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November 17, 2005

ESL Vitas, Reference Letters and You!

ESL CV Submission.jpg

"It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles." ~Niccolo Machiavelli

When it comes to a written document of your "titles" and employment credentials, North American ESL instructors new to the teaching field are sometimes chastised for using the word "résumé." This is because in education, particularly in Europe for example, they prefer "the C.V." Sometimes, in the States for example, you will hear this sacred document referred to as the "vita." So, what's the difference, you might say. Aren't they synonyms?

Actually, no. There's a fundamental difference between the "curriculum vitae" and your everyday, run of the mill résumé, and, as an internationally savvy ESL instructor, you should know the difference. In the last issue of ESL Instruct (here) I discussed this briefly. Perhaps it deserves some more detail here.

Where your North American résumé may have sufficed in getting that job answering phones at a telemarketing agency, for example, it won't do you much good when looking for employment at European ESL establishments (other world markets, let's hear from you! Is this true for you too?).

A résumé is generally short, by definition. Your technical writing instructor in college probably told you to keep certain parts of your career short and to the bare minimum. That's how North Americans often like things isn't it? Gloss over the ugly moments by emphasizing the good stuff.

Well, that's not how your potential ESL employers might like things. They will likely want to know the whole, mundane story. That's where your C.V., or vita, comes into play. Vitas typically span several pages and are very descriptive documents that highlight all of your academic and scholarly "achievements." Some employers even want a passport photo included if you can believe it! (Let's save that one for a future discussion!) In any event, the vita is the place to show off your presentations, your publications, and curricular involvement such as workshops, conferences and organization affiliations.

Unlike a résumé which can generally be adjusted to fit any kind of job, the vita is a document specific to education. Unlike a résumé that paints a sometimes deceptively beautiful picture of the applicant by emphasizing skills to deemphasize a lack of experience, a vita is not so easily forgiving.

BTW, if you'd like to see some hilarious examples of what "not" to write, check out this collection of things that some people have put on their vitas and cover letters here.

Like Detective Friday, the vita asks for "only the facts, Madame." There are usually no hobbies and interest categories to hide behind. A vita will want a chronological listing of your academic degrees, certifications, your work experience, and so on. Be sure to study many examples of successful vitas before crafting your own. Be prepared for ESL employers overseas, especially if they aren't native speakers well-versed in equal opportunity, to sometimes ask you things about your maritial status, age, race, gender and other vital statisitics that are often off-limits in western applications.

Whichever you decide to use, a vita or a résumé, you can get some really clever advice on presenting yourself on paper by the president of A+ Resumes for Teachers, and Dual-Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Candace Davies. Check out some of her articles on the subject here.

Also, if you plan to job-hop, don't burn your bridges. It might mean having to leave useable items off your C.V. leaving the hiring committee to wonder why you have "holes" in the timetrack of your career. In my experience, ESL employers almost always want to see a letter of recommendation from your previous employer. See this post about about what ESL employers are chatting about with regards to reference letters here.

So, if you are planning to move overseas for teaching ESL, ask your previous employers from home first for suitable letters of reference. If you leave a job overseas for another, try to do so on good terms and be sure to request a letter of reference well in advance of handing in your textbooks, etc.

Hasta la "VITA" baby,

Lee Hobbs
ESL Instruct, Editor-in-Chief

P.S. For more information about how to write a "winning" C.V., please investigate the following website dedicated to the subject: www.cvtips.com

Posted by lhobbs at November 17, 2005 04:02 AM

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I was asked to write a reference recently for a teacher I hadn’t seen for some years. I wondered why he hadn’t chosen a referee with more recent experience of his work but I tried to write something that would be useful to an employer. It set me th... [Read More]

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I wonder how many of our loyal English teachers out there actually have even heard of the mysterious "CV", and that it actually stands for. Good work my Master Blogger, on making sure there are no doubts. I'll have to agree with you on this one.

Posted by: ESL Nerd at November 18, 2005 07:10 AM


Note from Lee:

"And to the republic for which it stands. . ."

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

Ok, ESL Nerd, I'll graciously accept your kudos this time; usual outstanding grammar errors and all. How's your vita coming along, by the way?

Posted by: Lee at November 18, 2005 08:02 AM

Hi Lee,

I'm going to seek a teaching job back home very soon. I put together the covering letter and would like to have someone review it.

It may be of interest to your readers to post it up here along with your comments and have a discussion on what should a TEFL covering letter look like.

What do you think?


Posted by: Jiri at December 9, 2005 09:37 PM


Note from Lee:


I think this is a fantastic idea.

Post your TEFL Cover Letter here and we can ask the readers for thier professional and experienced advice!

Posted by: Lee at December 9, 2005 09:40 PM


When it comes to a written document of your "titles" and employment credentials, North American ESL instructors new to the teaching field are sometimes chastised for using the word "résumé."

(Only in America though, the land of pompous phonies and inveterate narcicissts!)


Posted by: James Barlow at January 4, 2006 10:26 PM

Note from Michelle:

Thanks James for that very helpful and friendly remark.

Well, what do you think American citizens? Do you live in a "land of pompous phonies and inveterate narcicissts"? I'm sure that James is excited to read your thoughtful responses to his observation.

Posted by: MSimmons at January 4, 2006 10:38 PM

Note from Lee:

Readers, for reasons of space, the comments for this post have been relocated to the English-Blog space. To remark on this article, please click on the following link HERE!:


Posted by: Lee at January 27, 2006 09:58 PM