WYSIWYG – From your CV to a Teaching Job Offer
You might be a new teacher applying for your first teaching job. Or even more, you’ve already gained some experience and a good reference letter and you might only be browsing the net for interesting destinations where to teach.
But for some reason, nobody or only a few D.O.S. recognize your potentials, even though you have been sending your CV in group mails to numberless language schools in the last couple of weeks? You even tackled two or three phone interviews.
Well, then stop for a second, read what your potential supervisor might think on the other end of the wire and learn from your or your colleagues’ mistakes as your students do.
YOUR APPLICATION EMAIL:
Your email address:
We all have funny sounding ideas about email addresses, but when somebody gets an email from somebody named firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, it might give a completely wrong impression of the sender.
Ergo: have a professional email address (use your name, it was given to you for this reason).
You might think: ‘I attach my CV and maybe even an application letter and press the Send button’. However, it is nice to be invited to open these files, empty emails might be erased automatically due to virus suspicion.
Ergo: Make sure you address your letter to your reader and in two lines, ask them to read your application (Dear Sir/Madame, Find my CV and letter of application attached. Should you have any vacancies open, do not hesitate to contact me. Yours sincerely, XY)
Most of Directors of Studies are aware of the fact that teachers choose cities and places where to teach and after that they google language schools in the area. So it is obvious, that you are not applying for a post at one school, but sending out a lot of applications. It doesn’t mean that schools wouldn’t want to be contacted separately. It makes candidates seem more motivated to get the job at that particular school.
Ergo: Send your application to different schools in separate emails or use blind copy.
Viruses spread in emails without an object, so computer-literate people avoid opening them. There are even mail providers that automatically cancel emails with an empty object.
Ergo: Write a general, but professional object, like ‘Applying for a teaching job at your institute’
Really good teachers don’t need to advertise themselves. Their CV and their conduct at the interview speak for them. So it is needless to use great-sounding objects. In my experience, all ‘Fantastic experienced teacher looking for a job’ is a bag of wind.
Ergo: Use modest and general objects (see above). If the school needs teachers, they will read your email.
Familiarize with the company website:
There is another way to understand if a teacher is only shooting CV all around cyber space or really want to teach at a school: the former one applies everywhere in the same way, the latter one reads the requirements in the job offer or visits the school website. So if somebody asks you to apply for a job by filling out a module, emails with attachments will be cancelled automatically. Otherwise, if you are asked to send your CV to the school, you don’t need to attach all your certificates and a picture.
Ergo: Read the instructions given by the recruiter how they want to receive applications. Since they might get thousand of applications, the first filter they use is to eliminate those who are not following the requirements. You might run the risk to be filed despite being an excellent teacher.
Be professional in the way you communicate:
There is a new fashion to be very laid-back and easy-going as a teacher, which helps a lot in high-pressure moments. However, as a first impact it might not work. There is no hierarchy between school and teacher, nobody is doing a favour to the other one, they cooperate. Still, respect is due. If you are not interested in a place or position, consider the time you and your interviewer invest into a Skype chat and the correspondence. Ask for details in advance if you need any other information, and do not hesitate to retreat your application if you don’t find the post interesting any more. Disappearing in silence is not of professionals. Thank them for the opportunity and explain that the post doesn’t appeal to you any more.
Even if you turn down an offer, write an email to your recruiter colleague thanking them for their time and interest. You might want to teach there the year after and not all D.O.S. forget easily.
Ergo: The way you communicate even in unpleasant situations with your colleagues, reveals your real potential as an educator. Answer emails, say thank you for every opportunity and be honest and fair. Only then you can expect the others to do the same to you.
Not all native English speakers are teachers:
In the last five years, economical crisis and also a desire to revolutionize life even at a certain age, pushed lots of native speakers to (want to) leave their jobs and countries and apply for vacancies anywhere as teachers. Nevertheless, being a teacher isn’t equal to being a native speaker. Conducting a lesson is not only chatting with them and correcting some mistakes. You must be aware of your own mother tongue (know how many tenses there are in English and what the difference is between the zero and the first conditional) and also be able to transmit all this knowledge. You need to manage even bigger classes, teens with behaviour problems, adults who make comments about you in their language, which you might not understand. You have to know course materials and international exams. You are expected to be computer-literate, be flexible, hard-working and always professional. Being a teacher is a challenging job.
