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We have talked to Directors of Studies and Hiring Managers and asked them to share their insights on some of the usual mistakes that candidates make during their application process. Most of the candidates are not aware that they commit these errors while others just seem carefree or indifferent. In our previous article, the leaders shared insightful tips on what you can do when applying for a teaching job. This time, they are here once again to share their wisdom on the mistake you can avoid when you apply for a teaching position in China.

Using a one-size-fits-all resume or covering letter

common2Not revising the CV to be relevant to the role that you’re looking for. There are likely to be soft skills from your old job that are relevant to the role, but many aspects of a previous job won’t be. Provide an updated CV that relates directly to the job you want – not one that sets out pages of unrelated work in accountancy or biological science. If you’re changing career – then explain why teaching is your new choice in the covering letter. Make the covering letter short and consider writing one specifically for each job – not a generic “To Whom it May Concern”. It’s boring to read generic correspondence and often they contain more errors because you didn’t proofread them yourself before you sent it out. Have scanned copies of your references included with the documentation and include address, email, etc. of your reference so that if we want, we can research. –Greg Jackson, General Director of Studies, EF English First, Jiaxing, Xiaoshan, Shaoxing, China

Directors of Studies and Hiring Managers can tell upfront from your resume and cover letter whether you took the time and effort to research about the company you are applying for or not. Using a generic resume or cover letter may make you appear lazy or unprofessional. The leaders may be a little considerate if you are applying for your first job; otherwise, you are most likely going to reap the equivalent of what you sow.

Video Interview Fails

If the interview is conducted on video, have a plain background, wear simple smart clothing, have a shave…look like you would for an actual interview.

Don’t conduct the interview from an internet café or communal space. Don’t have anyone doing anything in the background. No washing up. No dogs barking. No kids running around. No music on. No one else listening in. Find a quiet space from where you can guarantee your total attention. –Greg Jackson, General Director of Studies, EF English First, Jiaxing, Xiaoshan, Shaoxing, China

common1Video interviews are getting more and more common especially for urban professionals and those looking for jobs overseas. It is very convenient and can be conducted anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. There are many reasons why an employer would want to conduct a video or Skype interview. In this case for example, the main reason is that you are on the other side of the world, otherwise, most employers would still prefer face to face interviews over video interviews. This, however, is no different from an actual interview. You are expected to dress and behave professionally. Sadly though, there are still people who take it less seriously than an actual interview, which you shouldn’t.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen is the choice of location for a Skype interview. The nature of this industry requires telephone or conference call interviews, usually across great distances. If you schedule an interview with a company make sure the time is correct (and be certain of the time difference!) but most importantly make sure, when the time comes, that you are in a quiet place with a stable internet connection. Interviewing from a busy Starbucks can turn into a disaster! – Colin White, Director of Foreign Affairs at Kid Castle Educational Corporation

Not Seeing the Big Picture

Often candidates don’t think of the big picture. If you are applying for a more senior or management role think of what is needed from other departments. What sales or service tasks might be needed? This is often very important with language schools. – Gareth Evans, Regional Operations Specialist, EF China

common 4This advice applies more to candidates applying for management or Director of Studies positions but can also be useful to teachers as well. For those looking for teaching jobs, it is a common misconception that since you are from a native speaking country and you speak English fluently; you are already eligible to teach English. There are still a lot of factors to be considered such as classroom management, curriculum development, lesson planning, giving feedback and communicating effectively to parents regarding their children’s progress and areas of improvements. Your motivation to teach may be because you can get along well with kids, but having fifteen toddlers with different personalities and constant mood swings inside a classroom is a totally different story.

For those applying for a leadership role in a school will have to consider the things I mentioned above including managing teachers, training them, planning a PTA, constantly creating creative marketing strategies to reach out to potential new students, addressing parents’ complaints and a lot more. It is important to at least have an idea on how to address these areas and how you would deal with them in case it is asked during the interview. Each school has a different way of doing things so it will give you a head start to read about the company and their teaching methodologies.

Badmouthing Your Previous Employer or Colleague

Your last boss was an idiot? Everyone in the company was a jerk? You hated your job and couldn’t wait to leave? Even if it’s true don’t say so. I cringed when I heard someone ranting and raving about the last company she worked for. That company happened to be our largest customer and, of course, I wasn’t going to hire someone who felt that way about the company and everyone who worked there.
It’s sometimes a smaller world than you think and you don’t know who your interviewer might know, including that boss who is an idiot… You also don’t want the interviewer to think that you might speak that way about his or her company if you leave on terms that aren’t the best. – Alison Doyle, Job Search Expert
Your opinion on others and things reflect more on your personality than the person or matter than you are criticizing. The interviewer may or may not know your previous employers or colleagues and he doesn’t care too much about them. During the interview, the Hiring Manager is more focused on you and anything you say bounces back to you. You may come forward as too pessimistic or whiny. Yes, your previous boss may be a real jerk and everyone else in the company agrees with you, but this is not the right time to vent your disappointments.

Grammatical Errors

Presenting a CV with spelling and grammatical errors. If your job is to teach English, your CV, covering letter and all email correspondence needs to reassure an employer by being correct and adopting the appropriate register. The DoS is potentially your future boss. You should approach them as such. Don’t use your home email address if it has a nickname. Don’t sign an email “peace” or something like it. Don’t swear and don’t refer to your interviewer as “mate”. Don’t write in all lower case without punctuation. Show some pride. Attention to detail is another key trait. It’s also a Core Value of EF employees.– Greg Jackson, General Director of Studies, EF English First, Jiaxing, Xiaoshan, Shaoxing, China

common3A lot of job websites may have similar advice – double check your resume, check it again the third time, even ask someone to proofread it for errors before sending it. But this is very critical especially when applying for an English teaching job. An English teacher making these mistakes is simply unacceptable. Your punctuations and word selection are also very important. You may want to appear very friendly by addressing your interviewer “mate” or “buddy”, but how the hiring manager takes it may vary on the leader’s personality or expectations from a candidate. I suggest you save the informalities after you get the job or even after you get to know your new boss.

Most mistakes during an interview are irreparable, but given the circumstances and if you want to sway things in your favor write a thank you e-mail to the interviewer, thank them for their time and the opportunity but also let them how you can contribute to the organization if you are given the job. Don’t be so desperate, this is just to make a mental note on the interviewers’ mind that your interest is genuine and that you can and should be the first choice for the job.– Marco, Director of Studies – EF English First Shijiazhuang

If you have read this article too late and have already made some of these unavoidable mistakes, there may still be hope for a second chance. Do it by sending a “thank you” email and try to explain briefly on what went wrong. Also give strong emphasis on how much you want to get this job. If possible, arrange a second interview or reiterate that they may contact your previous employers for references. Second chances are not usually given all the time especially that Directors of Studies and Hiring Managers have a lot of other candidates to deal with and plenty of other matters to take care of. However, it shouldn’t stop you from giving it another shot by sending them an email, letting them know your circumstances and thanking them for the opportunity.

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