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Saturday, 2 February 2008

How to Write a TEFL Cover Letter


Updated 4 February 2012

Dos
  • Realise their importance. Cover letters are just as important as your CV, if not more important. They're the first thing that an employer sees and have to make a good impression. 
  • Personalise it. You should address it to an actual person. Try not to use "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom it May Concern". Call and ask who does the hiring then address your cover letter to that person.
  • Be careful of titles. Sometimes with foreign names you might not know if you're writing to a man or woman. In that case you could just put their full name followed by Director of Studies, Coordinator, Applications Officer, etc.
  • Be brief. Keep it short and simple. Your education and experience should be on your CV. Your teaching philosophy can be a different page as well. Your cover letter should tell the person why you want to work for them and why you're best suited for the job.
  • Write in English. Even if the job advertisement was written in another language your cover letter and CV should be in English. Using another language might work against you as the employer may think that you would use class time to learn the language rather than teach English.
  • Put some effort into it. If you're emailing your cover letter as an attachment one of the worst things you can do is just write "Please find my documents enclosed". Try to write a couple sentences about who you are and where you found their job advert.
  • Drop names. If you heard about the job from someone mention them name in your cover letter. Just make sure to get their permission first.
  • Explain why you want to work for them. Show the employer that you know something about them. Do a bit of research about the position and tell them why you think you're suited for it.
  • Say what you have to offer. Why should they hire you? This is your chance to sell yourself. If you have experience creating exams, placing students, or being a head teacher, let them know.
  • Be formal. There should be no contractions or informal language in your cover letter. Have someone else take a look at it and make sure it's ok.
  • Proofread it. Some people use similar cover letters and plug in the necessary information when it comes time to apply for a job. If you're going to do this highlight the sections you need to change. I've seen a cover letter that said "I think I'm suited for this position because of blah, blah." Needless to say they didn't get the job.
  • Contact info. Give your phone number and email so that they have a choice of how they would like to reach you.
  • Update it when necessary. Take out the old information and put in the new whil.


Don'ts
  • Be negative. Don't say that you don't have any teaching experience or that you only have taught for a short time. Your goal is to make employers hire you.
  • Get off topic. Don't discuss subjects that aren't related to the position. The fact that you like playing guitar or are only applying to the job because it pays well should not go in your cover letter.
  • Talk short term. Don't state that you only want to stay for a few months unless the position is a short term one.
  • Talk badly about past employers. One of the golden rules. Don't break it. Ever.
  • Talk about other people. That’s great that your mom’s a teacher, but how does that relate to you? Unless you helped her teach or observed her don’t mention it.
  • Rehash your entire CV. A cover letter is suppose to entice people to read your CV. If they both have the same information there’s no point in reading your CV.
  • Procrastinate. Don't wait until the last moment to update it. You should update it every time you have something pertinent to add.
  • Make stupid mistakes. Spelling, punctuation, dates, etc should all be double checked. You can find some more examples of stupid mistakes in post on Dave's ESL Cafe.
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This article has also been featured in the ELT Times.

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