How to write a TEFL covering letter and c.v

I do recruitment for our school and I get a lot of job applications every day. While there are some quality applications, it appears that not everyone knows how to write a TEFL covering letter or a TEFL c.v. There are a lot of English teachers who are not getting responses because they simply are not applying for English teaching jobs properly. This post will explain what to include, and what not to include, in a successful ESL cover letter and c.v.

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Have a professional email address and Skype name

To start, let’s begin with first impressions. We all know that they count. If your email address is ‘[email protected]’ or ‘[email protected]’ then set up another one purely for job applications with a more professional name. Just use a version of your real name. Make sure that the name that comes up when someone receives an email from you is just your real name, and not a nickname.

On that note, if you are applying for a job using Facebook or another social network, make sure that your photo is professional. Change that photo of you with your top off, or drunk on a Thai beach. Post a headshot.

Also be aware that recruiters sometimes look at applicants’ social media profiles, so if yours is full of opinions not everyone will believe or appreciate, then set your privacy settings high.

Related post: Teaching English in Europe without an EU passport

Send a TEFL c.v. and covering letter

If you are applying to an email address rather than completing an application form, you’ll need to send both a TEFL c.v. (or ‘resume’ in American English) and a covering letter. The TEFL covering letter can be in the email, or attached, but you need to include one. This should be tailored to the specific position you are applying for, and state how you are suitable for the job and why you want to work there.

Look at how to construct a western-style covering letter and c.v

It might be normal for you to begin your covering letter with a quote, or to use phrases like ‘greetings and salutations to your revered institution’ or something similar, but western-style covering letters tend to be very factual. If you are applying for an international teaching job, you need to look into this. There are plenty of websites giving examples of American or British style covering letters, so have a look if you are unsure.

Your TEFL c.v. should only be 2 pages long and your ESL covering letter should be 1 page. If you send a 5 page TEFL c.v. chances are it won’t be read.

Example of a TEFL covering letter

Address the TEFL covering letter to the specific job

Do not send a generic TEFL covering letter, change the school name and details on it to each job you apply for. It might take a bit longer, but as a recruiter, I want to know that you have actually looked into our school. You should also send the applications individually, not c.c. several companies into one email. I can tell you that when I receive those, I delete them straight away. I know you are applying to more than one school, but schools like to see that you have taken the time to send a specifically directed email. You’ll get more positive responses this way.

Not sure where to look for TEFL jobs? Read our post on where to find good ESL jobs.

Check your grammar and spelling in both your c.v. and your ESL cover letter

This should go without saying, but apparently, it doesn’t. You’re applying for a job as a language teacher, so check your language in your ESL cover letter. Use capital letters and full stops, put your commas in the right places and avoid run-on sentences. A program like ‘Grammarly’ can help you if you’re not sure. I’ve received more than one ESL covering letter without any capital letters in it. Another from someone applying to be an ‘ELF teacher’. You can imagine where they went.

Give full details of your qualifications and experience

What I want to know from an applicant is:

Do you have the qualifications for the role?

and

What experience do you have?

So be specific. If you have a TEFL certificate, which company did you study with, where did you do it and what did it involve?

There are many different types of TEFL certificates, from the CELTA or Trinity certTESOL and others with assessed teaching practice of real students, to 20 hour online courses. Just saying that you have a TEFL certificate, or that you are TESOL qualified, is not enough information. Often these applications go straight into the bin.

On your TEFL c.v. try something like:

January – March 2017  TEFL certificate  TEFL Academy  120 hour online course

or

April 2017  CELTA Grade B   Apollo Hanoi 120 hours onsite course with 6 hours of assessed teaching practice

Not sure what TEFL qualification to do? Read our post on Teaching English qualifications

On the topic of qualifications, your degree, if you have one, is relevant to your application, but your GSCEs and A’levels, or SATs or your country’s equivalent are not.

Regarding experience, again, who did you work for and what was your role?

List the dates, the school, where it was and your role briefly on your c.v. In your ESL covering letter, give more details of what specifically you did. These details are particularly important if they are related to the role you are applying for.

For example:

September 2017-June 2018 English teacher International House, Krakow. 

For the last 10 months, I’ve been an English teacher at International House, Krakow, where I taught general English to groups of young learners from 7-16 years old and to adults. My students were from elementary to upper-intermediate level and I prepared students for the Cambridge KET and PET exams.

apply for TEFL job TEFL covering letter

Focus on your experience relevant to teaching

Many people get into teaching English as a career change. It can be hard to see how to adapt your existing c.v. to apply for a new position as an English teacher. It’s ok to mention your previous career roles, but don’t go into it in-depth unless it’s relevant to teaching.

If you used to be a lawyer, avoid sending a 5-page c.v. of your legal jobs and successes, papers you’ve published and/or conferences attended. What could be relevant to teaching is your legal language experience, as legal English is an area of ELT. So on the ‘Jobs’ section of your c.v, mention the law career:

e.g.

1995-2017 Lawyer for Bla Bla Bla 

and then mention it in your TEFL covering letter:

My 12 years working as a lawyer have given me a professional working knowledge of the English language, as well as an in-depth knowledge of legal terms that I can apply to a position as a legal English teacher.

I’ve presented at several international conferences during my career and believe that this experience can be used to train others in presentation skills.

Wondering what kind of TEFL job is right for you? Read our post on different types of TEFL jobs.

Don’t lie

If the job requires a native level of English, but you have 6.0 at IELTS, then don’t start by saying you are native level. In most cases, someone reviewing your application or interviewing you will notice that your English isn’t the right level.

If the job asks for a CELTA or equivalent, but you have an online certificate, don’t try to pretend that you have a different certificate.

Be honest in your achievements. If you don’t have what you need to get the job you want, then look at how to get it.

What to include in a TEFL covering letter

  • Your specific TEFL qualification/s
  • Details of your previous teaching jobs and what your role involved
  • What ages, levels and class sizes you have experience of
  • What types of English – e.g. General English, ESP, Business English, exam preparation etc. you have taught
  • What coursebooks you have used
  • If you don’t have teaching experience, what experience from your other jobs you have that can be applied to teaching
  • Why you want to work in that country
  • Why you want to work for that school/organisation
  • When you are available to work

Looking to start teaching English abroad? Check out our other posts, including country guides and interviews with TEFL teachers all over the World: Teaching English

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2 Responses

  1. Irene Sushko says:

    A great post which has a lot of useful information! One question though – not all companies in Ukraine ask for a cover letter, sometimes a CV is just enough. Should you send one anyway?

    • KateandKris says:

      Hi Irene, hope your talk went well on Saturday. We’d recommend always sending a covering letter, even if it isn’t specifically requested. It shows that you have put some effort into the application and thought about the organisation and what you have to offer them. This means you can be higher up in the pile when it comes to the sift.

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