ESL Recruiters spend their time honing their knowledge about the ESL industry, and we should be listening carefully to their advice – even when the truth is sometimes a little hard to hear...and often not easy to say. So, keeping with our theme of "hard-truths", we decided to ask a few reputable recruiters to share their thoughts on "10 things you want ESL Job candidates to know." Here's what they had to say.
When you come across an ad that has a significant salary range like 8000RMB-20 000RMB a month, this is a hook to lure you in. Understand that you will get around 10-13k tops. Most teaching jobs don't go above 18k - even for people with degrees in Education and years of experience. Be realistic about your experience, qualifications and earning potential. If you've got a diploma in Business Management and finished your TEFL course last week, you're not going to be making a huge salary for a few years.
The Chinese Government has some pretty strict rules in place when it comes to who qualifies for a Z Visa (legal working visa). One of the requirements is that your DEGREE and your CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK or POLICE CLEARANCE have been authenticated by a notary or commissioner of oaths in your home country. Think about it - they process thousands of applications a day - any document that doesn't have the authentication just gets rejected. We understand that you know it's real, we know it's real - but rules are rules. Not following the Visa Application process carefully can cost you a lot of money sending documents back and forth.
PRO TIP: Follow this link for an outline of the Work Visa Process In China
Sure, Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou are tempting metropolises, but there are many lesser-known, beautiful, and vibrant cities in China. Places like Liuzhou, Ningbo, and Qingdao (to name a few) offer the same modern conveniences you find in a big city but with a much lower cost of living (and less people). 14000RMB in Liuzhou has more value than 18000RMB in Beijing.
True story. Fact is most companies do offer a flight bonus, but it's very uncommon for a company to offer to pay you upfront or give you a free flight.
If you think you're the first person to find some sort of loophole - the secret to getting an all expenses paid journey to an exotic location, you are adorable and very wrong. You're not the first. You won't be the last.
The average package offer would include a flight bonus, but depending on the company, this could be paid out at the end of the contract (usually one year) or over a few months. It's a good idea to ask how they structure this.
It's the company protecting itself from the chance-takers and midnight-runners.
Just like the flight bonus thing, giving a total stranger an awful lot of money up-front is a massive risk for a company. The fact is that you've applied for a job in another country - by applying you're also saying that you are prepared to haul ass across the globe and make it in the big wide world on your own.
You are still expected to manage your own life and "adult effectively" - this means having money when you arrive in this strange, new land. We usually tell people to come with about 3-4000USD of disposable funds. You'll have to pay rent (and security deposits etc.) and have money to make it through that initial month until your first paycheck comes in. It might also be worth asking, prior to arrival, when your particular employer's payroll starts and ends. If they pay from the 10th to the 10th of every month - and you arrived on the 8th, you'll probably be paid Pro Rata (per day). So you better have a little something stashed away to tide you over.
Check out 5 REAL tips to help you survive your first year as an ESL teacher for some great, no nonsense tips on preparing yourself for your first year abroad!
Remember how the ad said "Work & Travel"? Teaching is the work bit. Too many people come with the idea that they're about to have a years paid holiday. A week on the job and suddenly the reality of it is settling in. Teaching is hard work. There will be excellent days, and there will be some tough days. The critical thing to remember is to keep a positive outlook and remind yourself why you started this adventure. (For extra help read 4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Teaching Kids to get you started).
Remember that you're not interviewing for a corporate role, you will be talking with educators, principals and HR reps of schools – it's important to portray yourself as a warm and approachable teacher that students, parents, and colleagues will find likable.
For a comprehensive list of questions a Chinese school would typically ask for an interview check out this link: Skype Interview Guidance.
Teachers are in high demand, and being sought after by several schools can be a big ego boost. That said it could be a bit of a turnoff for recruiters when teachers treat a job search like an auction for the highest bidder. Some cover letters are written more like ransom notes, with exacting demands for pay, hours, accommodation, bonuses, holidays, etc. Sure, it could come off as a bit boorish - particularly in the early stages of correspondence before you've established any rapport or relationship. It would be a bit like showing up to a first date with a prenup in hand! Most recruiters are happy to listen to teachers' preferences and will try to find a suitable placement that matches their criteria. Cliché as it may be, a little courtesy goes a long way.
Recruiters look at hundreds of resumes each day and finding one with clean formatting, proper grammar and spelling, and an attractive font is surprisingly rare. No curly fonts. No Comic Sans. Think more like Helvetica or Cambria. Something neat and easy to read.
The fact is, most recruiters only spend an average of 8-seconds reading your resume but can glean a lot of information in that short period. Your resume is the key to making a good first impression - and a lousy resume is just as bad as a weak handshake.
Other common errors are lack of clarity with regards to job titles, dates of employment, the location of the workplace, and additional crucial information that's either missing or lacking detail. Be sure to list the relevant qualifications - a TESOL or TEFL certificate at least. We can only start applying for jobs once we have scans of your documents. So if you don't have at least a TESOL certificate, it's time to start getting one.
And because we want to hang out with you on the Great Wall as soon as possible, follow this link to an online TESOL course. And if you're that keen, bag packed and on the way out the door,follow this link to get TESOL CERTIFIED IN CHINA.
No, it's not because we are only interested in hiring the A&F models for our teaching jobs. What we want to see is that you've presented yourself in a professional and approachable manner. Take it from the guy who runs Tattooed TEFL Teacher (emphasis on tattooed) - it's harder to get jobs when you don't look like you fit the part. Put on a clean shirt, run a comb through your hair, pick that bit of broccoli out of your teeth and you are good to go. (Also, maybe take a look at what's in the background before you're on camera. We've seen things.)
We're not hiring based on attractiveness or race or class or designer labels, we're recruiting people who will represent themselves, their employer and their recruiter well.
I've had the pleasure of interviewing a fine gentleman who was sitting propped up in bed, with a bucket of KFC under his arm, wearing a grease-stained white T-shirt with holes in it and complaining about China. We passed on that candidate.
Xander is the very tattooed owner of tattooedteflteacher.com.
In between sips of Starbucks he is an ed manager, ESL teacher & trainer, and a freelance writer & voiceover artist.