Finding a job in a new country is exciting as a new adventure is about to begin, but it may be daunting as you may not know where to start with your job search. Here is my practical guide to finding your dream ESL job in Hong Kong.
Use local recruitment websites
Some of the best teaching jobs out there are advertised on local websites (Don’t worry the adverts will be in English). The two most frequently used recruitment site in Hong Kong are Jobs DB and Indeed HK.
On most local job boards, the teaching jobs you will be looking will be advertised as ‘Native English Teacher’, or ‘NET’ for short. Type both these phrases to maximise the numbers of teaching jobs that come up.
Make sure to check these websites regularly as they are regularly updated. Also, sign up to their mailing lists, so you are emailed when new jobs are freshly posted to their job boards.
Google can find anything you are looking for, including your next teaching job. However, I find, being specific on Google is essential.
I would recommend specifying if you want to work in a kindergarten, primary school, secondary school or learning centre on your Google search.
An example of what you might type in would be ‘English teaching jobs in HK secondary schools’ or ‘ESL roles in Hong Kong kindergartens’.
Don’t be afraid trying different searches using all the acronyms in the English teaching world, for example, one search using TEFL jobs in HK switching to ESL for another. This will help you to find more jobs currently being advertised.
Do background research on each employer you are considering
There are many English teaching jobs in Hong Kong, and it’s common knowledge that some are better than others. The worst thing to happen would be signing up for a job, only to discover you are working for not the best employer when it’s too late.
A quick google search can tell you a lot about whether the school or employer is highly regarded. It is also good to see if you can find views online posted by both teachers and parents, to gain multiple perspectives on whether it is the best working environment for you.
Make connections and network
As the same as many industries, knowing people who work in the ESL field can help you get your foot in the door, and I have met many people who have gotten jobs this way.
You can look on LinkedIn and see if you can connect with anyone who is working for the employers you are considering. However, I found joining Facebook groups such as Teachers in Hong Kong (ESL, EFL, English) and English Teachers in Hong Kong are the perfect opportunity to make connections with people currently working in Hong Kong.
Many adverts are posted on the above Facebook groups, and you can often ask about what employers are like and get informative responses from teachers. I find Facebook groups like these are the best place to get specific information about teaching in Hong Kong.
Try to talk to current members of staff
Often you can find at least one member of staff on the Facebook groups mentioned above or LinkedIn. If not, ask the schools your applying to – if you can speak to the staff about what it is like to work there (If the school does not want you to talk to them, then it’s a terrible sign!).
Make sure to ask them many questions about what is important to you in a teaching job, whether it is the number of contact hours to the methods of teaching they use. They are also the people who will give you the best insight into the job and help you make an informed choice if it is the right job for you.
Tailor your application to each school
To reach the interview stage, your application must reflect that you have done your homework on the school and that your teaching style is suited to what they are looking for in a teacher.
For jobs where a lot of competition, this is crucial as they will only consider the applicants show an understanding of how the school works and how you will teach students effectively using their methods.
Ask questions at the interview
When at the interview stage, any question you have about the school (no matter how big or small) you must ask all of them.
Remember, you are interviewing the school just as much as they are interviewing you. When you are looking at different employers, make sure to think about what questions you have based on the information they provide.
Write them down before you visit any school, so you are prepared in the interview. Also having a lot of prepared questions will show the schools that you are enthusiastic about the job!
Be suspicious if they don’t ask many questions
From my experience of job interviews in Hong Kong, some schools may ask you a minimal number of questions. Seriously, I once had one job interview when they only asked me one!
In my experience, schools that interview like this are struggling to recruit and retain teachers. This is a definite warning sign of not a great school. If this happens, then continue your job search after the interview for a better option.
Bad employers will make you sign the contract on the spot
Another sign of a bad school is they will try and force you to sign the contract on the spot. Again, this has happened to me as well. I asked if I could look at the contract at home, so I had enough time to consider it. They said no, and that I could only read it in the school. They were expecting me to decide on the spot!
Only a desperate school who have issues keeping excellent staff would do this. Never sign a contract if you are put in this position as you will not know what you have fully signed up for until it is too late!
Trust your gut reaction
As with any job search, it is always essential to trust your gut reaction. If you get a good feeling about a job, then you are probably right. The same goes for if something seems wrong with a school, you visit or interview for.
If it doesn’t seem right then, it is best to continue your search. It is worth spending time to find the right employer and not accepting an offer that comes in quickly.
Searching for the right job in Hong Kong will take time and effort. However, if you keep on persevering, follow the steps above and give it time, I am sure you will find the best ESL job in the city for you. Hong Kong is also a great place to develop your teaching skills and will open so many doors in your future. Good luck with your applications!
This article was originally published on April 23, 2019 and was last updated on May 22, 2020.