When you’re applying for any job, you want to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward. You might be the perfect fit for a position, but silly mistakes in job applications can cost you dearly.
It’s good practice to assume there’s lots of competition for any role you apply for. If a hiring manager is dealing with hundreds of applicants they need to whittle down to a select few for interview, what are you going to do to make sure you stand out?
To begin with, you want to make sure you avoid these common mistakes people make when applying for TEFL jobs!
This might seem obvious, but any hiring manager will tell you just how common it is to receive applications from people who clearly haven’t paid attention to the instructions for applying. Do you have to send a CV/resume and cover letter, or fill out an application form instead? Do you need to attach any specific documents? Should documents or emails be titled a certain way?
Demonstrating an inability to follow instructions from the very beginning is a sure-fire way for your application to be rejected. Read them carefully… and then read them again!
We know, another obvious one, but considering spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in applications are a dealbreaker for almost 80% of hiring managers , it’s not one to be overlooked.And it couldn’t be more important when applying for jobs teaching English. It’s not going to reflect well on your abilities as an English teacher if your application is riddled with typos, so make sure you take the time to carefully proofread everything before you send it off.
No cover letter? There’s a 99% chance a hiring manager won’t even glance at your application if all you’ve submitted is a CV/resume. There can be a lot of competition for TEFL jobs, so you need to make sure that yours stands out and one of the best ways of doing that is with a strong cover letter. Your CV/resume lists your experience and qualifications, while the cover letter is an opportunity to really sell yourself and explain why you want the job you’re applying for. And that leads to the next mistake people make…
It’s immediately obvious to a hiring manager if a cover letter is a one-size-fits-all job. Of course, you’re going to reuse some parts of a cover letter, but each one you send should be tailored to the role and employer. It should demonstrate that you’ve read the job description and researched the employer - making the effort here can really help your application stand out.
For advice on writing a great cover letter, check out our top 10 tips !
One of the most important things you can do at the beginning of your TEFL journey - even before you take a TEFL course - is to research visa requirements. Some countries require teachers to have a degree, others require you to hold a passport from an English-speaking country, and many will require a clean criminal background check.
Visa requirements are inflexible; if you don’t meet them, there’s no negotiating. Don’t waste your time applying for jobs in countries where you can’t get a visa, focus instead on those where you can legally work.
There are scammers and dodgy recruiters out there who will claim they can get you a job in a country even if you’re ineligible for a visa. Don’t trust them. Get clued up and read our post all about avoiding TEFL scams and bad employers .
If a job is asking for several years of teaching experience and you’ve only just obtained your TEFL certificate, you’re unlikely to meet that requirement. What employers are usually looking for here is full-time experience teaching English as a foreign language - not experience doing a bit of tutoring or even teaching a different subject.
If you clearly don’t meet the criteria set out by an employer, don’t waste your time applying. However, there can be instances where it’s worth getting in touch with the employer for clarity. For example, it’s not uncommon to come across adverts that list being a native speaker as a requirement, even in countries where visa requirements don’t restrict non-native speakers. Many of these employers will actually consider anyone with a native level of English, provided you have evidence of this. As long as you meet the visa requirements and the other criteria set out in the job description, it’s worth enquiring.
Non-native teachers can have a more difficult time securing TEFL jobs than their native counterparts due to native speakerism in the TEFL industry.
If you’re not a native English speaker, it’s really important that a hiring manager is able to instantly see that your English is of a high level. And the easiest way to do that is with a certificate of English proficiency.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming your TEFL qualification is proof of proficiency. It isn’t. If you haven’t received formal education in an English-speaking country, then we strongly recommend securing an English proficiency certificate like the IELTS or C2 Proficiency. Without one, non-native speakers can really struggle to get interviews for teaching jobs.
You might be from a part of the world where including a photo of yourself in a job application is a definite no. But that’s not the case everywhere, and it’s actually very common when applying for teaching jobs abroad. So, while it might feel unnatural or even wrong, make sure you include one if it’s requested or it’s the norm in the county you’re applying for jobs in (do your research!).
Our top tip : don’t use a passport photo. Who’s ever looked their best in a passport photo? Instead, use one that conveys a teacher who is friendly, approachable and professional. Check out our tips for including a photo with TEFL job applications here .
Take a look at our CV guide for more tips - and, if you’re a TEFL Org student or graduate, you can take advantage of our CV builder as well!