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Advice for Rookie ESLers Applying For Jobs

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Joined: 22 Apr 2003
Posts: 91

PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2003 1:52 am    Post subject: Advice for Rookie ESLers Applying For Jobs Reply with quote

Hello all!

I'm new to this forum but not to ESL teaching and having recruited and interviewed ESL teachers for several years in Asia (mostly Japan) I would like to post a bit of advice for prospective ESL teachers that I think applies to an ESL position anywhere in the world (probably to any job for that matter). My apologies in advance if I tend to go on and the sarcasm starts to get thick. Please remember this is NOT a PERSONAL ATTACK on anyone, but if you take it as such, perhaps you’re guilty of some of the “crimes” listed below. Regardless I hope it’s of use to some of you out there.

- I CANNOT stress this point enough. I’m truly shocked at the number of resumes that- excuse the language- are pure CRAP that hit my inbox/fax. They go straight into the rubbish bin. There are literally thousands of websites out there that will give you free advice and tips on CV/resume writing so I won’t get into any details. However, I’ll give a couple general tips- the CV/resume should be concise and the experience/education listed should be relevant to the position sought. You may have done a six-month stint as an underwater basket weaver in the Himalayas, but how that relates to teaching English to children may be a bit lost on the recruiter. And make sure the spelling and grammar are correct- if you’re applying to be an English teacher- come on, get it right! You are SELLING YOURSELF and the resume is that foot in the door- if it’s a smelly, dirty foot you’ll see the door slammed shut on it.

- Again, thousands of websites exist to help you with this and the same things I mentioned about the CV/resume apply here too. My general advice for the cover letter is to be sure you craft it specifically to the position sought and address it to the appropriate person. I want to know why you want THIS PARTICULAR POSITION and why you think you’re the best candidate. Cover letters that go straight into my trash can start something like, “Dear Director…” Sounds nice, but my name is actually listed as the contact in the ad so address it to ME. This is not an egotistical thing, but for those of you using the shotgun approach to applying for jobs (the same general cover letter sent to a number of prospective employers) try again! How lazy are you?! Is it really that difficult to cut and paste the name and organization to which you’re applying into the cover letter. Be warned though, be sure you send the right letter to the right person/organization. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve received letters saying something like, “I’m very excited about the opportunity to work for ABC English School and believe I have the experience and qualities necessary to make a positive addition to your teaching team at ABC School.” Great sentiment, except that I’m recruiting for XYZ English School- oops! Click, drag into the trash. Finally, the cover letter is not the forum to ask a hundred questions about the job. You are SELLING YOURSELF as the best candidate. If you get an interview, that is the appropriate time and place for any questions.

- Know what you’re applying for and the terms/conditions listed in the ad. Also, be sure you’re actually qualified for the job. Many ESL positions have only basic qualifications (e.g. a degree, a pulse and an outgoing manner), but they are usually necessary to obtain the proper working permits. Many positions, particularly in Asia, request a certain gender/nationality/age limit. By western standards this may be judged discriminatory and unfair (and often I agree) the harsh truth is that it is perfectly legal and acceptable in most Asian countries to make these kinds of preference statements when recruiting teachers. While I have never outright told potential male or British female candidates not to bother applying when asked about “PREFERRED: NORTH AMERICAN FEMALE” however you should realize almost every position for which I’ve recruited over the years has brought in a couple hundred applications each and the chances of not finding the “preferred” candidate are almost zero. So use your energy and time wisely when choosing which positions you’ll go after.

- This goes hand in hand with number 4. Send EXACTLY the application materials that are requested and in the form in which they are requested (e.g. MS WORD files, jpg files for pictures, etc.). Incomplete applications go straight into the trash can. If they request a picture, don’t get into some self-righteous huff about how this is “discrimination” and “why should a picture matter, blah blah blah.” I’m sorry, I may agree with you completely but you’re not applying for a job in your home country where certain laws forbid such requests and the truth is my bosses want to see the person they may be hiring. Pictures should be professional looking, (smile- please!!!) passport style, head shots. Sending additional pictures that show-off your "happy-go-lucky" personality can back fire. The interview is the place to let your personality come through.

- Again, re-read the ad carefully (take some brief notes). Try to research the company for which you’re applying and the area in which the position is based- this actually does impress interviewers. Be sure to make yourself available at the INTERVIEWER’S CONVENIENCE. Be prepared for what we westerners would consider personal and private questions- asking about health, family and relationships is very common. I’ll be honest I don’t like asking these questions, but if I don’t my boss certainly will. Basically they’re looking to see if there are any issues that might result in a teacher having to break a contract early so the best way to approach these questions is in a manner that conveys you are definitely committed to the contract for the duration (typically one year) baring some tragic unforeseen event. Often I have very little time in which to interview candidates and my BS meter is very sensitive so do us both a favor and make sure you ACTUALLY ANSWER the question asked. Elaborate only when asked and don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer “did I answer your question adequately?” Also choose your words and tone wisely- smiles can be “seen” even through a phone and if you’re going to be teaching English to non-native speakers it would help you to avoid colloquialisms, slang and to SPEAK CLEARLY. Finally, although not everything can be covered in a small ad and it’s always a good idea to reconfirm certain points or get clarification on anything that’s not clear, NOTHING earns the biggest black mark in an interviewer’s notebook than asking a question about some aspect of the position that is CLEARLY STATED in the ad. “So, is airfare included with this position?”, when the ad states "ALL TRAVEL EXPENSES WILL BE BORNE BY THE SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATE". Read between the lines and you tell me. Finally, DO think of some thoughtful questions for the interviewer to show you actually have an interest in the position. I’ve rarely had an interview in which every stone has been overturned by me.