There is also a huge difference between private teachers and teachers at private or public schools. The first gives you the safe intimacy with your students, schools keep you up-to-date about what is going on in language teaching. Private schools expect you to teach a significant amount of lessons per week, while public schools put your nerves and classroom management skills to the test.
Ergo: Do a teacher training course, before you apply for a job. Be aware of what is expected from a teacher. Your language skills won’t be sufficient.
It’s said that there is no second chance to make a first impression. Your CV might be your first and only one chance. Let’s take a look at your CV or resume.
Add 1: What language should it be written? The language of the country where the school is based or in English?
The administrative staff of a language school is mostly made up by local people, but the D.O.S. and the HR manager are more likely native English-speakers. They might not even speak the local language at a high level. So, it is more opportune that they receive your application in English.
It doesn’t change the fact that if you know the local language, it will enable you to understand your students (potential) problems with English, which is a real resource.
However, showing off your language knowledge might also give the wrong impression: lots of schools apply the policy of ‘no-L1 in classroom’, which means that teachers are not allowed to change into students’ mother tongue during lesson. So it seems that teachers who don’t speak the local language might be the most advantageous for the school’s image.
Add 2: What format should it be?
There are three major formats of CV: the American resume, the British CV and the European (Europass) CV. All of them are well presented only and you can even use online engines to create your CV without any particular word processor skills.
The only thing you need to consider is what the school asks for. Some of them want to receive American resumes, which is brief, concise and give lots of open questions for the job interview. In the UK or at British schools, you might want to present your British CV, if the school doesn’t specify another format. In Italy, for instance, teachers need to send their CV in European format, because this is accepted by the government when applying for European funds.
Nota bene: if a school asks for a specific format and you send another one, they might not consider it. Recruiters need to browse for key points in the CV, so a specific format spare lots of time for them. Using the given format, does not reduce your individualism, what’s more, it makes even easier to find your real strengths by using a clear structure.
Add 3: How long is it supposed to be?
Not long at all. I think all HR staff member would agree on this. A longer CV doesn’t give the impression of a more experienced colleague. On the contrary, it makes the reader think that the candidate is not able to prioritize or has nothing relevant to say and wants to hide their lack of experience with irrelevant life events. Even if you have thought at a long list of schools, choose the most relevant ones to catch the D.O.S.’ attention.
Add 4: Shall I decorate it?
There is a huge difference between an application for an artistic job and a teaching job. The former one must be creative in its layout, the second needs to show your qualification and experience. Teachers are very creative people and they might become little artists at the whiteboard. However, your teaching CV should give details on how concentrated and analytical you are, the same skills you need when you grade a test or give feedback on students’ performance.
So keep it short and simple.
Add 5: Am I supposed to attach a photo?
Real beauty comes from inside, so photos should not be of importance. Yet, if you have a foreigner name, it might even help to understand if you are male or female, which helps in correspondence. In addition, well-chosen pictures might give the necessary good first impression and make the recruiter to answer to your application right away.
The secret is in selecting the photo well. It should not be one page (the first page of your CV), it give the feeling that you are full of yourself. It should be up-to-date, not a passport photo (excellent professional looking photos can be taken even with a mobile phone: at the desk with your PC or in front of a bookcase or the whiteboard, etc.). Forget your party pictures and be properly dressed on the photo. If you don’t have any pictures of this kind, leave it.
Add 6: What personal details do I have to reveal?
The question is very delicate since there are huge differences between countries. In some countries, you can’t even asked for your date of birth, while other schools even require to reveal your religion (mainly religious institutes).
For sure, you need to give your full name (if not English, specifying which is your first and surname), your address, email address, phone number, Skype name or other ways of communication. If you have a website, put the URL-name at the end of this list.
Some schools ask for your age, which doesn’t mean that they only take younger teachers. In fact, they might look for teachers who are over 30, which means that they have been working for a while after university. However, you have the right to omit this detail and concentrate on your experience and skills, which will give the same information to the recruiter.
Add 7: What you see is what you get
Once you listed all relevant personal and professional details about yourself, take a look at the layout. Remember that it might look differently on another computer, so save it as a pdf-file. After saving it, open it again and look for any mistakes. Not only spelling or language mistakes, but also in its layout. Text should be with its title on the same page, page numbers should be put onto the bottom of the pages, your name should be highlighted or repeated in the heading on every page. Use tabulators and lists. Show to your future supervisor, how skilled you are on the PC. It speaks more that all your certificates you have gathered in computer courses.
