Effective Cover Letters for Teaching Jobs Abroad

Published: 19th October 2007
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When you are getting serious about landing a teaching job abroad you need to consider how you are going to do it. Are you going to register with a international teaching job fair organiser like Search-Associates? Are you going to register with The International Educator (TIE) and get international teaching job alerts emailed to you daily? Are you going to trawl the internet for vacancies?

Whichever strategy or combination of strategies you choose to implement you will need to write an effective cover letter that sells you as the ideal candidate.

A great cover letter draws the recruiter in and leads them through your information and inspires them to look at your resume. It introduces you, outlines your experience and states why you are the best candidate for their position.

When writing your cover letter keep these suggestions in mind and you will increase the effectiveness of your letter:

Differentiate
While most recruiters are clued up enough to know that you are probably applying to more than just their international school, it is not good practice to make it obvious. When you write your cover letter you should include a sentence or two about why you want to teach at their school. Reasons you may include are; you have experience in the curricula offered, your children have experience in the curricula offered, you like teaching in small (big, single sex, co-ed) schools, or you have heard positive things about the school from other international teachers.

When you are differentiating you letter, address it to the recruiter if you can find their name on the website or from the advertisement and include the name of the school and location. These small, easy to implement ideas are the key to making each recruiter feel special and show them that you are interested in a job at 'their' school.

Be Selective and Adjust Accordingly
If you are job hunting as a teaching couple you need to have a couple of cover letters, or have paragraphs that you can cut and paste to make sure it is targeted. As a teaching couple you will ideally want to get a job at a school that has vacancies in your main teaching subjects. However, you may not be so lucky.

Teaching couples should lead with the strongest candidate and emphasise the experience and flexibility of the other teacher. For example, if you are a teaching couple with secondary maths and an elementary generalist you can apply for schools with openings in either of these areas. For an international school with a vacancy in the elementary school you would outline this person's experience first and then you would discuss the maths teacher's experience both in maths, in leadership, in extra curricula activities, etc. And vice versa if you find a school that has a maths vacancy.

Often school recruiters will do some 'creative shuffling' if they find a teaching couple they think will suit the school especially well.

Short is Best
Keep your cover letter short; leave it to the other sections of your application pack to detail your education, experience and philosophy. The function of the cover letter is to provide a brief introduction of yourself and enough information to motivate the international school recruiter to read your resume.

If you have heard of the PowerPoint rule of 6 points per slide, 6 words per point then you will find this rule easy to understand and work with:

3-4 paragraphs, 2-3 sentences per paragraph.

If you are submitting your application by email, it needs to be even shorter because we have a lower tolerance for reading on a computer screen.

Here are just three ideas for making your cover letter more effective. Even if you have a cover letter already prepared, dig it out and check that it meets these criteria, you may be surprised at how more likely a recruiter is to read your resume if you follow these suggestions.

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