How to Find Your First ESL Job – Tips and Information

Now that you have completed your TEFL course, it is natural that you should want to start putting into real practice your newly honed English teaching skills. Searching for your first ESL teaching job might seem like a daunting task, but if you do a good research and take one step at a time, you can soon find yourself in that job of your dreams.

Figure Out Where You’re Going

ESL jobs are everywhere. You can find them a few blocks away from home, as well as on the other side of the world. Ask yourself first where you want to go and then research what it is like to teach English in that location. If you are not sure about where you want to go, then try narrowing down your search to a region or even a continent.

You might also want to think first where you do not want to go. As you do your search, take notes and compare the teaching conditions, salaries, school benefits, cost of living from different countries, in addition to weather, leisure activities and cultural opportunities from that region.

Also Read: Teaching English in Hong Kong After Your TEFL Certification


Besides obtaining  your TEFL certificate, the next move you must do is to write a CV that emphasizes your teaching experience and hours of observed teaching practice (in case  you had taken an intensive TEFL course). Many recruiters will consider your application based on your CV alone, so make sure that you leave an outstanding impression. Seek for help on CV building if you need it.

Another key aspect of your preparation is to make sure you pack some professional, conservative clothing before you fly across the world. This might seem unnecessary to you, but some educators have had a hard time finding their size in a foreign country, and you will generally have a dressing code that does not allow tank-top, shorts, sandals, or having exposed tattoos and piercings.

Visa/Work Permit

When you travel for work, you should usually get a work visa. In most countries, it is illegal to work on a tourist visa. Depending on the country you choose, you may also need a work permit, which your employer helps you with in most of the times. You will also need to get a police background check or criminal records from your home country, a recent health check or certificate, copies of all your diplomas, and your valid passport. Once you have collected all of these papers and any other that your host country requires,  you are all set  to legally work. Also, in most cases you are allowed to work while the application is in process.

Certificates and Degrees

Most countries require a Bachelor’s Degree and/or a teaching certificate, such as a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA. The more hours you had spent in the class, the more valuable your certification is.  The most prestigious certifications are those taken in classroom or traditional environments with observed teaching practice. Sometimes you can get by with just the certificate, but it is rare to find teachers with neither. It is very important for you to have at least a TEFL certification, you and your students do not deserve any less.

Find Some Schools

Do some research before hitting the pavement. A quick Google search will turn up schools nearby and a scroll through a Facebook job board can give you an idea of which schools are better to work for and which ones to avoid.  It is also helpful to know what kind of teaching job you really want. Do you want to serve at an NGO, in public schools, or language centers? Want to teach at International schools, bilingual schools, or private lessons? Keeping this in mind and armed with this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about your next step on this exciting journey. Read more on the type of schools you’ll be teaching in Hong Kong.


Applying for ESL teaching positions plus filling in those endless applications can be exhausting and overwhelming, but with some effort, determination and guidance, you can soon land yourself a rewarding and immersive opportunity. There are a few different conventional and original ways to go about finding available teaching opportunities:

In Person: Get yourself a folder and print out a dozen copies of your well-written CV. If you are ambitious, you can also make a few copies of your passport, visa, and a nice photo of yourself. Put on your walking shoes and head out to some of the schools on your list; applying directly at the schools helps you bypass any potential recruiter fees and you could end up working for one school (and hopefully the best one) instead of many, which is ideal.

Email: One way to get your CV seen is by emailing it to language schools and recruiters. A simple cover letter, your CV and a copy of your passport should do. Some places will request that you send a photo as well, so consider sending a very professional one along with the initial email. Get someone to proofread your email if needed! Do not be discouraged if you do not get an email back, they could be overwhelmed with applicants or not hiring at all. There are plenty more fish in the sea.

Facebook Groups: It is common for both teachers and recruiters to post on Facebook groups their searching for positions and teachers, respectively. For instance, TESOL groups are a good source of information in regards teaching positions and events in different cities around the world. As you find some offers, read them very carefully. Many schools are in distant wards or far-flung provinces, and some jobs offer very little compensation and benefits. If you choose to post your request on these websites or social networks, make sure you include some relevant information such as education, certificates, nationality, and what you are looking for in a job (such as location, schedule, courses and levels you want to teach). You could also include a professional photo of yourself as a finishing touch. Teachers of English are in high demand around the world, so make sure you are ready for interviews right away after you post a job request. Your inbox might be flooded with recruiters asking for more information, your CV, or even an interview. Certainly, you will receive many job offers.

Word of Mouth: While it is rare to find your very first teaching job by word of mouth, it is not impossible. Networking can provide valuable connections, so keep your relationships with potential colleagues healthy as these opportunities will often come later on in your teaching career, especially if you start teaching private lessons.

Overwhelmed with Offers?

As mentioned above, English teachers (especially natives) are in high demand around the world, so it is likely that you will be swamped with offers and requests. Take your time. You might feel pressured into making a decision on the spot, but hold firm and mull it over for a day or two. If it is a legit school, they will wait for a reasonable time ad get back to you soon enough. Compare salaries, time off, class covering policies, location, prep work, culture and weather when making your mind.

Interview/Demo Lesson

Occasionally, when you go in for an interview, you will also be asked to submit or do demo lesson. The subject might be given to you, but this does not happen all the times. Make sure you have written before a few ideas in case you have to come up with a teaching strategy or demonstration on the spot. A lot of the times an interview also means a job offer; keep that in mind if you are scheduling multiple interviews.

Tips and Warnings

  • As an ESL teacher, you can make your own schedule by choosing which classes to accept and which ones to decline. Public schools generally hold weekday hours while language centers and private lessons are usually evenings and weekends.
  • Most likely you will get more than one job offer, so do not rush and do not immediately accept the first one you get. The second offer might be better, and the third one might be the best. Keep your options open!
  • Watch out for employers who are known for not paying on time or at all to their teachers; verify the company or school you are applying to.

Signing a Contract

After successfully making it through the application process, interviews, and making your decision, it is time to sign a contract. Read it thoroughly and ask as many questions as you want before signing. Some employers will forbid you from working for other companies while you work for them, including private lessons. Know well what you are getting into and for how long. Read over the penalization for breaking the contract (they usually involve money) and reasons why you could get fired.

Summing It Up

Certainly, teaching English as a second language is an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experiences, and you should be excited to embark on this unique journey anywhere in the world. It may seem intimidating and confusing at first, but act with confidence, do some research, connect with people in the field and you will succeed. Contact us if you ever need any guidance. Now get out there and teach English!

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This article was originally published on June 20, 2018 and was last updated on December 10, 2019.

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