Add 8: Hobbies
There is another point, which tells a lot about you: your hobbies. While your high school might not be of note, what you do in your leisure time sure is. Claiming that you don’t have free time or your work is your hobby are old jokes. An exhausted and overstressed teacher is no contribution to any language school.
We all read, so it might be more interesting to say what you read (novels, poems, etc.). We all love travelling, so tell us which was the most interesting trip or journey you’ve made.
Sport, music, etc. are all details that a recruiter see as an opportunity to widen their teachers’ profile. You might be able to play the guitar when teaching Young Learners or organise soccer matches between teachers and students on Saturday mornings.
So take up some hobbies and use it in and outside your job.
Add 9: Skills
First of all, your CELTA certificate is not a skill, it should be listed where you speak about your qualification (after your degree, probably).
Skills can be communicative, organisational, computer, language and others.
For a language teacher, good communicative skills are a must.
Furthermore, teachers need to tackle also registers and write student reports, so written skills and a good organization in your work are essential. Being able to organize your work and your materials will save a lot of time for you and for your supervisor and colleagues.
When discussing your computer skills, make a list of all the applications you can use.
A good teacher is usually a good student, also because how could you know how your students feel if you have never been a language student. Hopefully, you can list some languages you speak at a high level. But be careful: when you assess your skills, it also shows how well you know the European levels. If you say that you are at proficiency level in Italian and your interviewer change into Italian at the job interview, be up to the challenge. Bluffing is at poker, not at job search.
Add 10: Reference
We all have already received pre-written reference letters written by some unknown colleague. They were mostly very positive about the teacher and if all true, also very promising.
However, very few recruiters take these into account, since they are too general and little trustworthy. If a D.O.S. want to know more about a candidate, they will ask for an email address or phone number and contact your previous supervisor or university professor in person. These chats are more informative, since questions can be asked after having some information about the candidate at first hand. So find two people who are willing to be your references.
Mind, your uncle, best friend, etc. are not good, since they are biased. You can ask one colleague, your former employer (best, since you left that work place and they still want to help you to find another job opportunity) or if you have no experience, one of your CELTA tutors or university professors. Ask these people if they approve of you putting their email address and phone number onto your CV and don’t forget to add their position at the institutes where you met them.
Note: Never forget to ask them in advance. If somebody is contacted without previous approval, they might give a very unpleasant opinion on you and it also shows how little you know about professional conduct.
This is the moment, when we can leave your CV and move onto the attachments.
A big and important language school after publishing their job offer in the high season gets around 100 application emails per day. Candidates will be at different stage: some of them have already done the job interview and hopefully negotiating about a contract, others are confirming first appointments, while others again might be struggling with the format or the missing documents.
After you have finalized your CV, scan the following documents:
– your passport
– your degree
– your teaching training certificate (CELTA certificate)
– your Certificate of Clearance and Certificate of no Criminal Conviction (essential if you want to work with Young Learners).
Save these jpg-files and name them. It is really annoying to receive 4-5 attachments with names like the one in the title. The receiver will need to rename them when saving, which is at the above-mentioned amount of applications extremely time-consuming.
In the file-name mention your name (at least surname) and the type of the document, e.g. william_smith_passport.jpg.
Attachment: application letter
We have already mentioned that even if you attach your application letter, write a quick note in your email inviting the receiver to open your files.
You can also write your application letter in the email, but in case it gets printed, the attachment is more userfriendly.
What should you write in your application letter. Not much, since long ones never get read. Traditionally, there should be four paragraphs:
1. Introduction (what are you applying for, where you found this vacancy, etc.)
2. Reasons why you think you are up to the requirements.
3. Your motivation to teach there and/or interesting bits and pieces about you.
4. Invite the reader to contact you.
In your application letter, you don’t need to give a summary of your CV, however, you can refer to it once or twice. The additional parts are more interesting:
– How did you stay out at your last work place?
– Why would you like to teach at the contacted school?
– What would your students praise about you?
– Why are you a real good candidate or a contributing colleague at the school?
Note that application letters are read twice. Once before the invitation to the interview, and the second time, before sending and offer to you, in order to compare how you introduced yourself and what impression you gave in the interview.
