Put Your Best Foot Forward – Resume and Cover Letter Essentials 

The language training field spans a variety of teaching sectors from government funded LINC and Adult ESL to College and University EAP and ESL, as well as private sector language schools, career colleges and tutoring agencies.  The job market in this field is vast, immensely competitive and at times difficult to navigate. 

Thousands of new graduates, internationally trained language teachers and experienced educators alike seek employment in the field of English language education each and every day. In this fourth installment of our blog series designed to help educators in our community find success in their career journey, TESL Ontario has reached out to eight (8) Ontario hiring managers across various sectors in our field and asked them to share some advice on resume and cover letter essentials. 

Resume & Cover Letter Essentials 

Whether you’re an experienced ESL educator or just starting your career in the field, a strong resume and cover letter are essential in capturing  the attention of hiring managers in the ESL education landscape. Drawing from their experience and expertise, we asked eight hiring managers what resume and cover letter advice they would give for those seeking positions in ESL education. These professionals offer insider advice on how to effectively showcase your qualifications, highlight relevant teaching experience, and demonstrate your commitment to educating language learners. Here’s what they had to say: 

Clear and Concise Communication 

The importance of clarity and conciseness in resumes and cover letters cannot be overstated. By prioritizing clarity and conciseness, you enhance the readability and effectiveness of your application. A well-structured resume and cover letter allows employers to quickly identify your relevant qualifications, skills, and experiences. A strong resume and cover letter is also well-tailored to the job posting, which allows employers to align your application with specific requirements, and is free of any grammatical errors. Remember, employers typically only spend a few seconds to scan your resume and cover letter. Our employers stressed that presenting information in a clear, concise, and consistent way, you leave a strong impression and demonstrate your professionalism, maximizing your likelihood of becoming a potential candidate. 

Having a clear and direct communication style helps.  Avoiding typos, spelling errors and run-on sentences suggest that the candidate cares about their work.” Associate Director (EAP) 

A direct and concise resume that tells me clearly that you have what I need as expressed in the posting.” Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP) 

No spelling mistakes on anything!! One page letters, be succinct, don’t put your whole CV in your letter and always include a letter that is written for the job you are applying for.  Resumes…CVs should be 2-3 pages max. I don’t need an academic CV if you are applying to be a LINC or ESL teacher. Don’t use cutesy templates or photos. Remember your CV and letter are drawing a picture for the hiring manager of who you are as a potential ESL teacher.” Manager, Continuing and Community Education (NON-Credit ESL, LINC, EAP, ESP) 

“I highly encourage your teacher candidates to focus more time on simplifying their resume…” Director of Studies (Adult Non-Credit ESL)  

Emphasize Relevant Experience and Qualifications 

Your resume and cover letter should be tailored and organized to highlight your most relevant experience and qualifications to the job posting. In doing so, you can maximize your opportunity to demonstrate your credibility, value, and relevance to the position. In the field of ESL, relevant qualifications may include explicit mentions of accredited credentials and additional certifications (ie., OCELT, PTESOL, CELTA, TEFL, PTCT, graduate programs), teaching/classroom experience, as well as technological tools and skills related to classroom and learning. Diverse experiences that showcase your continuing interest and competency working with diverse communities, settlement communities, education, and any relevant professional development activities and associations are also strongly valued. In addition to this, effectively incorporating terminology and keywords within your experiences can demonstrate your familiarity with the field of ESL education, your expertise, and industry knowledge. Some examples of terms and keywords our employers are looking for include test preparation (ie., IELTS, TOEFL), assessment frameworks (ie., CLB, PBLA), assessment and evaluation methods, age groups (ie., young adults, adults), levels (ie., beginner, EAP), teaching methods and strategies, classroom management techniques, curriculum development, specialized courses, and technology integration.  

“TESL Ontario accreditation.” Program Administrator (ESL/LINC) 

OCELT-accredited applicants will normally get an interview to be on our casual supply teacher list.  Once on our supply list we can find out more about the applicants, and this information would be used in any future applications for our Term or Regular positions, as we usually hire from our casual list first.” Program Manager (LINC, ESL, LBS) 

“I am scanning for words like IELTS, TOEFL, Beginner, Young Adults, Cambridge, Test Preparation, EAP, pathway, etc.” Director of Studies (Adult Non-Credit ESL) 

It would be relevant teaching experience and/or educational background.” VP Academic (EAP) 

Experience with teaching adults and/or prior training (relevant to adult ESL and/or the CLBs and PBLA a plus); breadth of experience in the field e.g., any exposure to curriculum development/special projects, teaching specialized courses, teaching overseas, etc.; demonstration of interest in providing services to immigrant learners and/or contributing to their settlement experience.” Coordinator (ESL/LINC) 

Mistakes to Avoid  

When we asked HR managers for any advice on mistakes to avoid for cover letters and resumes, many re-emphasized the need for clear and concise communication on all material, which underscores its importance, and stresses the need to prioritize the tailoring and writing processes for these documents. In addition to this, it was also emphasized that resumes and cover letters should exemplify soft skills such as being a ‘team-player’ or being ‘dedicated’ through their prolonged experience and types of experience, skills, and qualifications, rather than simply stating them.  

“Long resumes are a definite turn off for me. It is not useful to list every single present or paper that you have written. Fancy layouts tend to distract me because I no longer know where to look to find specific information.” Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP) 

Grammar mistakes in the email or cover letter, or written answers or in spoken English during the interview.  Teachers should have CLB 9+ which is native-like proficiency.  Having the wrong organization listed on the cover letter shows us that the applicant is not serious, or that they are careless.” Program Manager (LINC, ESL, LBS) 

Crowding the resume with irrelevant details, empty adjectives (e.g. “team player, dedicated, etc.). Not including the credentials clearly and easy to find at the top. Crowding the professional experience with more adjectives instead of simply listing the classes taught.” Director of Studies (Adult Non-Credit ESL)  

During the resume review, it would be switching jobs too often and having several jobs at the same time.”  VP Academic (EAP) 

It is incredibly important to understand how to effectively communicate your values and qualifications in a way that meets the specific needs of your role. A well-crafted resume and cover letter are essential tools to capture the attention of hiring managers and showcase your commitment to providing education to language learners. Best of luck in your job search! 

Visit the TESL Career Centre for essential resources designed to help you navigate the English language education employment landscape.   

The Career Connections: 2023 Career Fair, and a Career Booster forum will take place as part of the 2023 TESL Ontario Annual Virtual Conference this November. Please see the links for more information and updates on the events. 

Career Series

Part 1: Get the offer – Qualities of a Successful Job Applicant

Part 2: Climbing the Ladder – Career Advancement Tips

Part 3 Getting Started in the TESL Field – Advice for New Graduates  

Kiara Kim is the Resource Development Assistant at TESL Ontario for summer 2023. She is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto Mississauga with an HBSc in Anthropology. Throughout her undergrad, she worked actively within university programming, and various community research projects in fields of anthropology of health, historical archaeology, and English language education. She is looking forward to furthering her intersecting interests in research and education. 


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