CV and Resume tips for International Teachers

A CV, also known as a Curriculum Vitae or Resume, is a document that concisely outlines your personal information, education and work history.  It provides the first impression that any employer will have of you and will strongly influence whether or not they want to speak with you further.  Yet trying to engagingly summarise yourself, and to figure out what a potential international employer wants to know is difficult for many people, teachers included.  We are too close to the subject matter.

This is where Edvectus can help.

Our many years of experience across schools in over 40 countries has taught us what international schools want to see on a CV, and what they don’t want to see. So read on for general CV tips, and also some specific tips for teachers who have special CV challenges.

Let’s start by understanding what most International Schools really want to see on a CV... what is ‘perfection’ in their eyes even if we know most people are not perfect.

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 General Tips

International schools need someone who has the education and experience to enable them to sponsor a visa, who is suited to the housing they provide, and who can live comfortably on the salary provided. 

They want a teacher who has researched their country and culture and feels it’s suited to them, who has resilience, who shares their school ethos, who will get academic results, who will relate well to their students and fee paying parents, and who will be able to settle quickly and successfully within their new host country.

They ideally want someone who is trained to teach the curriculum, subject and level that they are hiring for and who has recent experience doing it as this lowers the risk for them though this matters more to some schools than others.

And if those hurdles are passed, they will prefer a teacher who, if successful, will renew their contract and is promotable within the school because no school likes to lose a valued member of staff.  Which is why they don’t like teachers with a built in expiry date.

There you have it. That’s what all schools really want even if they don’t tell you.  (They tell us).

Now that you know what they really want, let’s take a look at how your CV should be constructed to show them what you have in the best possible light.

Parts of a good teaching CV

Name and contact details – the easy and necessary stuff

List your full name as it appears on official documents big and bold on the top (but not in the header section of a word document), and if you are known by a nickname then list that too.  

Put in your address including country, your personal (not school) email address, and a telephone number (ideally home number and mobile/cell numbers) right underneath so they know how to reach you quickly and easily..

HINT: Double check the email address and telephone number and make sure it is correct. You would be surprised at how many jobs have been lost because the email was outdated or phone digits transposed, and the teacher could not be contacted. If there are plenty of applicants for the job, employers will often take it as a sign you are not very detail orientated and just move on to the next CV in the pile rather than play detective.

Schools will also want to know your date of birth, because age can affect your ability to get certain types of visas, as well as your marital status and number/ages of dependents who will come with you because this affects the housing they can offer you. So get that out of the way from the start. It’s not helpful to ignore or bury it because if they can’t legally sponsor your visa or house you, they can’t sponsor your visa or house you... no matter how much they want to.

List your country of citizenship/nationality. If you have more than one, list them all. Again, this can affect the visa situation.

Hint: There is one exception. Let’s say you have a lot of recent experience in teaching the English National Curriculum but you are Australian.  If you want to land another English National Curriculum job, it’s best to put your citizenship at the very end of your CV under heading Other Personal Details. This way the employer will unconsciously categorise you as “a teacher of English curriculum” rather than “an Australian teacher and thereby a teacher of mainly Australian curriculum”.  It’s subtle but effective.

You do not need to list your ethnicity, religion, parent’s names, or national identification number.

 

Profile paragraph

Whilst not always required, we have found that a nicely written, concise (3-4 sentences) profile paragraph can help to draw attention to your strong points and set the stage for the rest of your CV that follows.  It’s hard to sum yourself up in a mere 4 sentence paragraph, but it can make a big difference to results. Here are some profile paragraph hints:

  • Keep it professional. Remember that the CV portrays you as a professional teacher so keep focussed on that aspect of yourself. The school will have more time to get to find out about your personality at the interview and international schools, being schools of choice, tend to have quite a professional, academic outlook anyway.
  • Don’t try to use humour as it doesn’t translate well across cultures and languages. This is true for CVs and cover letters.
  • Use first person. It comes across as more genuine.
  • Draw attention to the main facts about yourself such as: are you a qualified/certified teacher and in what subjects?  How many years of teaching experience do you have? What subjects and levels have you taught and what extra-curricular activities have you supported? What have been your teaching achievements and of what are you most proud, professionally?  Have you taught children for whom English is not the first language? Have you enjoyed any particular aspect of teaching? Have you previously worked or lived abroad?  If you are newly qualified, have you worked with children in another capacity before or during your training? These are all things that will help your application be considered.

Yes, all of this information will be repeated in more detail in the other parts of your CV but putting it front and centre helps the school to develop the first, stronger mental picture of your capabilities and training that will be fleshed out later.

It helps them quickly answer the critical questions about you that all international schools will have, and avoids the chance they will only skim-read your CV (and possibly make wrong assumptions) looking for the answers to the top 3 questions.... which are:  What are you qualified/certified to teach, what have you been recently teaching and for how long have you taught. Most of us who read lots of CVs, Head Teachers/Principals included, will skim to find the answers to those critical questions before deciding to read further and if you don’t make us work for it we will appreciate you for it.

HINT: The profile paragraph should be no more than ¼ of the page, and ideally 3-4 sentences.

 

Education

Next is your educational history. The rule with CVs is to put the most relevant information on top- so for most people this means to put your teacher training and university education on top, with everything else underneath. There’s no need to detail every single qualification you have ever received if it’s not relevant to the job you are going for, and we don’t recommend you list your primary or secondary education here. It takes up too much room and is not really relevant. 

What schools want to know is “Do you have a degree, what is it and where is it from” and “Do you have teacher training that is relevant to what I need?” Answer these questions and move on; so list your degree and teacher training/certification, where you got it from, what are the details of subject/age ranges. If your teacher certification/qualification has an expiry date, list it.  

HINT: Any other less relevant or less important training can be put in the back of your CV under ‘Other training and education’.

 

Work History

As with educational history, but the most recent first and work backwards in time. This is because it is most likely the most relevant and freshest experience you have.  Make sure to list both the month and the year you started and finished each job, but if you have moved positions within a school, list it as a single entry – otherwise it looks like you were job hopping.

  • List the from and to dates for each job
  • List the school name and position(s) you held in each school.
  • List positions of responsibility, achievements and/or after school activities you ran.
  • Size matters in a CV – use the most space /words on your most recent, relevant job and pare down the older, less relevant stuff. If you moved out of teaching, you will need to list it but don’t spend valuable CV real estate going into detail if it’s not directly applicable to your next teaching job.  
  • If you have been day to day supply/substitute teaching list that as one job, but if you have worked for more than 3 months at a single school be sure to draw that out.
  • List the main subjects and age ranges/levels taught. Don’t list more than 3 subjects per job – it gets confusing and counterproductive if you try to claim too many strings to you bow. Schools have a hard time understanding your specialism if you are too broadly experienced and ideally your subject/level will match your degree and teacher training.

 

Other

At the back of your CV you can list other less relevant items such as less relevant education or work experience, interests, hobbies, papers or presentations you have given, etc.

 

General tips

  • Don’t use acronyms without defining them in the first instance. Your audience is international and you cannot expect them to know.
  • International schools like it when you have taken responsibility or been promoted within a school, if you have taught children for whom English is not the first language, if you show resilience and commitment (usually illustrated by staying within a school for an extended period of time) and if you have previous experience living/working or travelling abroad. All of these things will be relevant to your new job so if you have them, draw attention to them.
  • If you are a newly qualified teacher (NQT) with less experience, you should list your teaching practices and may want to list recent previous non-teaching work experience. This is especially true if you have worked with children in a different capacity or lived and worked abroad before.

 

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