How to Make an Overseas Teaching Resume or CV


There’s an old cliché that “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” and when you apply for jobs teaching English abroad – or just about any job for that matter – your resume, or “CV”, can make or break your chances of getting an interview and ultimately the job you want. Here are some key points to help you put together a killer resume that will greatly enhance your prospects of getting the job you want teaching English abroad, whether it be in China, Indonesia, Middle East or anywhere else


The Basics

While putting together your international resume, always remember that you are marketing yourself as a teacher who is prepared to move to a new country, adapt, and serve the needs of your students and the school that hires you. You should highlight any and all teaching experience, training experience, and international experience you have. You must also be prepared to provide personal information that is not typically required in the United States or other countries, including your racial background, your age, and your marital status.  You may also see the abbreviations listed for a CV.  This is Curriculum Vitae (it is Latin for “Course of Life”).

When to Use a Curriculum Vitae (CV):

When should job seekers use a Curriculum Vitae, rather than a resume? In the United States, a Curriculum Vitae is used primarily when applying for academic, education, scientific, or research positions. It is also applicable when applying for fellowships or grants.

When looking for a job in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, expect to submit a CV rather than a resume. Keep in mind that overseas employers often expect to read the type of personal information on a curriculum vitae that would never be included on an American resume, such as date of birth, nationality, and place of birth. Note: privacy laws common in the U.S. and Canada do not apply in foreign countries. When you move to another country, mentally prepare to be treated as a visitor and not a citizen.

The Differences between a Resume and a CV

There are several differences between a curriculum vitae and a resume. A curriculum vitae is a longer (up to two or more pages), more detailed synopsis of your background and skills. A CV includes a summary of your educational and academic backgrounds as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, affiliations and other details. As with a resume, you may need different versions of a CV for different types of positions.

Top Guidelines

  1. Focus on quality, not quantity.  Two pages maximum, please.  Focus on key points that are relevant to teaching abroad and the position that you are applying for.  You don’t need to explain everything in your resume. Highlight important information in detail, and simply list (or leave out) other experiences. Include a photo, preferably a professional looking head-shot.  In Asia in particular many schools are keen to know that potential teachers look professional.
  2. Make it easy to scan.  Recruiters cannot spend a half hour reading over your resume and your whole life story.  Your resume will be scanned briefly to look for key points.  Highlight what is listed in the job requirements, and make important information easy for a recruiter to spot at the top. Always include your country code with your telephone number. Use basic and simple formatting and avoid complex graphics or anything else that may not translate when viewed on an alternate (or more primitive) operating system. Italics and font changes should be avoided.
  3. Clearly outline your education, years of certified teaching experience, and your teaching certifications.  These are the first three things that international schools look for in a candidate, and you want to make it clear that you meet the requirements. List your education, skills, certification, and course work in a clear and concise manner. Highlight your educational, academic pursuits, as well as public service and examples of your ability to adapt and work with others.  Note that your educational background may be given more attention than your actual work experience.
  4. Highlight international experiences.  If you speak another language or have lived abroad, let us know.  If your current or previous classroom was mainly ELL students or you are trained to teach ELL students, you should share this.
  5. If you are not a native English speaker, highlight and emphasize your fluency and any work or academic studies that you have accomplished in English. Offer to send an audio recording of you reading your Cover Letter to help the hiring managers determine whether you deserve an interview.
  6. Keep it simple.  There is no need for creative fonts, colors or excessive pictures.  It should be easy to read and professional.  A simple, clean resume will not lose you any points, but a resume that becomes difficult to read can frustrate a recruiter. Remember that not everybody who reads your resume is a native English speaker, or even a fluent English speaker, so avoid non-education related jargon and avoid abbreviations like “Mgr.” or “V.P.” Use “Manager” or “Vice President.”

Basic Format

I. Personal Information – List your name, contact information, citizenship/nationality, any work/residency visas that you may hold (particularly in the country where you seek employment), gender, age, and marital status.   This is listed at the top left of your resume.  It may seem unusual or intrusive to an American but this is standard around the world for international jobs.

II. Education – include any and all programs, degrees, certifications, and other formal training programs that you attended in-person or online.

  • Highlight your TEFL Certification, including the number of hours, hours of practicum.
  • List your highest-level qualifications first.
  • Be specific and detailed about the institution, major, campus location, date of completion of final degrees listed.
  • If you are applying for an ESL Teaching assignment and do not have an Education Degree, mention courses taken in related fields including English literature, journalism, public speaking and foreign languages.

III. Skills – summarize your skills in education, foreign languages, computers, animation, sales, and any other areas. Example: HTML, Adobe, Quark and Flash Programmer. Fluent in Spanish, working knowledge of German.

IV. Career Experience – List your past employers, job titles, and dates of employment for each position you have held over the past 10 years.

  • Bear in mind that many foreign companies and institutions are very interested in job titles.
  • Be very clear and concise in your descriptions.
  • List your work experience starting with the most recent or relevant assignment.
  • For each position, list your Job Title (using universal career titles), list the start and end dates, list the Company’s name and its location, and be sure to highlight any relevant accomplishments and accolades as well responsibilities.
  • You may be right out of college and have little job experience.  Highlight relevant activities to teaching, i.e. teaching or working at a summer camp, tutoring.  Don’t forget to list your volunteer work in an ESL classroom for your practicum.  Paid or free experience is still the same experience.

V. Extracurricular Activities and Accomplishments – list the things you like to do in your spare time, particularly if they involve teaching, coaching, public service and mentoring others. Many potential employers want to make sure that when you come to a country you are outgoing, independent, and can find your own way. List any accolades or recognition you have received and other achievements, whether it be climbing a famous mountain, completing a marathon, or winning a writing contest.

VI. References — While they are not mandatory, they are a good addition to the International Resume. There is no need to list your current employer unless you want them contacted. Try to list at least three references that you know well. Provide their name, title, company/school name, telephone number (include country code) and email address.

Sample Resume


Downloadable CV Template

The first step is finding your way in and proving to someone that you are ready, willing and capable.  It’s time to fix up that CV and send it out!

Aaron Vorbau
Aaron Vorbau
Aaron grew up in the Bay Area, California. His father worked as a pilot for commercial airlines and from a young age, Aaron began traveling globally. While attending Cal Poly (SLO) he volunteered as a youth mentor and currently spends free time serving through CEO Global USA programs. He met Rachael in 2007 shortly after both of them completed their MA degrees and within a year they were married and moved to China. They now have four children who consider Peter Hall faculty housing their “home” even though they are on the road 6+ months of the year outside of China.
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