The "Unofficial" Requirements For Being A TEFL Teacher

Are You Qualified

TEFL jobs are always advertised in a similar fashion. Depending on the country you're applying to, there'll be a standard set of requirements that you must meet. These usually include being a native English speaker (to meet work permit requirements), having a TEFL or equivalent qualification, holding a University Degree, and sometimes one or two other requirements.

This doesn't mean that if you meet those requirements you are a shoe-in for the job though. Nor does it mean that you will necessarily still be qualified. There are dozens of other 'unofficial' requirements that TEFL schools and recruiters are looking for. These are not superficial things such as ethnicity or how good looking you are; they are much more related to the type of person you are.

Once upon a time, matching the work permit/visa requirements probably WAS enough to get hired, but we live in a much more competitive time and recruiters have to find ways of filtering applications to find the best candidates. Not only do you have to be one of the best, you also need to make sure that recruiters KNOW you are the best.

This article is going to cover exactly those things. Read on to learn what other requirements you'll need to meet, and how to show that you do.

Your Personality Matters 

Throughout every stage of the recruitment process, whoever is interviewing you will be trying to gauge your personality. This means that paying attention to things like email etiquette and managing your Skype interview are very important. 

You can make this work in your favor though if you know what they're looking for.


Nobody wants to hire a teacher who will not stay the length of their contract, or who will simply struggle on their own. You definitely need to be able to show that you can be independent where necessary.

Did you live alone while you were at University? Have you ever been travelling alone or with friends? If so, for how long? What independent research have you done on the country you're applying for? Make sure you have these points in your mind, and even work them into your CV where relevant. 

Showing that you've researched the country and that you are capable of travelling will also help the recruiters feel that you are able to cope with culture shock and have firm reasons for choosing that particular country.


Teachers need to be enthusiastic and energetic. The two things often go hand in hand. Smile during your interview, even if the interviewer can't see you, it will naturally make you sound more keen. Again, you really want to show that you're going to do a decent, professional job, and that you'll stay for a year or longer. 

As well as acting and sounding enthusiastic about going abroad, make sure you are excited about being a teacher as well. It's a very rewarding job, but you'll need to want to do it.

Mention that you've got hold of some teaching books or that you've been reading up on teaching in specific countries. Massive brownie points.


Being adaptable is as important as being independent. You'll need to be adaptable in the classroom when things don't go as planned, and you'll also need to be able to adapt to your surroundings. Showing on your CV that you have a number of different skills and interests, as well as experience with travelling and previous job experience (where possible) is going to go a long way to helping people feel you have this skill.

Remember, enthusiasm counts too, so if you do find that you're not sure how to show you are adaptable, show that you want to learn to be. When listing why you want to go abroad, state that you want to learn to be more independent and adaptable.


This one is just common sense. Demonstrate it by responding to emails in a timely fashion, reading all instructions and requirements (then reading them again), and being on time for any interviews. 

Be Personable

You want to be easy to get along with. Teachers need to be a mixture of strict and fun, especially those teaching young learners. You don't have to be the most charming person on the planet, but you do at least need to be nice and friendly.

Demonstrate this by being culturally aware of the country you're going to, showing examples of when you worked with others (and children if possible), and just generally being polite and friendly in your emails and interview(s). 

The more difficult you appear, the less likely you are to get hired.


You need to be committed to the job, there's no denying this. You can demonstrate commitment in many ways. 

When writing your CV, include dates that you worked at previous employers. If there are gaps between jobs, you'll need to explain why. Maybe you were travelling, which can be used in your favor.

It will be worrying to recruiters to see that you keep changing jobs or only work for a short time in particular jobs. If this is the case, you'll need to think of other ways of showing commitment. 

Have you been volunteering somewhere for a number of years? Can you explain why you kept changing or only worked for a short time (such as it being a short work experience placement). If you have good references to make this up, it's great.

As well as from your previous employment, you can show commitment in the amount of research you've done. Do you have solid reasons for applying for this particular job and the country of your choice?

Cultural Awareness

Following on from the earlier points is your cultural awareness. Do you actually know anything about the country you're going to? Research not only the country, but the area that you're applying to. Include things like language, culture, habits, night-life, national past times, religion, everything you can think of. This will also help you prepare for living abroad.

Culture shock is not uncommon, and you want to make sure that you can show you will be fine. If you've had experience traveling in similar countries, or even the country itself, you absolutely want to mention this in the interview and on your CV.

As well as the more obvious things, research deeper into things that will affect you. This could be the cost of living, transportation, the type of accommodation you can expect to find and so on.


This is your chance to put the icing on the cake and seal your spot on the plane. Teachers don't rely solely on creativity, but it helps massively. Prepare some examples of creative things you've done or any particular experiences you've had. 

Even people who think they aren't at all creative can find a few situations where they've used their creative sides.

As well as previous experiences, talk about things you could do in classes that are creative, or talk about looking forward to the opportunity to being able to use creativity in the work place. Of course, you'll need to back this up with suggestions.

Use Common Sense

Although these are "unofficial" requirements, they shouldn't appear a mystery to you. These are universally common requirements for most jobs, especially ones where you are working with people. 

Being a teacher requires a mixture of responsibility, professionalism, and friendliness. If you have all three, and are able to demonstrate this as well as your ability to adapt to working in a culture different from your own, then you'll have a very good chance of being offered a position.