I am about to finish my current teaching contract and while contemplating what I want to do next, I realized that I needed to update my resume. When seeking a new job teaching English in Asia, many people make the mistake of neglecting their resume. Whether it’s from inexperience or an oversight, a poorly written resume can stop you before you even get started.

Taking your resume seriously and spending time on it shows future potential employers that you are serious about your desire to find a new job. It also shows them that you have at least a basic grasp of the grammar you’ll be asked to teach.

The 5 Parts of a Successful Resume

1. The Picture

In many Asian countries it is customary to include a picture on you resume. Some may opt out of including a photo for various reasons such as fear of discrimination or a personal objection to having their appearance factor in on their hiring eligibility. This may be OK with some employers, and if you feel strongly about not including a photo, then certainly do not. It shouldn’t be very damaging, as it will only turn away a few employers.

If you do choose to include a picture make sure to use a professional image. Cropped pictures of you taken from a night out with friends at a nightclub or a photo of you flexing at the gym are going to cause more harm than good. With easy access to cameras and the ability to take pictures from mobile phones and computers, there isn’t any valid reason for not having a picture that makes you appear as a responsible professional.

2. Your Basic Information

This should be easily located on your resume. At minimum it should include your:

  • name
  • phone number
  • email address
  • area of residence

You may want to include your visa status as well, especially if you have a JFRV or APRC in Taiwan or the equivalent for the country you want to work in.

3. The Summary

This is similar to a career objective. In a few sentences describe what you are looking for and why you are the right person for each particular job. As this is only a few sentences long, you can quickly customize it for each individual position that you apply for.

The order of numbers 4 and 5 can be swapped depending on your personal strengths.

4. Work Experience

When looking for a teaching job in Asia, the most important aspect of this section is your relevant experience. Make sure to list any schools that you have worked for, your title, the location of the school (area or city), and a brief description of your duties. If you are new to teaching, then include any camp experience or volunteering that you may have done.

Employers what to know that you have at least a little experience working with children. Generally, they are more concerned with how your previous employment will lend itself to working in a classroom than they are with gaps in job history or other common office culture focal points.

5. Education

The key reason why you want to be very clear with this section is that if you need your employer to supply you with a work visa then you need to have the equivalent of a B.S or B.A. There are a couple other less common situations too, such as government approval to work on a student visa or finding a school willing to sponsor you while only having a 2-year degree plus an accredited TEFL certification, but these situations only affect a minor selection of job seekers. Most schools are looking for a B.S. or B.A., so make sure to list what type of degree you have, the major it was in, the university it’s from, and the year you graduated.

This section is also a nice place to include any additional relevant education that you have. Make sure to include any TEFL certificates you have earned. If you have a CELTA definitely include it here.

Where Should You Include Your Local Language Ability?

If you have Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, or other language ability, whether only speaking, or speaking, reading and writing, you can include it in the education section if you wish. Some employers will love the fact that you speak the local language, but others will not, as they only want you speaking to your students in English.

A safe way to handle this is to only include it when the job advertisement specifically states that they prefer someone with some language ability, and to otherwise leave it out of your resume. Most head teachers and managers will ask you about your language ability during the interview anyway, so it’s not always important to include it on your resume.

This format has a proven track record. It’s clean and easy for language school managers to quickly see the information that they are interested in. It’s also easily customized to fit each particular position you apply for.