Stories & Tips from My ELT Job Hunt

My regular reader(s) (hi Mum!) may have noticed my lack of recent blogging. Well, to cut a long story short, right after I finished my MA I found out my job had been cut from the school budget. So, armed with 4 years’ experience, a CELTA and an MA TESOL, I have been job hunting. Here are a couple of stories and tips from my experiences; they will hopefully be useful, interesting or just funny for others job hunting. The stories are in order of how far though the application process I got (along with some random irrelevant ratings).
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Story 1 – Universities in KoreaThis is a short story. I applied for around twelve jobs at universities throughout Korea. I didn’t get a reply from a single one. It seems in their infinite wisdom the Korean government has introduced a new regulation stating that to work at a university in Korea, you must have at least two years university teaching experience in Korea. I don’t think you need me to explain the absurdness of this regulation. One friend recommended I apply to his university, but then told me he was unsure if I would get the job because of my appearance. I can only presume he was referring to the fact I have a very short beard and slightly long hair. I decided not to apply for that job.Annoyance rating 8/10Story 2 – High Schools in KoreaI love teaching high school level students and, with my school feeling a bit guilty about leaving me in this situation, the vice principle contacted all the local high schools to ask if they would be hiring a NET next year and, if so, to recommend me personally. Success! A nearby girls’ school was hiring for next semester! Unfortunately though, after reading (haha, ye right) through my resume, cover letter, statement of teaching philosophy and student evaluations for the past two years, there was a problem. You see, I am not Korean, I am also not married, and this meant that, in the eyes of the principle, those two things put together meant I was a sexual risk to the students. Because, as they explained, there have been a number of sexual scandals involving non-married foreign men in Korean public schools in recent years. You didn’t know that? Me neither. I wonder why… So, after being accused of being a potential sexual risk I decided to withdraw that application.

Offensiveness rating 12.5/10


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Kindergarten – not what I’m looking for right now
Story 3 – A University in VietnamMy initial plan was to move to Vietnam. I applied for a couple of positions and heard back from all of them, only one of which was recruiting though. However, unlike Korea, they did all pay me the courtesy of replying. After receiving my application I received a timely response and was asked to fill an application form (I’ve put the full list of questions contained on the application form at the bottom of this post). The application form was very time consuming to fill in, but also very interesting. I found it reassuring that I was being asked detailed questions about my pedagogical approach and educational philosophies, as opposed to my marital status. Following this I was offered an interview which I ended up turning down to accept an offer elsewhere.Professionalism rating 10/10Story 4 – Jobs with the British CouncilWorking for the British Council has been a long term ambition of mine. I respect the amount of work they do to assist teachers throughout the industry and would also enjoy the professional development opportunities they offer. To apply I had to fill in an application form on their website that was then sent to the East Asia recruiting team. I applied for positions in Vietnam, Korea and Thailand. I was left with two impressions from this process:

1) They prefer you to be in country (I was only offered an interview for the Korea position).

2) For the initial application the primary concern is meeting minimum qualifications, which is two years post-CELTA experience.

I was offered an interview in Seoul. The interview was pretty challenging, I was asked a lot of questions about teaching young learners, especially kindergarteners. This was difficult for me as my experience is mainly with teenagers. I was able to answer the questions based on my experience with kindergarteners four years ago, but I left frustrated and feeling I wasn’t able to share the aspects of the teaching that I wanted to. The interviewers were extremely professional though and didn’t rush me at all. On reflection here are a couple of tips on how I would approach a BC interview in the future:

– Find out exactly what age range the job is for. I actually wasn’t aware the BC taught kindergarteners and wasn’t prepared for questions about my experiences teaching this level. My friend who works for the BC Bangkok doesn’t teach students below twelve so it seems it varies from center to center.

