8 Ways to Find Your First TEFL Job

Landing that first job is the hardest, so here are some tips to find your first TEFL job with no experience.

Keith Taylor
TEFL job search

Can I teach TEFL anywhere?

There are English teaching opportunities waiting for you in just about every country around the world, although the demand for teachers and access to jobs for foreign teachers is much greater in some countries than in others.

The level of qualifications and amount of experience you’ll need is also different depending on where you go. Most language schools in the EU only recruit EU citizens. Schools in some Middle Eastern countries require a high level qualification such as the Delta and several years of teaching experience, and so will not recruit newly qualified TEFL teachers.

How hard is it to get a TEFL job?

Landing your first TEFL job is the hardest. Once you’ve got a year or more of teaching experience under your belt, things become easier. But in this sense the TEFL industry is no different to any other. And the advantage of the TEFL industry is the sheer demand for learning English. And demand for learning English means a constant supply of English teaching opportunities, including plenty for newly qualified TEFL teachers.

How can I get a TEFL job with no experience?

So, how do you go about getting that first TEFL job? Where should you look and when? Here are 8 ways to get started:

  1. Get TEFL qualified

    This may sound obvious, but without a TEFL certificate there won’t be many job opportunities open to you to teach English abroad. If you’re not already qualified, have a look at these 6 questions to ask when choosing a TEFL course and these 10 things to know about getting TEFL certified, and then go out and get qualified!

  2. Make sure your CV is up to scratch

    It may sound obvious, but make sure that your CV has no grammatical or spelling mistakes. If you’re applying for a job teaching English, there are few things more likely to see your CV thrown into the “No” pile than bad grammar or spelling. Make sure that the layout is clear and easy to read, with your TEFL qualifications and any relevant experience clearly visible and at the top. These are the only two things that most recruiters really want to know – don’t make them read through pages about your summer jobs when you were 16 to find your TEFL qualification on one line near the end. Do highlight other relevant skills and experience, but be very selective and keep it concise.

  3. Apply for vacancies listed on TEFL jobs sites

    Once you’ve got qualified, the best place to start looking for your first job is on TEFL job sites, where a lot of language schools advertise their job openings. Just Google “TEFL jobs” or “TEFL jobs in…” followed by the country of your choice. Apply primarily for jobs which don’t state that they need experience – you’ll start to get a feel for which countries have the most of these types of jobs on offer. There’s no harm in applying for jobs that state they require one year of experience. Although some of these will reject the application outright, you may just get lucky with others if the rest of your CV looks good. Applying for jobs that need two or more years of experience though probably won’t bring much success.

    The recruitment process is similar to that for any other job – you will need to send your CV and have an interview (normally by phone, Skype or similar) with the school’s owner, Director of Studies or Recruitment Coordinator.

  4. Send your CV proactively to language schools

    Sending your CV on spec to a large number of language schools in a particular country means a lot of hard work, but it can pay off. And that’s because not all language schools advertise their TEFL job vacancies online. So even if there is no job advertised, there might just be a job available. Contact the Director of Studies or recruitment person at the school with a polite enquiry email. Send to as many schools as possible to increase your chances of success.

  5. Go to where you want to teach

    Maybe you’ve just taken a TEFL certification course in Barcelona or Bangkok, because you’ve already decided that’s where you want to teach. If this is the case, then you’re already at a huge advantage when it comes to finding a TEFL job after the course – you’re on the ground, already have a feel for the place and can maybe use the contacts of the centre where you took the TEFL course.

    Teach abroad
    Go where you want to teach!

    But even if you’re not already there, there’s nothing to stop you going there now. As I mentioned before, a lot of language schools, especially in English speaking countries and Western Europe, find all the teachers they need just by relying on people going door to door in search of work. Being on the ground and doing just this can land you that job that you wouldn’t know about if you just looked on TEFL jobs websites. Schools that recruit like this do so because they want to meet and interview you face to face rather than at a distance.

    You might also be able to do a bit of research before you go, and find out where TEFL teachers hang out in the evenings – many a job has been found through word of mouth like this.

    Travelling to a country first and looking for work when you’re there has its downside of course. There is a risk in spending a lot of time and money with no guarantee of finding a job, particularly if it’s your first job and you have chosen a country where most schools require several years of experience. Over the years I’ve met an equal number of teachers for whom this job hunting strategy has worked and for whom it hasn’t!

  6. Use a TEFL recruitment agency

    Some language schools and other employers use specialist TEFL recruitment agencies to find their teachers. Some of these agencies will work hard to find you a job even if you have no experience. You can find lists of TEFL recruitment agencies operating in different countries here.

  7. Get some TEFL experience

    I know this is a list of ways to teach English abroad without experience, but you can still get some experience without having a job. Find out if there are any expats living in your area and offer them free English classes. See if you can volunteer to teach ESL at a local immigrant centre. Any teaching experience, even if it’s not teaching English, is valuable on your CV. All other things being equal, it may just give you the edge over the 10 other candidates applying for the same job as you who don’t have those six weekends of volunteer teaching work on their CV.

    You could also get some experience teaching online. There are a large number of online teaching jobs available, especially as schools move to online learning due to the covid pandemic, and many of these jobs are open to newly qualified teachers. Some online teaching experience can enhance your CV, and is a useful skill to have anyway, given the uncertainty surrounding when and to what extent schools move back to in-person teaching.

  8. Keep communicating with schools and organisations you have applied to

    Don’t be surprised if, once you have applied for a job, you don’t hear back from the recruiter. Some have a policy of only responding to successful candidates. This is no reason not to chase it up though. Even if they don’t have this policy, you can be sure that whoever is doing the recruiting at the school or organisation you’ve applied to will be busy. They sometimes need a polite reminder (via a followup call or email) that you’re still there. This can even help you jump the CV queue. Picture a recruiter with 50 CVs on her desk, but with a hundred other tasks demanding her attention as well. Then one of the applicants makes a followup call, and impresses the recruiter enough to dig out his CV directly after the call and call him in for an interview. I’ve seen it happen, and you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!

Read next: TEFL interview questions and how to answer them

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Keith Taylor

Keith is the co-founder of Eslbase and School of TEFL. He's been a teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years, in Indonesia, Australia, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Poland, France and now in the UK.

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