Look at any job ad to teach English at a university abroad and you will see all require a cover letter. To succeed, you'll need to do your homework and make your cover letter personal and specific to each job you apply to. In addition, you'll want to follow Jackie Bolen's advice that she shares here.
Pay Attention to the Details
To begin with, let me repeat that the person screening your cover letter may not speak English as their first language so you will need to keep it simple and avoid any complicated jargon or grammatical constructions. It is quite likely that your cover letter may not even be read, but you still need to include one. The biggest mistake you can make at this stage is to get names, and dates wrong if you are sending out multiple applications to a lot of places. Triple-check to make sure you do not do this because it will automatically disqualify you.
The First Paragraph
I recommend a three-paragraph cover letter. The first paragraph should include the job position you are applying for, how you found out about the job and why you want to apply. This would be the time to drop the name of any connection you have at the university, but ensure it is a positive one. By positive, I mean that you have checked with that person if it is okay that you do this and that they are more than just an acquaintance you met while out drinking one night. Basically, in the first paragraph you want to show that you have a genuine interest in the position and hopefully a personal connection of some kind.
[Is an MA TESOL really necessary? Jackie shares why she got a Cambridge DELTA instead.]
The Second Paragraph
The second paragraph could highlight your education and experience to show why you are an excellent match for the job. If you have a related master's degree, or university teaching experience in Korea [or the country you are applying to], this would be an excellent place to emphasize this because these are the main things that employers are looking for. You could include a little about your teaching philosophy or style of teaching because this might catch a foreign teacher's eye if they are screening the applications. Something along the lines of “student-centered” is always a good thing, but do not include this unless you actually know what it means and have some examples of activities that fit this type of class. Remember to only highlight the best stuff, not every single thing on your resume.
The Third Paragraph
In the last paragraph, you want to let the university know that you would be happy to hear from them and look forward to discussing the position further. Do not mention anything about salary expectations or possible interview times because you will actually have no say about either of these things and it will just make you look demanding. Remember, you are the lowest on the totem pole and you need to be available at any time that your interviewers want to talk to you and that you are willing to take any salary that is offered to you.
- If you liked this article, you will love Jackie's book How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of your Dreams and her blog.
- Another great resource is Susan Ireland's Free Cover Letter Guide
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