- This is the nasty part. You sent off the winning resume and slam dunked the interview now it’s wait-n-see. Any reputable organization will give you a time frame as to when a final decision will be made, but an exact date may be difficult after one brief interview and often there may be follow-up information/interviews needed. If anything more is requested of you and you want the position, it is in your best interests to submit any information/materials ASAP when requested. Nothing moves a candidate to the bottom of the short list faster (for me usually off the list) than a recruiter actually having to “chase down” requested materials from a candidate. Again, you’re selling yourself and the deal ain’t closed yet.

That covers most of the problems I’ve experienced when recruiting over the years. Again, I apologize for the heavy sarcasm and occasionally condescending manner- most of it is meant to be tongue in cheek though. I do hope some of you find it helpful.


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Joined: 19 Jan 2003
Posts: 9138

PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2003 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Concise, informative and helpful! I can't fault this guy with being too descriptive as regards some of the job applicants... he has got a point there!
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Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2003 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, ryuro, for reiterating what I have been saying for the past 5 years in Japan. This applies especially to points 1, 2, 5, and 6.

the CV/resume should be concise and the experience/education listed should be relevant to the position sought. You may have done a six-month stint as an underwater basket weaver in the Himalayas, but how that relates to teaching English to children may be a bit lost on the recruiter.

Have seen my share of resumes that are 3-4 pages long, yet the person has one (or no) previous job in teaching. The employment section is filled with retail jobs, hotel clerking, or ski instructors. Ok, so list them, but please don't write a whole paragraph or four bullet points to describe that work. You sold clothing at the Gap. You were night manager at Best Western. Leave it that way.

ryuro, Got a question.
What's your opinion of resumes that have some sort of "mission statement" or "employment objective" at the beginning? I'm talking about paragraphs or bullets that say one of two things:

1. I want a job as a teacher. (That is the job one is applying for, so why reiterate it?)
2. Here are my nifty personality characteristics (even if they are unrelated to teaching or are pretty much little more than saying one is a swell person).
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Joined: 04 Apr 2003
Posts: 173
Location: Chengdu, P.R.China

PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2003 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


that was very informative, and very daunting to the rookie. It seems as though obtaining any job would have a bit of luck involved for those of us who are just finishing our certificates. Just by the sheer volume of resumes you seem to be inundated with. I get this vision of someone sitting at a desk, taking one glance at a resume and chucking it over their shoulder into a giant shredder. Shocked Oh well, I'm always up for a challenge! Smile
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Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 3589

PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2003 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know of one additional problem faced by the FAO's (Foriegn Affaira Officer, the person who does the intial contact with the teacher)...

e-mails that contain large files! With 2-6 MB of mail storage, a 1 MB resume blocks up a lot of room in the mail. But some people send such resumes. Don't see why any intial reasume should be over 100 Kb

So a question to you want applicants to send documents such as diplomas, via e-mail, in the intial contact e-mail???
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Joined: 22 Apr 2003
Posts: 91

PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2003 9:24 am    Post subject: some responses Reply with quote

Thought I'd respond to a few questions others raised from my original post...

This is an oft debated point about CVs/Resumes- to include an objective line/paragraph or not. My personal opinion and I would say the trend these days is that including an objective is superfluous. I agree with you, I really don’t see the point of using valuable resume space when the cover letter and resume itself really serve as the objective, and I would say about 95% of the applications I see these days don’t have one.

It shouldn’t be “daunting” necessarily but I hope it does give you pause to think before you start firing off resumes. Candidates who make the various gaffs that I and others have mentioned in this forum are simply displaying a lack of experience and professionalism when it comes to job hunting and to be quite honest, those would be the type of people I WOULDN’T want to hire. Granted there is always a bit of luck involved in getting a job but what I originally wrote in this post, and I think many would agree, is basic job-hunting common sense. So good luck.

PS. As to your image of a person sitting at a desk with a giant shredder behind them- not far off the mark. However, thanks to the internet it’s a simply click and drag into the trash can.

