This is
This is a perfect example of an appropriate photograph!

The staff at ESL Suite puts their eyeballs on a lot of resumes. That doesn’t make us the experts – if you’re writing a CV with hopes of becoming a programmer, break into the film industry, or gain admission to medical school, you’ve come to the wrong place. What we can do is help you make a splash with the hiring manager at an ESL school in China.

English schools in China are looking for very specific information.  The reason for this is that  some of the details on the résumé are  necessary later when you’re applying for a Chinese working visa. For example, it’s much more difficult to get a Foreign Expert Certificate if you’re not a native English speaker from the US, UK, South Africa, Australia, Canada or New Zealand. That information is critical, thus it ought to be at the top of the page.  There are also specific age requirements, as well as the usual necessary information about your education and work history.

It’s probably helpful if I start by listing each item or section sequentially, or how it should ideally appear on the page from top to bottom:

Another Great Looking Photo!
Another Great Looking Photo

Candidate Profile:

  • Your full name
  • A recent, professional looking photo in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
  • Birth date or age
  • Citizenship
  • Native language
  • Marital status (optional)

The body:

  • Educational background including the name of the institution, discipline studied and completion date.
  • Relevant certifications – if this includes a CELTA or a TEFL/TESOL certificate, that’s great!
  • Relevant skills section (optional but a nice touch).
  • Work history which includes the company name, location, dates of employment and bullets listing your responsibilities or major achievements.
  • Other professional experience which might include internships, volunteer work, etc.
  • Links to published work.
  • “References available upon request.” (typed at the bottom of the page).

A footer, which includes:

  • Your name
  • Current address
  • Mobile telephone number
  • E-mail address
  • Skype profile name

And finally:

  • References – it’s a good idea to include both professional and character references.
  • Professional references are necessary – at least one must be your direct supervisor from your previous position.
  • Make sure the contact information is up to date.

Although much of this information is pretty boilerplate, there are a few major differences that are probably attributed to cultural norms in different regions. This is particularly true in the “Candidate Profile” section. Information such as your age and mother language aren’t often necessary when applying for jobs in the west, so some people might be put-off from including this on their CV.

Say “Cheese!” 

It’s common practice in China to include a recent photograph of yourself on a CV. A professional looking photo, set from the shoulders up with a plain background is typical.  This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised the types of photos I’ve seen – some border on absurd. A photo that doesn’t include a beer funnel in your mouth is probably best – think college yearbook photo, only more recent.

Got TESOL?

Regarding the  TEFL/TESOL certification; if you have one, that’s definitely a big “win”. If not, don’t fret – there are dozens of good choices,  and certification can even be completed online.  If you’ve started a course but haven’t completed it yet, simply listing the projected completion date will be enough to secure you an interview. It could even be a good talking point during the Skype interview – being able to discuss what you have learned so far, and asking a few well-crafted questions will probably go a long way towards securing the job.

If you were a hiring manager, would YOU hire you?
If you were a hiring manager, would YOU hire you?

… so, if you would, would you walk us through a typical day, for you?

Your work experience is also important. Teaching experience is not always necessary, but a few years of work in a field that has transferable skills is usually good enough. If you have any background working with children, that’s a plus. People who have held jobs which require planning, organization, customer service skills and/or creativity have potential to become good ESL teachers. If you don’t have any teaching experience or experience with children, try to find volunteer work. A local orphanage is a good idea, or you can coach a little-league sports team.

The final touches

The references you include should be reliable, chosen well (they should give you a glowing recommendation!), and their contact information should be current. If they can give you a signed recommendation letter on company letterhead, that’s even better. And don’t forget, it’s always a good idea to tell your references beforehand that you’re in the midst of a job search. It’s better if they’re prepared for calls from your potential employers.

Lastly, check your spelling! Believe it or not, I still see CV’s and cover letters that haven’t been spell-checked. Sending a résumé  riddled with typos is the best way to sabotage your job search before it even starts.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to attract an HR hiring manager’s attention and increase your chances of being contacted for a job. Recruiters ee dozens of resumes everyday, so it’s critical that you present yourself in the best light possible, and that your resume includes all the information relevant to the position!

Perhaps this list isn’t exhaustive – if you think I missed something, let me know and I’ll add it to the list! In the meantime, GOOD LUCK on your search for a rewarding teaching position in China!

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3 thoughts on “How to Write a Resume for ESL Teaching Jobs

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