Number one for English language teachers

Creating a CV

It is impossible to overstate the importance of creating a good CV. After all, your CV is, in theory, your passport to a job – a new job, a better job, a more rewarding job, a more stimulating job. Here are some useful tips to get you started.

Your CV is often the first information about you that the potential employer sees and, just as the first impression when you walk into the interview room is important, the initial visual impact of the CV is vital.

Before considering what to include in your CV, it is worth thinking about what not to include. If the CV is too long or has too much detail, the employer may wonder either why you have changed jobs so often or why you have chosen to highlight that one-hour workshop on using coursebooks that you once led at a weekend conference. Similarly, although details about your past responsibilities may be relevant at a certain level, it is unlikely that including the fact that you were once assistant secretary of your local stamp collecting club will be of much assistance when you are applying for a teaching post. On the other hand, if the CV is reduced too much, the employer may wonder what it is you have to hide and whether those missing two years in the 1980s actually represent a stretch in prison.

For new teachers just entering the profession, it is often tempting to include all work experience to flesh out the CV. This can be a mistake, as information such as "Four weeks' temporary bar work" will not normally add much to your application. On the other hand, "January-June 2008 – employed in different part-time jobs" should inform the potential employer that you were gainfully employed without requiring them to plough through tedious and irrelevant details. If you are newly qualified and lack experience in teaching, then don't be afraid to say so. It is far better to highlight this than to try to hide behind flimsy experience, such as "Some one-to-one teaching over an extended period", as this can be ruthlessly and embarrassingly exposed at interview. Instead, emphasize the practical strengths that you have gained on your training course and the personal qualities that you think will interest a future employer. Practical strengths can be included as a category on your CV; personal qualities are best included in a supporting letter of application. Always stress openness, friendliness and the ability to work in a team.

A suggested CV format for beginner teachers

  • Personal details: Full name, date and place of birth, nationality, permanent address, phone, fax and email. Traditionally, marital status is often included but I fail to see why this should be of interest to a potential employer.
  • Education: Secondary school subjects and final grades, higher education subject(s) and degree grade(s) plus any further relevant diplomas and courses studied, especially your TEFL qualification. Ideally, this should form a separate section.
  • Foreign languages spoken: For applicants for TEFL posts, a knowledge of at least one foreign language normally looks good on paper. If you don't know one, then don't include this category. Leaving it out altogether may not be noticed but if you write "Foreign languages – none", it certainly will be!
  • Relevant work experience: If you have some teaching experience that will stand up to scrutiny, then by all means include it. If you don't, only include work experience with some relevance to your future position – for example, computer use, administration work, dealing with people.
  • Interests: It is a good idea to give potential employers some idea of the kind of person you are. Interests that might be of use in a language teaching context are worth including – drama, for example.

A suggested CV format for teachers with teaching experience

The format can basically be the same as the above but will obviously include a section on teaching experience. In this section, it is important to put the most recent experience at the beginning and to work back in reverse order. As stated above, try to avoid too much detail but always include any specific responsibilities that may interest the potential employer, for example, "Teacher of English with special responsibility for examination classes".

If you have experience of using a wide range of coursebooks and other teaching materials, you might also consider including this as a separate category as this will enhance the impression that you are experienced and knowledgeable in this area.

If, in addition to your full-time employment, you have led a number of workshops or attended various conferences, it can be a good idea to include this information in a general sense, as in "I have led workshops on various teaching topics in Turkey, Italy and France and have attended conferences in the UK, Germany and Morocco", rather than listing them all in detail. This can be discussed at the interview if necessary. Experienced teachers might consider including a highlighted summary of their experience at the top of the CV for quick and easy reference. For example:

"I have a total of 8 years' teaching experience in English as a Foreign Language and have taught in Brazil, Thailand, Poland, Spain and the UK. I have taught both children and adults and have also taught examination classes and business English."

Finally, for both categories of applicant, always include the names of at least two referees who can supply an account of your reliability and / or your performance as a teacher. These people should be easily contactable and willing to give you a reference. Always contact them and get permission first.

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Readers' comments (4)

  • I'll repeat what Anna said 'it is better to have a sample CV and cover letter' adding 'especially for bilingual teachers.'

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  • I don't think you need to put your dob in Britain. Also, it should be 2 pages max, with important stuff at the beginning.

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  • good ideas but it would also be useful to have a sample CV and cover letter...

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  • good ideas

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