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10 Job Hunting Tips from an Insider at one of Hong Kong’s Top International Schools

Published on Thursday, 31 Mar 2016

Securing a job at a top international school in Hong Kong is a common goal amongst many teachers in the city. Not only does a teaching career at an elite international school gives you a strong sense of accomplishment, it typically comes with higher pay, greater career growth opportunities, and challenging or fulfilling teaching experiences. 

However, getting these highly coveted jobs at international schools in Hong Kong is far from easy. In fact, the growing number of teachers flocking in to the city outweighs the number of jobs at the schools, resulting in fierce competition in the teaching industry. 

So what can you do to get a leg up on the competition? 

cpjobs has reached out to our source at one of Hong Kong’s top international schools to give you the critical job searching tips that can help you stand out and get that sought after position. Below are the top 10 tips to get a teaching job at an international school in Hong Kong.

1.    Have the proper certification in place

Most international schools in Hong Kong require teachers to have either a bachelor degree in teaching or for English teachers, a TEFL/TESL (Teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language) certification, as a minimum. While there are known instances of teachers that were hired without possessing the required documentation, it is getting more and more difficult to find a school willing to overlook this omission. 

2.    Get relevant experience

Some inexperienced English teachers may be able to find employment at less prestigious schools and institutions simply by being a native speaker, but Hong Kong’s top international schools preserve their reputation by bringing in experienced educators. If you don’t already have some teaching experience, work towards building your teaching career by working as a part-time or substitute teacher, volunteering at non-profit organisations, or working as a private tutor at after-school learning centres. Any relevant work experience will only serve to improve your chances. 

3.    Understand the local culture

International schools in Hong Kong, such as the Canadian International School, are beginning to highlight and integrate Chinese language and culture into their overall curriculum, in order to help students who are not of Chinese origin adapt well to the local culture.Educate yourself as much as you can on Chinese culture and the local language so that you can prove to the schools that you are a versatile candidate that is well positioned to move into teaching roles with good local knowledge and cultural sensitivity.

4.    Have references readily available

 In order to prepare for the school year, top international schools are looking to fill their teaching positions quickly and with so many qualified candidates vying for the top spots, the decision on hiring may come down to references. Select references who will be able to build your case for getting hired and prepare them for the possibility that top international schools may soon be reaching out to them to ask about your qualifications. It may also be helpful to review your resume together so that your references are well versed on your achievements and skills, as well as your professional goals. 

5.    Come prepared with innovative teaching ideas

International schools in Hong Kong pride themselves on offering the highest standard of education for their communities. This often means creative lesson plans and innovative teaching techniques. Brainstorm some new ways of teaching that you can bring into the conversation, keep up with the teaching community locally and overseas to get ideas and outline some of them in your cover letter. If you have developed any innovative teaching methods in the past, highlight them on your resume.  This way, you’ll prove yourself to be a valuable addition to their education staff. 

6.    Leverage your existing network

For those who are qualified, the tipping point to get your foot in the door at an international school is a personal reference or connection. After all, word of mouth is still a useful way of marketing yourself. If you know anyone with any connection to any of the international schools in Hong Kong, ask them to introduce you to their contact. Even if their contact may not be directly hiring, or the school isn’t hiring at a certain time, they may be able to offer you insight on the interview process or hiring schedule, and they could even connect you to the right person to speak to about future employment. 

7.    Expand your network

If you are new in Hong Kong, and don’t have any connections in the teaching community or to any international school, start working on your people skills and attend as many networking events and industry events as possible. Look for opportunities through events that hold an interest to you, especially those that involve international schools  and focus on introducing yourself to as many people as possible. The more people you meet, the more chances you have of connecting with the right people. 

8.    Always double check your resume

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is astounding how many people still submit resumes with spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and unclear phrases. Making a first impression with a resume riddled with errors is a sure-fire way to convince the hiring manager to cast your resume aside and instead, talk to your competitors. Top international schools are looking for exceptional teachers who possess an attention to detail and communicate clearly, as these are the traits they looking for in the right addition to the teaching faculty. Ask your friends, or even better, contacts in the industry to review your resume and get an unbiased review.

9.    Use a clear and simple resume format

Some people think packing in lots of information in their resume is the best way to get a job, but the jumbled formatting and small text size only works to confuse and the reader. Remember, the purpose of a resume is to get you an interview, so ensure you highlight only the most relevant and most impressive achievements on your resume.  Opt for a concise and, simple resume format to highlight your background, experience and key skills. Save all the miscellaneous information and less relevant details for your cover letter, or better yet, when you have your face-to-face interview. 

10.    Follow-up at least once after every connection

Although it can be a time-consuming task, you should make every attempt to follow-up with each and every lead after each and every attempt to connect. Wait one week and if you don’t hear back, send a brief, but direct note of inquiry. If you’re following up with someone who knew a contact, email to ask if they have received a response from their acquaintance. If you’ve sent your resume to the hiring manager and haven’t received an interview request, email to see if they are still looking to fill the position. Keeping in touch in a brief yet direct way highlights your interest in the position and shows your determination to attain the role, which can only help your chances to succeed. 

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