I’ve worked at numerous schools around the world over the years, and in this time I have had the opportunity to look over hundreds of teachers’ resumes and conduct a lot of interviews with applicants. I am always impressed by the breadth of experience that a lot of teachers have, but it isn’t always reflected in their resumes.
When you’re interested in a new job, whether it is for a teaching position or otherwise, your resume is usually the first impression that you’re going to make on a potential employer. So why is it that so many people still put together substandard CVs? Most of the time they just haven’t learned how to do it well.
I decided it would probably be helpful to a lot of people out there to get an idea of what hiring committees for teachers are actually looking for. The following resumes are from real ESL teachers really applying to ESL teaching jobs.
*Note: All of the resume and cover letter examples in this article have been slightly altered to protect the privacy of the applicants.
1. Your summary should be relevant
I don’t personally have a preference regarding whether there should be a short summary at the tops of resumes — some people write them, some people don’t, it’s entirely up to them. However, if you choose to, it’s important that you write it well.
First of all, be concise. There are some people who write summaries that really aren’t summaries at all, and are almost the complete history of their professional and personal existence. Try to avoid doing that. Any summary at the top of your resume should really be only a few sentences long, and should succinctly demonstrate how you have the qualities that make you an asset to the school you’re applying to. Avoid including a long-winded story about how you developed your passion for teaching. All teachers need to show they are passionate, but talking a lot about how much passion you have can come across as disingenuous. Instead, show how you have demonstrated your passion for education in your resume.
This is an example of a work summary that really doesn’t tell a hiring manager anything about how they would be a good fit for a teaching job.
This summary below is much clearer, quickly outlines the qualities that make this applicant a good teacher, and this information is supported by the work history further down in the resume.
2. Write a strong work history summary
Be sure to include the full name of your former and present places of employment, and the starting and ending month and year of your time spent at these jobs. For some reason, many people fail to clearly state the proper names of their places of employment, or how long they were there. Some teachers who have jumped from school to school simply write “ESL teacher” and then have a blanket period of time. They do this thinking it shows experience, but to a good hiring manager this doesn’t look specific enough and seems like the applicant is hiding something.
Knowing where you worked and how long you have been there is often the first thing hiring managers look at when they are considering applicants, so make sure that information is obvious and easily understood. Instead of writing a “A private school in Thailand”, clearly state the name of the school and the region in Thailand. Instead of saying you worked somewhere from 2017 to 2018 (which could be misunderstood as you having only worked there for a month from December to January), clarify that you worked from April 2017 to August 2018.
Your most recent relevant work experience should be listed at the top, and the rest listed in descending order.
Also, make sure your responsibilities in your work history are bullet-pointed in short, clear sentences. You want the experience part of your resume to be as clear and easily understood as possible because the average hiring manager is only going to spend a few seconds glancing at it. If upon first glance the details of your work experience seem hard to read or are chronologically confusing, chances are your resume is going to be tossed aside.
Below is what poorly written section of work history looks like:
A private school in Thailand
I worked from early mornings to late evenings in a private school, where I prepped curriculum and gathered materials, on top of actually teaching classes during class hours. I also had to communicate with admin staff a lot because I had to coordinate with them about schedules and working days on the calendar. This was to make sure that all the shifts were covered.
That was a giant block of text that no busy hiring manager is going to want to look through to find the details they’re actually interested in.
Below is what a much clearer, easier-to-understand work history looks like:
ABC English (Bangkok, Thailand)
April 2017 – August 2018
- Worked long hours, from early mornings to late evenings
- Prepared curriculum and was responsible for gathering materials
- Taught three classes to elementary-aged students on a weekly rotational basis
- Coordinated with administrative staff to manage teacher shift schedules
A resume should be the last place where people make spelling or grammar mistakes, especially if the job they’re applying for is for the position of an English teacher. However, this still happens – way too often.
Proofreading your resume, or getting someone else to take a look at it before you send it out, takes very little extra time and could mean the difference between you getting a call for an interview and your resume being thrown into the garbage bin.
When I see spelling or grammar mistakes in resumes, I immediately pass on the applicant. First of all, if a candidate is applying for an English teaching position, there shouldn’t be any spelling or grammar mistakes in their resume. Second of all, even if the error was simply a typo, that mistake proves the applicant wasn’t paying attention to detail, which makes me wonder if they’re a generally negligent person.
So remember, proofread your resumes. It’s a small extra step that you won’t regret.
In this resume below, the applicant claims to be manager at a document-proofreading company, but there is a typo in his job title.
4. Don’t lie … too much
I get it, a lot of people exaggerate in their resumes to try to get ahead of the curve. But there’s a big difference between stretching the truth a little to make yourself look better and flat out lying.
For example, if you made beneficial adjustments to your school’s existing curriculum so that it would be more compatible with your teaching methods, you might be able to get away with saying that you were in charge of planning your class curriculum all by yourself. However, it’s quite another thing to say you were the manager for all the teachers, and in charge of planning curriculum and materials for all of their classes too.
