How to stand out in the TEFL jobs market

How to stand out in the TEFL jobs market

Think of the TEFL world as something like a see-saw. 

Yes, as introductions go, this is a convoluted one, but stay with us. There are so many people making the (brilliant) choice to get into teaching English as a foreign language. That’s because it can be a route to the rest of the world and a chance to forge a path in a career that’s incredibly rewarding, as well as being an opportunity to start your own business, set your own hours or, in general, march to the beat of your own drum.

At the same time, there are so many TEFL job opportunities. If you want to teach English online, there are countless companies that will let you do this, or, if you’re so inclined, you can set up your own online teaching business and work entirely for yourself. If you want to teach in person, you’re in luck: schools, universities and businesses worldwide are constantly hiring. If you’ve got a TEFL certificate, you have a key to the rest of the world.

These things are in almost perfect balance with each other. Hence, the see-saw analogy. If all this is true, you might be thinking “How do I separate myself from the pack?”. It’s a good question, and you’re right to ask it.

So, let’s get to it. How do you stand out as a TEFL teacher in such a busy, fast-paced environment?

Getting qualified

If you’re reading this and don’t have a TEFL qualification, don’t despair. If you want the sort of TEFL education employers are also looking for, then 120 hours of learning from an accredited course provider is what you’re after. The best TEFL courses are self-paced, with round-the-clock tutor support, peer-to-peer communication and top-notch learning materials.

You’re guaranteed a look-in with a good-quality TEFL certificate. No ifs, ands or buts.

To really stand out, though, it’s more than worth your while to look at Advanced TEFL courses . In terms of boosting your CV, especially as a new teacher, you can’t go wrong with adding another string of TEFL certification to your bow, whether that’s in Business English , Teaching Young Learners or specialising in Online Teaching .

Yes, it’s extra work, but consider an employer’s perspective: if you’re willing to put in extra to make your CV pop and show the effort to specialise, then you’re going to be a more attractive candidate. Employers want teachers who are adaptable, and having an extra speciality in your arsenal goes a long way.

Equally, these courses are great fun. Again, you’ll have access to tutor support and fantastic facilities, so you can confidently go into the world of TEFL with an edge over your competition.

A panel of three interviewers interviewing a candidate

Applying for jobs

Now that you’re (presumably) TEFL qualified, what can you do in the process of applying for jobs that’ll make you stand out?

The first and most important bit of advice: brush up that CV. Make sure everything on there is relevant to the job you’re applying for - if you worked at your dad’s mate’s pub for six months when you were 15, nobody really cares. Sorry.

Tailor your CV for each opportunity. Print out a copy of the job description, and if they repeat certain words and phrases, then use them in your CV. Detail matters. If there’s something in one of your last job roles that’s pertinent to the job you’re applying for, talk about it, even if it means getting rid of something else. 

When it comes to writing about your TEFL qualification - and this is crucial - highlight the modules that are appropriate for your job application. This is especially true if you’ve got an Advanced TEFL certificate: is the job with kindergarten or school-age kids? Mention your Young Learners certificate. Ditto Business English, Online Teaching or whatever it is you’ve completed.

If there’s a cover letter to write , don’t see it as a burden, but as an opportunity. Here’s a space to talk about what you do well, in detail! Again, use any key phrases or attributes listed in the job description. Research the company, and say why you want to work there. Explain why it’s you they should be after. For more, read our 10 Top Tips for Cover Letters .

For help with CVs, cover letters, interviews and interview questions, finding the right jobs and more, check out our litany of great guides to applying for jobs .

What else can I do to stand out?

Something that’s worked for many TEFL teachers is building a ‘brand’. We’re not talking about becoming the next Bill Gates, but having an online presence where people can read about you is a great idea. Certainly, it’ll build confidence from an employer’s perspective.

How do you do that? Well, there are lots of ways. For one, building your own website is so easy and affordable these days - if you’re looking for work online, or private tutoring, building a website with your own domain name really is a must.

Social media can also be used to your advantage. For one thing, if you’re looking to get hired, know that employers will look at your social media. We’re not your parents, but we would say that having a squeaky-clean online presence will definitely help, and if you have dedicated social accounts for TEFL, all the better.

Talking of social networking, the likes of LinkedIn and Facebook are a TEFL teacher’s friend. LinkedIn will keep you abreast of all sorts of job opportunities, while also being a great platform to create a network of TEFL contacts that might be advertising jobs, can be useful contacts, or are just friendly faces to help you along the way. Facebook, meanwhile, is home to enormous TEFL communities - so whether you need advice or job adverts, it’s a good idea to get involved.

It might sound oxymoronic, but a good way to stand out is through community building. Making friends and contacts from across the globe is a great way to learn, as much as anything else. What are successful TEFL teachers doing?

If you really, really want to stand out, there are different ways, and some of it may be about how you teach. For example, there’s Fluency MC , who tours as a rapping English teacher and has gone viral through his songs. Claire Mitchell carved a niche by preparing students for the IELTS exam, and has an excellent YouTube presence (all of which is covered in this episode of I Taught English Abroad ).

A resume on a table being pointed to by someone

You can stand out if you know how

To conclude, it’s all about finding good ways to make yourself attractive to a prospective employer. In a sense, you’ve got to do some of the work for them, so they can make an easy decision - hiring you.

Finding a niche within TEFL is a great way to make yourself a more viable as a candidate. Employers can be confident hiring a teacher to lead classes for young learners if they’re qualified specifically to do so. The same goes for online learning companies - if you can manage a 40-hour course, you’re going to be more attractive than the person who hasn’t done that. 

When it comes to building a CV, it’s a good idea to make a general one and tailor it for each opportunity. Think of the keywords and phrases an employer wants to read on it; there’s no big secret, just look at the job description.

Similarly, when it’s time to write a cover letter, don’t be generic. Use one side of A4 to make a coherent, passionate case as to why you’re the person with the qualifications, experience and wherewithal to be a success in the TEFL world.

Finally, if you can innovate, use networking to your advantage, keep a positive and enterprising online presence or even find something unique to pair with fundamental TEFL lessons, you’ll be a star.

All TEFL Org students get lifetime access to our TEFL Jobs Centre - check it out now to see the latest positions worldwide!

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