Can’t Find A TEFL Job? 5 Reasons Why This May Be

Summary – So you have just recieved your TEFL certificate but can’t find a job and now you are wondering why. This is a list of reasons based on my own experiences. Also a bit of advice for how to overcome these problems.
[This post is mainly aimed at first time/ newly qualified teachers but might be useful for teachers with a bit of experience too. Similarly this is based on teachers applying online and securing a contract before they arrive in the country. Not if you just arrive and hope for the best]


Introduction – Over the past few years I have applied to so many jobs! First with just a Weekend TEFL certificate and then with a CELTA thus I feel I have had some exprience. I have also chatted to various employers over the years and it is interesting to see who they take on. Thus, this is purely based on 3 things: Firstly, the issues I have found searching for jobs and looking at job adverts. Secondly, rejection letters I have recieved explaining why I was unsuccessful. And thirdly what I have heard while chatting to various employers.

1 – Wrong qualification for the country you are looking at
One of the main reason that people are turned down is due to the fact that they don’t have the right qualifications for the job they are applying for. If you have not even had an acknowledgement of receiving the application let alone an interview or even an rejection letter then this is probably the most likely reason why.
If the job advert says “Must have a 120+ hour course”, this usually doesn’t include online courses. Or similarly “CELTA or equivillent” means the same structure as the course, not that the number of hours is the same. The most confusing is when the job advert says “a recognised TEFL certificate”, this could mean any name that the school might know or from my experience can just mean a CELTA or Trinity TESOL only.
The issue you may have is that your TEFL provider has mislead you about how recognised your course is. You might want to read my blog about 8 lies that many TEFL providers tell and see if it rings any bells. It also includes examples which might explain a few things.
Another problem might be that you don’t have a degree or at least not in the right subject area. Sometimes this is not even stated in the advert. For example I have applied to jobs which I thought I was the perfect candidate only to get a rejection letter saying they were looking for someone with a degree in English Language or a Masters degree.
Solution – Well unfortunately it may mean you need to do another TEFL course. Or if you feel it is due to the course you did your TEFL provider might be able to point you in the right direction. If this is not possible because you either can’t afford to or don’t have the time you might need to only look at jobs in Asia. Places such as China, South Korea and even Thailand or Japan are often quiet lenient. My post about how to TEFL without a TEFL (/CELTA) can give you a few tips. Especially as some schools will ignor qualifications if the candidate has plenty of experience (even in Europe and the Middle East). If you aren’t sure which you need then research the jobs you want or my post of the different types of TEFL courses might be of use to you.

2 – Not enough experience
Another reason might be as you need more experience; EFL or otherwise. Sometimes it might be that you accidenly applied for a job asking for more experienced teachers or it might just be that they do accept newly qualified teachers but due to all the other applicants having far more experience than yourself you have been overlooked.
It might not even be amount of experience in teaching in general but more that they are looking for someone with experience in a particular age group or level. Or has experience teaching exams such as Cambridge or IELTs.
Solution – This may seem a bit of a vicious cirlce that you need experience for a job but you can’t get experience without a job in the first place. However as a newly qualified teacher it doesn’t have to EFL to be experience; for example being a TA in a school or volunteering work can help. (Please note though that some schools/recruiters don’t consider volunteering as EFL experience though). If you can’t think of any ideas, again, my How to TEFL Without a TEFL (/CELTA) might help with this.

3 – Not looking in the right places
If you are only looking on a few websites or relying on either your TEFL providers website or even Facebook then you are missing out on so many jobs. If you want you are welcome to use my List of TEFL Job Websites that I have compiled. Although it might need a bit of updating.

4 – Mistakes you have made in your application
This can be just something similar like you have e-mailed the wrong e-mail address or similarly they have asked that you apply on their website but you apply on the jobsite instead.
It could also be there are mistakes in your letter. For instance I hadn’t heard back from any of my applications at one point and found it odd. I re-read the covering letter I sent and realised there were several typos which seemed like I had spelling and grammatical mistakes in the letter. If a school wants teachers to teach English and even teach things like writing formal letters they would also expect the teacher to be able to write a good formal letter themselves.
Solution – Read the advert several times to make sure you are sending your application in the correct way. Also double check your own writing and get somebody else if possible to proof read it too. As it is easy to read what you want to say than what is actually there. Also if you are using the same letter for several companies make sure you edit it for that school/company. For example you look a bit silly saying in your letter that you are looking to doing/teaching something that the school doesn’t actually offer.

5 – Just not what they are looking for
Sometimes it is down to something even simpler than this. Often the school are looking for a particular person and you don’t match it. For example they want a specific accent or nationality. People with strong regional accent lose out to this. I have also had rejection letters saying that they really wanted an American citizen with an American accent and dialect. This might not be always down to personal reasoning but because it is easier for them to get visas for certain nationalities. This is especially the case in Europe.
This also can be the same for age, race and sex where one is preferred more than the other for some reason.
If you get as far as the interview stage it just might be that your faces doesn’t fit. This is most certainly the case for a small school where they are looking for some who will fit in with their current staff with similar personalities and teaching styles.
Solution – Well in all honesty there is little you can do but remember that some schools/recruiters will prefer you to others. As for interviews, last year I asked my boss what he looked for when he interviews possible teachers. He said mainly to see if they are confident and know what they are talking about as they will most likely be the same if they stood up in front of a class. So if you can do this then you have a good start.

Final piece of advice – Make sure that you make a note of all the schools you apply to and any communication. It can be a confusing and even embarassing if they call you and you have no idea which one they are. Also apply for as many jobs that you like and go to/do as many interviews as possible to open up your options.

If you do find yourself in this situation and want help and advice from those already in the profession or are also in a similar position then please join our Facebook groupMore information about the group

If you a prospective teacher just looking you might find my post of my Top 10 Tips for Prospective Teachers useful and a good place to start.

3 thoughts on “Can’t Find A TEFL Job? 5 Reasons Why This May Be

  1. Pingback: Can’t Find A TEFL Job? 5 Reasons Why This Maybe | So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

  2. Pingback: A Typical Day For Me As A ESL/TEFL Teacher | The New Me - Life After Uni

  3. Pingback: An Index of TEFL Blog Posts I’ve Written | The New Me - Life After Uni

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