The thing about lying is that even if you get away with it on your resume, or even during your interview, the truth has a way of coming out if you can’t live up to expectations.
I have also encountered many teachers who have lied about where they went to school or where they used to be employed. For some reason, many people think that just because they are applying for a job away from their home countries, they won’t be found out. But this kind of information can be easily confirmed, and on at least two occasions I have had to call out a candidate for flat out lying about where they went to school, or lying about whether they actually graduated and earned a degree.
Don’t do that.
5. Save your hobbies and interests for the interview
For awhile, it became popular for people to write down their hobbies and favorite activities on their resumes, but it’s a trend that has thankfully waned over the years.
This isn’t to say the hiring manager isn’t interested in your likes and dislikes, or doesn’t care about who you are as a person, but there is a time and place for this kind of information, and your resume isn’t one of them.
As much as I love dogs and the outdoors, and enjoy sharing my adventures with other people with similar interests, putting that on my resume isn’t going to really help any hiring committee determine how well I would perform as a teacher.
Don’t worry about putting your favorite movies and hobbies on your resume, if your interview goes well, that kind of information will naturally come out during an in-person conversation.
6. Emojis are not allowed
A resume is all about you, but it is still very much a professional document. That means, do not use emojis, emoticons, GIFs, or anything of the sort.
That kind of thing screams unprofessionalism, and most hiring managers — if not all — will see something like that and move on without giving your resume another thought.
7. Formatting matters
Formatting is unfortunately often overlooked, and it really shouldn’t. A properly formatted resume goes a long way in showing potential employers that you take your application seriously, and you care about the kind of impression you’re making.
When I talk about proper formatting, I don’t mean you should make your resume look as fancy as possible with elegant fonts and splashy design. What I mean is that the font should be clear, easy to read, and the margins of the same sections should all be aligned.
Also, it’s best to always send your resumes in PDF format, it is an easy way to ensure that potential employers will see it formatted the same way as you intended. The problem with sending resumes as image files or text-based documents such as Word files is that they may either end up being unclear or misaligned to the degree that it looks like a giant mess.
8. Cover letters shouldn’t be too casual
If the application process happens to require a cover letter, make sure it is written concisely and in a professional tone of voice. I think it is important to always err on the side of being more professional than not enough. So your cover letters shouldn’t read too casually, and it should sound like you’re addressing the person on the other end with respect.
You should also keep it short, simply state what position you’re interested in, and perhaps mention that you have enclosed your resume and other documentation for the hiring committee’s reference. And always end with a proper sign-off. No need to try to spend time convincing a hiring manager in the cover letter that you are the right person for the job, they will make that determination based on your resume.
I have received cover letters that weren’t properly punctuated, with words not capitalized where they should be, and overall looked like they were written for a friend rather than a hiring committee. Some applicants start off listing all sorts of limitations and requirements, even though they haven’t even met with a representative from the school yet. That is something that will leave a bad taste in a hiring manager’s mouth and won’t get you very far in terms of your job hunt.
Here is an example of a bad cover letter. It is very wordy and shows the applicant did very little research, since he would have found a lot of the answers to his questions if he had simply spent more time reading through the school’s website. His attitude also sounded as if the hiring manager should be spending time trying to find something to fit his schedule, rather than the other way around.
The cover letter below is a great example of someone who was direct but polite, and clear about what position they were applying for. The enclosed resume was also excellently written and I can very easily glance over this person’s work experience to see whether they are a good fit for the position we were offering.
9. Additional documents should be clear
Finally, if you’re going to include any additional documents with your resume and application, make sure the copies and scans are in commonly used formats that anyone can open, and that the scans are clear.
Merely taking pictures of any additional documents isn’t good enough. Phone cameras often result in glare or low quality that make it difficult for hiring committees to see it clearly, and when you send documents like this, it implies that you’re the kind of person who simply does the bare minimum. It signals that you haven’t considered how the end product would look to other people.
Be kind to the people who need to file your paperwork, and check to see that the resolution is high enough to be something they can work with. Scanning a clean, flat document is always a better option than using your phone to take a picture of it. It’s an easy way to make a good impression before you’re even had an in-person meeting!
This is a real example of someone who submitted a document by sending a poor quality image of it. It would have been much better if this document were scanned so that the text would be clear and the creases in the paper would be less noticeable.
If you’re still having trouble figuring out how best to structure your resume, feel free to refer to the sample resume below. It is clearly formatted and all the information is written in way that is easily understood.
I hope this was helpful to all the prospective teachers out there. I firmly believe that most people apply to jobs with the best intentions and highest hopes, but to ensure you prove that to potential employers, make sure you present the best resumes and cover letters as possible.
Teacher in Taipei
Kaleigh is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States. She has traveled extensively throughout Asia and is currently teaching in Taipei, Taiwan. Her passions are mountain hikes and great food!