It’s a difficult job.

I’ve been a teacher training consultant for years now, but in another existence I was a teacher recruiter and people often ask me for advice about the jungle that is job hunting in ELT. In many ways I am loath to give concrete advice because for me recruitment is much more of an art than a science. Anyway this first blog has ten ideas to get yourself to the interview stage. You may find some of the ideas a little obvious, but my recruitment experience tells me that little in life is obvious. A later blog will look at the interview itself.

I’m also often asked about the funny or shocking moments I’ve had in teacher recruitment. Yes there have been many and yes I may write about a few of them some time. Like the man who came to an interview with his wig in his pocket and decided to put it on half way through answering my question on the use of the third conditional …..

So how to get that interview.

1 It’s worth knowing that there is a global shortage of teachers and it’s very much a job hunter’s market as I write. So pick and choose. Think about the type of employer that suits you best (and Google their reputation), the levels and ages of students that you feel strongest with or want to gain experience with and above all, the place. Most jobs that go wrong do so because teachers don’t settle in the town or country they head to. Think it all through and don’t make mass applications. Be selective.

2 Tailor your cover letter/email and CV to the post advertised. It’s easy to spot ‘one size fits all’ CVs, so match the statements about your skills sets to their requirements. In the covering email take the opportunity to reflect and develop a little on the teaching you have done – employers want to know that you are a ‘thinking’ teacher, why you feel this is the job for you and that you have actually read the ad. By the way, if your skills sets don’t correspond with the job specification then why are you applying? The expression “while I don’t have …” always fills me with dread.

3 Brevity is good. As I say above, the covering email should expand on your experience and discuss your approaches to the classroom. Just don’t put too much detail as this is a job application, not a dissertation. Something like “I had a lot of mixed ability classes at xyz and made use of group work and other differentiation techniques to manage these classes.”

4 There should be no grammar, spelling, syntax or other errors in the application. None at all. You’d think that was obvious wouldn’t you, but …..

5 I think the ideal CV is two pages of A4, has the most recent job first and, importantly, no unexplained gaps. There is no problem with being unemployed or doing an obviously deadbeat job – we’ve all been there – just don’t try and conceal things, or recruiters will assume something odd was going on. If you have a lot of short term jobs on the CV it is worth explaining why, as employers are anxious about teachers who might break a contract. You may never have done that but make it clear that you haven’t.

6 Recruiters want to know from the CV – ideally in a few seconds – about your experience. So ages taught, levels, types of student and exams prepared for all need to be there. Materials and learning platforms that you are really familiar with also help. If it suits the post, mention of large class, mixed ability or low resource teaching should be there.

7 We need to know about your qualifications. Exams you took at 16 or even 18 are not of much interest really but it’s nice to know if part of your degree has some connection to the application such as a language studied, business (for Business English posts) or a linguistics option. Any foreign languages you have studied are relevant – I doubt you can teach EFL without having studied another language. Any language.

8 Still on qualifications, if your teaching qualification is not ‘mainstream’,
that is a Cambridge or Trinity award, you have an MA but no initial qualification or you have certification from your government that is not widely known, do explain what areas the course covered. Also outline how much observed teaching practice you had. Teaching practice matters a lot.

9 Please don’t inundate recruiters with copies of certificates or testimonials. They clog up the email accounts – recruiters will ask for them when they need them. To be honest I don’t rate testimonials all that much – I’ve never seen a bad one but have seen a lot of fakes. The names and email addresses of recent referees are what’s needed. I have seen plenty of bad references over the years but would never hire anyone without an individual reference or two. I once saw a reference that simply said “good time girl”. Not sure if that was a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

10 It’s illegal in the EU to advertise for only native speakers. Laws elsewhere vary a lot but whatever the law, it is clearly discriminatory practice to state ‘native speakers only’. You can seek help and learn more about this issue at And on the topic of discrimination, neither send nor apply to jobs that require a photo as part of the process. Visas need photos – job applications don’t. We know why some employers want photos so please don’t help them.


One thought on “It’s a difficult job.

  1. Another one is “I’d love to come to southern Italy for a year to learn a new language and experience the food and the culture” – we’re not providing a gap year before you get a proper job!


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