Ten steps to becoming an ESL teacher in Hong Kong

The cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong is an attractive city for ESL teachers to start their careers with the sprawling skyscrapers contrasting with the majestic mountains, it is an exciting place to work and live in. If you want to make this a reality then read my ten steps to becoming an ESL teacher in Hong Kong.

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1. Complete your Trinity CertTESOL

This is a significant step as you will not be able to get any work, let alone a work visa without this! So signing up to the Trinity CertTESOL is a great way to get your foot in the door. It’s also the best way to prepare yourself for the classroom environment if you have no prior experience. You will be able to learn everything from how to effectively teach grammar to classroom management and fun games to get your students engaged in the lessons. It will also give you confidence when you first walk in the classroom when you start working as a teacher.

2. Brush up your CV/resume

Once you’re qualified, it’s time to update your CV/resume. Now that you have gained an abundance of new skills, it is time to show them off so you can get a job interview. Even if you don’t have any teaching experience, highlight how your course has prepared you for the classroom environment and teaching English to learners who do not speak it as their native language.

3. Search the internet

Once your CV is ready. It is time to search on the internet. There are two good places to look. The first would be on TEFL recruitment websites such as TEFL.com and Dave’s ESL café. Many of the learning centres recruit on here and often the biggest ESL employers in Hong Kong will post their vacancies here.

There are also many teaching jobs in Hong Kong that only advertise on their website. It is worth googling “Kindergartens in Hong Kong” or “Learning centres in Hong Kong” and then look for their recruitment page on their website. You will be able to find many more teaching jobs than just looking at job portals if you visit individual school websites.

4. Consider the NET scheme

The NET scheme is a popular government scheme where you will be working in local schools, either primary or secondary. It is considered an excellent scheme to get on and can be very well paid compared to other ESL jobs in Hong Kong. For more information click here. There is usually one application cycle for the upcoming school year. The deadline is in January, so if you want to apply, then you need to act quickly or wait for the following year.

5. Highlight any previous experience with children

If you are applying to work with children, this one is crucial. Even if you do not have much experience with children, it could make the difference between getting an interview or not. As any experience with young people is seen as an asset and will make you more attractive to employers. Make sure you know how to sell yourself and previous experience so that you can get your dream job.

6. Show off your fabulous new teaching skills in the interview

Once you get to the interview stage, this could make or break for you. Every teaching job will ask situational based questions in the classroom such as “How would you manage a child who was not behaving?” This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have learnt some fabulous classroom management skills and will impress the interviewer. I remember using all of my examples for situational based question from my course. Thankfully it worked, and I got the job offer!

7. What to expect in the interview

Interviews vary from employers, but there are some questions that you may be asked and are different from interviews back home. This could include how much sick leave you have taken and how many times you have been late to work. Don’t feel offended or put off by these questions as they are normal for Hong Kong. The best thing to do is answer them honestly and have a good reason if you took too much sick leave in your previous/current job. However, most of the questions you will be asked will be standard interview questions along with some situational ones.

8. Research any school thoroughly

Before accepting (or even applying for that matter), it is crucial that you do your research. Are they a good school? Do they offer a teaching environment that you would be happy in? These are all important things to find out before you sign up for a role. I have come across teachers who signed almost straight away and had some regrets halfway through their contract. To ensure this is not you, find this information about the schools and learning centres you are applying to.

Apart from checking their website, I found that Glassdoor can be a good website to find honest reviews from previous employees, many of the ESL schools  in Hong Kong are on there. Also if you can find them, try and contact teachers who currently or previously worked for the school. They will often provide you with the full picture of what a school is like and give you a true insight about working there.

9. Ask them lots of questions

Naturally, once you have done your research on a school, you will want to ask them lots of questions. Make sure you have them prepared when you’re in the interview so that you can make a good impression and that you get your questions fully answered. Also if you didn’t find a teacher to talk to, you can always ask the school to speak to one to get their perspective on the role. If the schools say no, then that’s a warning sign and I would be extremely hesitant to sign a contract with them if they don’t want you to speak to current employees.

10. Read over the contract and sign if you’re happy

With some luck you will be offered a job, hooray! However, although it can be exciting to accept a new position, you will need to read all the contract conditions carefully. If there is anything you are not sure about, ask the employer and question any concerns that you have. Once you are happy about everything on the contract, then you can sign.

If you are ready to take the next step in your teaching career, sign up to complete the Trinity CertTESOL and your Hong Kong adventure awaits.

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This article was originally published on April 9, 2019 and was last updated on March 4, 2021.

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