interview was the most stressful part of my job because it’s hard to know how you will do in an interview, but even harder when you’re in a foreign country, but it all worked out!
My first day was a little nerve-racking, as I had never taught English before. The other TEFL teachers were very nice, though and gave me some tips on what students liked to do in the classroom for fun before we got started with any work. I was lucky enough that it turned out my class consisted of all adults, and they were very open to the idea of playing games and learning English. They also had a great sense of humour, so my jokes always went down well, which helped me relax!
My favourite part was going on trips with them around Barcelona. They told me stories about their lives, taught me new words in Spanish that I didn’t know before (I was a beginner…) and showed me the city. I got to explore Barcelona with them, which made it feel like home after a few days of walking around on my own. It was a great experience, and I also met some of the other TEFL teachers around town.
More people need to experience this lifestyle, it is unique and something I never even considered growing up. There are lots of great TEFL courses out there and many more jobs available than I had expected when I first started looking into this opportunity. I was thrilled that I found a job so quickly, and it all fell into place.
Conclusion for how to get hired as a TEFL teacher.
We hope this article was of some help to you and if there are any questions you have or that you feel we missed then please comment below and we can answer them and include them in the article to help future TEFL teachers with their career!
If you would like to learn more about the world of TEFL then please come on over to our article with the most exciting title you will ever hear, What is TEFL? creative isn’t it… enjoy and see you in the next article!