– Rather than preparing to answer specific questions for the list of behaviours they will send in advance, think about what five or six things you want them to know about you as a teacher. These things are what I wish I had tried to emphasise in the interview. Next think about how you can relate these to different scenarios. The reason for this is the questions they asked were very specific, for example ‘tell me about a time you have obtained feedback from a group of LOW LEVEL ADULT learners’. With questions so specific it is very hard to predict the questions they will ask, so think of some features about you professionally that you want them to know and emphasise these in your answers. I made the mistake of trying to predict the questions and making specific answers that I never got the opportunity to use. Also, be prepared to make up examples.

I still don’t actually know if I am accepted for this position, however I have decided to accept an offer elsewhere.

Difficulty rating – 7/10


Story 5 – College Level Position in the Middle EastA friend recommended a job teaching for AMIDEAST who are starting a new project in Saudi Arabia. To be honest, I had never considered teaching in Saudi Arabia, but it looked a very interesting opportunity, a new challenge and an exciting package to go with it. The application process had a number of stages:

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My home to be

1) Send resume + cover letter.

2) Write two short essays; a statement of teaching philosophy and how I use technology in the classroom. (I’ve attached the essays I wrote below).

3) Have an interview with the regional quality control manager of AMIDEAST.

4) Have a second interview with a representative of the university who would be paying me.

The essays were self-explanatory, so I’ll jump into some more details about the interviews.

The first interview was very interesting, the second was very challenging, but both were extremely interesting and professionally conducted. The first lasted around an hour, I was a nice relaxed interview where I didn’t really feel like was being tested so much as being scoped out. We discussed (I’ve put the emphasis on discusses as it really was a two way where we both shared our opinions and views) our beliefs on education, how we deal with culture in the classroom, the importance and need for professional development and so on. The interviewer shared his experiences with me of teaching in Saudi Arabia which was very interesting.

The second interview was a lot more challenging. The questions were very structured, and every single answer I gave was challenged. Not in an aggressive way, but in an ‘I want to know if you’re blagging this’ way. To give an example:

Q) If you took over another teacher’s class, and found the students were very far behind and didn’t seem to know the materials that they would be tested on, what would you do? What would you tell management? What would you tell the students? What would you say to the other teacher?

This was then followed up with:

Q) But, what if the teacher was older than you, do you really think he would want advice from someone as young as you? Don’t you think it is your responsibility to let the students know what situation they’re in? 

Or another question I was asked:

Q) If you watched a teacher’s class, and noticed a couple of students were using the present continuous incorrectly, whose fault is that? Is it the teacher’s fault? The material’s fault? The students’ fault?

Followed up with:

Q) So, in relation to your answer, change it around, if you were the teacher, is it your fault? Is it even a problem?

Followed up with:

Q) Right, so you think it is a problem, what are you going to do about it?

The interview went on like this for almost 1 1/2 hours!

Stress Rating – 10/10

I was offered the job in Saudi Arabia, and so on November 20th I will be moving to Saudi Arabia.

Well, I hope some of that was either useful or entertaining. Hopefully with my MA done and job secured I can get back to blogging!


Questions on the application form for a university in Vietnam:

1. What do you enjoy about EFL/ESL teaching?  Why?
2. Name two of the difficulties you have encountered while teaching in an EFL/ESL classroom and explain how you have handled them?
3. Give an account of what you have done for your own CPD over the past couple of years.
4. What are three of your favourite activities that you use in the classroom to help students reinforce a particular language point or skill?
5. What are some examples of error correction methods you use in the classroom?
6. What are some activities you use to make reading more interesting and fun for students?7. 
7. Please provide an example of an activity you would use to differentiate between past simple and present perfect in class? At what level would you introduce this grammar point?
8. Pronunciation can sometimes be a problem for students.  Please list two specific pronunciation problems your students had and detail how you worked with them to overcome those difficulties.

Job sites
For jobs in the Middle East and Vietnam I used www.tefl.com
For university jobs in Korea and Taiwan I used http://www.profsabroad.com/

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