Make somebody read your letter of motivation before you send it, to see what impact it may have on a reader and remember: we are not perfect; the real art is expressing imperfection in a subtle way.
THEY FINALLY ANSWER…
Is everything done, once a recruiter/D.O.S. answered to you? Obviously not, the real game has just started. You have gone through the first filter, and now you have their attention. Everything you do from this point until you start your contract will be remembered for a long time, so professional conduct even in delicate situations is a must.
But let’s look into the coming stages in detail.
The first filter at every school is to see who has all the requirements. The basic requirements in Europe at the moment are:
– being native English speaker or holder of Cambridge Proficiency Exam,
– a degree,
– a teaching certificate (no online one and choose CELTA if you have the choice)
– being under no VISA restriction (European schools rarely help with applying for a VISA).
So their first answer to you will be based on this.
Note, that nothing at a job negotiation is personal. They don’t know you, they see your CV and those of others. So they choose skills and qualifications and their opinion is based on one phone or Skype interview. So, the way you express yourself in your emails might make the difference.
If you get an answer which is positive (ergo invites you to an interview), try to keep cool, but grateful. Avoid re-emailing to the same D.O.S. changing availabilities or apologizing for spelling mistakes. It comes around needy. Be clear and direct. Address your letter and finish your letter with Regards and signature.
If the answer is negative, remember, nobody ever got a second chance by offending the recruiter. Say thank you and ask them to re-contact you in the future if they change their mind. Think about the reasons why they refused your application. If you CV was not up to the expectations, improve it. If you don’t have a teaching certificate, there is no need to respond rudely that you have always taught without any, so it is unnecessary. It is necessary and schools that hire teachers without a certificate are more and more seldom. Ask if you can reapply after gaining the certificate and you will be surprised that they might even remember you after a couple of months (a CELTA course lasts 4 weeks).
As always, the main rule is that D.O.S. are not little elephants: they don’t forget easily. Show them that you are still a very good candidate acknowledging their competence to choose what they need for their school.
IINVITATION TO A SKYPE INTERVIEW
Skype interviews are getting more and more popular, since they add a visual input to the audio one. It makes sense only if you have a camera. So have it switched on.
The rules that we must accept at a Skype chat and a phone interview are the same:
– be punctual – but wait for the recruiter’s call,
– be prepared – have your answers and your questions about the school/town/job ready (asking good questions is one of the criteria that is assessed after a job interview),
– be relaxed – breath deeply and think before you answer,
– be polite – you might be talking to your future boss.
There are though other rules you need to follow at a Skype interview:
– Make sure you have a reliable internet connection. Having troubles with the sound or video might be very annoying. If you can’t guarantee a good quality, opt for a phone interview instead and explain yourself to the interviewer.
– Have a smart-casual look: I’ve-just-got-out-of-bed faces are not good logos and be dressed up properly (no tie, please, but a shirt yes). Think of the famous saying: There is no second impression.
– If you don’t know the answer, confess. Your interviewer might ask you grammar questions (‘Can you give me an example for Present Perfect Continuous?’). Well, if you start making excuses that you can’t hear the question and that the video crashed, but then there are noises of wild typing coming through your microphone, you answered the question before Google finds the answer for you. Don’t treat the others like fools.
– Don’t walk with the laptop. Sit down, have everything organised around you (a glass of water, paper and pen, etc.). This is like a real interview only in cyberspace.
– Use the technology: if your interviewer asks you for your teaching certificate, it is very convincing when you can send it over to them right away as a jpg file. You can type into the chat field of Skype names that are difficult to spell (for instance the name of your previous employer), and you can also send the recruiter to your website to show them worksheets you published.
– Write a quick note (via email or on Skype) afterwards, thanking for the opportunity.
There a great deal of websites giving endless lists of typical questions and best vs worst answers to them, so I don’t want to spend time going through these.
Let me mention only a few mistakes that should occur rarely to never:
1. Be longwinded with strengths but mention no weaknesses.
You need to know yourself and this means that you know what you need or would like to improve on. This can be related to the language (‘I’d like to brush up on my grammar knowledge’) or your job moral (‘I sometimes fall behind with the reports’) or your personality (‘I should express criticism more directly, I often don’t get through to my students’). We all have weaknesses, the thing is that you need to be aware of them.