Good point (about large email files)! I guess that’s what I meant when I said, “send exactly what’s requested- NO MORE, no less”, and I agree- an initial contact needn’t stop-up the internet drain. All too often candidates feel they have to shove EVERYTHING done the pipe on the first go. Generally what I ask for is a cover letter, resume/cv (that obviously includes info about degrees/diplomas, etc..) and a decent picture. If a candidate makes it to/past the interview stage and I have to start thinking about arranging work visas, then I ask for the documents themselves.
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Dave Kessel

Joined: 24 Jan 2003
Posts: 49

PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2003 5:00 pm    Post subject: Customer Service Reply with quote

Another point to keep in mind- ESL is a customer service industry. You will be prividing service. Students pay your salary A disgruntled student can get you fired. Take care of them.
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Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15299

PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2003 5:15 pm    Post subject: good stuff here Reply with quote

This is good solid advice. And clearly needed when I see others saying, "What is a CV ? Never heard of it !"
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That Lisa Girl

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2003 11:56 pm    Post subject: References Reply with quote

Ryuro - once again, thank you so much for this extremely valuable information!

I'd like to hear your stand on references. Should they be provided at the end of the C.V., or should I simply write "References available upon request"? My TESL instructor said that she prefers the references to be provided right away, because it saves her time, but other people have said that under no circumstances should references be provided unless specifically asked for. Also, in your experience, do you actually call the references, even if they are a dozen time zones away from you, or do you e-mail them? Do you only want references that pertain specifically to teaching, or would it be okay to add the name of another previous employer?

Your input would be greatly appreciated.
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Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 256
Location: Taipei, TAIWAN

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2003 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

None of the big companies that I've worked for over the years in Japan have ever checked references.

I'm sure you could bullshit your way through and they would never know the difference.

Moreover, letters of reference don't seem to mean shiit in Japan.

They like you in the first few minutes of the interview or they don't.

First impressions are important in Canada and they are important in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

So make your first impression a good one!
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Joined: 22 Apr 2003
Posts: 91

PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2003 6:47 am    Post subject: References Reply with quote

Howdy- been gone on holiday for a bit, but now that I'm back thought I'd weigh in on the topic of references...

To refer or not to refer....

I guess I have to agree with Sunpower, it's VERY unlikely that anyone would actually check references these days. And even if you do include them, it's so easy to fake 'em that there's hardly a point. However, I can usually spot a bogus reference- they're the ones that use hotmail, yahoo or one of the several other free email account services as a contact.

If you're submitting an application via the internet, I would not add to it's size by including reference letters (unless they're specifically requested). Generally the line- "References available upon request" is sufficient.

If you have the space on the CV/resume and you really feel the need to include contact info; I suppose you could include names, email, phone (and fax if available). On the few occasions I've contacted references it has been via email or fax, but again I don't think they're really necessary in a first contact letter/application (unless specifically requested).

Hope that's helpful.


PS. I totally agree with Sunpower about first impressions- usually I have a very good idea about a candidate in the first few minutes of an interview (whether in person or over the phone).
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Joined: 16 Feb 2003
Posts: 66
Location: Saudi Arabia

PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2003 4:49 am    Post subject: SOME QUESTIONS FOR THE GUY WHO WROTE FOR NEWBIES Reply with quote

An excellent post, ever since I read it about, what seems like years ago. Thorough yet concise; pithy. I thought I wouldn't have to submit a resume for quite awhile, but with friends being bombed in 3 compounds within the last 72 hours, and as I sit here at 7 A.M. on my day off, I've decided, it's time to move!

A couple of questions: (this is mostly for the original poster):

1. In your experience of reviewing resumes, do you really think "Interests, Hobbies", etc. are important? Do you really care? Everybody likes the same things: tennis, reading, spending time with family and friends, blah, blah, blah.

Does it matter? And does it matter to you, as a receiver of resumes? If you look at where someone has been, and what he's done, can't you just assume what kind of person he is? I would think the employer wants to know one thing only: CAN YOU DO THIS JOB??!!! Yeah, yeah, I can hear it coming already; o.k., part of doing the job, especially in the Middle East and Southeast Asia is, Do students like you? But assuming you don't pick your nose or "break wind" in mixed company too often, do you CARE what his "interests" are?

2. Can you give me any advice on how to ACTUALLY put my picture on the resume? I have a passport-sized, professionally done, bust shot, high-contrast, rich-color, neutral background photo of me in a jacket and tie. It was good enough for the visa immigration people at the American Embassy in Riyadh, and they're REAL fussy. Also, I'm good looking.

Please, how do I put this on my resume?

Remember that you're talking to guy who is just learning how to be creative on Excel, and the sum total of what I know about Power Point is that I have it installed on my computer. So ANY technical terms would not be useful for me. What I need is VERY SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS, something like,

1. "Double click left on the icon for Power Point (for example).
2. Right click on (whatever).
3. Put the picture in the upper-left (or lower right, or whatever) part of the scanner.
4. Turn the scanner on. "

and like that.

Thank you for your considerable help.
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Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 814
Location: Fukuoka City, Japan

PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2003 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Man am I ever technologically challenged! The last time I had to include a picture in my job application package, I used scotch tape. Embarassed
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