The secret is that if you mention the same weaknesses as your reference person does, your weakness might get you the job. It shows that you are able to assess yourself and also your students.
2. If you don’t know, be at least sorry about it
What does it mean?
– How many conditionals are there in English? – I can’t recall it now.
– What are phrasal verbs. – Well, they sound familiar, but I pass.
– What do you do if a student falls behind the class? – I’ve never had this problem.
Well, this candidate communicates complete incompetence. The worst is if you say: ‘I was never asked this question before.’ or ‘In my previous school we didn’t have to know grammar’. Being devastated is not better either. Keep cool.
Even the most experienced teacher gets hard questions daily, but they take the chance to improve.
If you don’t know the answer, apologize and promise to find out more about the black holes in your knowledge. Unexperienced teachers might get a chance if they write an email to the interviewer afterwards, giving answers to the questions they couldn’t answer at the interview. It shows devotion and the willingness to learn about the job.
3. ‘I am a native speaker, I don’t know grammar.’
This is the world-famous slogan of all native-speaker-but-no-teacher colleagues. You don’t need to be a grammar lexicon, but even if you have been following the communicative methodology, you must be aware of basic grammar terms (what is a verb, what does the English tense system look like, how to form an adverb of manner, what is the difference between first and second conditional, etc.). If not this, what would be then a difference between an English teacher and an English-speaking mechanic?
So even before the interview, start studying the grammar of your native language. Michael Swan has written great books for native English teachers, but you can also start from the student side and open up Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use or just browse through the Grammar Bank/Reference of any widely used course book (New Headway, New English File, etc.).
4. Do you know who you are talking to?
Before any job interview, there is must: type in the school’s name into Google and find out something about the place where you would like to go to. Familiarize a bit about the country, read other teacher colleagues’ blogs about the place. Have it clear what type courses the school you are applying to offers. It might be essential later. Take notes, if the amount of new information is overwhelming, but try not to mix two concurrent language schools or show absolute ignorance about the place. It might be disadvantageous since some places welcome new teachers with a real culture shock if you are unprepared (50 students in a classroom, schools without a white- or blackboard, staff with very poor English, etc.).
Be also clear about what you expect from the school:
– how many hours are you able and willing to teach per day?
– do you fancy working late in the evening or at weekends?
– would you like to live alone or share accommodation?
– are you ok with travelling to companies and schools?
– do you want to teach young learners?
– can you handle a country whose language you don’t speak?
All these are once more of relevance at the end of the interview, when the interviewer is going to ask you if you have any questions. One of the things they evaluate afterwards is whether the candidate could ask useful and relevant questions.
Should you ask about the pay?
We are educated not to touch the delicate topic of financial issues. Nevertheless, you are applying for a job which pays your bills. So this is the situation, where you should ask about the pay, unless the recruiter has already explained it. I would seriously mistrust institutes that don’t want to talk about money. In addition to your net pay, ask for the costs of living (a dinner in a restaurant, rent, bills, internet costs) and about the possibility of making extra hours (and their payment). Ask about holidays, extra-curriculum duties, means of transport, potential difficulties, etc.
All these questions make your interviewer understand that you want to know what you are letting yourself in and that you prepare. Both valuable in a teacher.
FINALLY, KNOW HOW TO SAY ‘NO’
Hopefully your interview will be followed by a job offer.
Make sure you answer right away, even if you cannot give an answer immediately. Take your time to think about it, ask for explanation or for further details if necessary. Don’t step back after you accept, so think twice before you do.
Be professional even if you don’t accept. This is the real world, not only teachers are in competition for a good post, but also schools are competing for good teachers. So, just communicate to the D.O.S. with an ease if you have already accepted another job offer. Thank for the opportunity and the offer and wish the very best to them in their work.
Teachers have thousands of soft skills. One of these is the capacity of expressing disapproval or criticism without making the other part feel bad, but make them want to improve.
Conduct yourself as a teacher in every situation.
This is an open list and is based on personal experience as recruiter for a private language school in Sicily (Italy) since 2011.
Most suggestions about the CV are based on the European guidelines (see European CV).
I would like to point out that I have had the chance to meet, interview, often even work with excellent and professional colleagues, who set the high standards my school is following.
They helped me prepare young colleagues for the job world. So make treasure of what you haven’t thought about before.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO NOW?